Dog-Day Afternoon

by John J. Pitney, Jr.

In 1944, some Republicans spread the story that FDR had left his dog behind during a visit to the Aleutians and then sent a warship back to fetch him.  In a speech to the Teamsters, he turned the charge to his advantage:  ”These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala.”  

Yesterday, President Obama told a labor audience in Milwaukee that he had taken on special interests:  “And they’re not always happy with me.  They talk about me like a dog. That’s not in my prepared remarks, it’s just — but it’s true. ” 

One can only guess what the president was thinking.  I’m the new Roosevelt, right?  So what did he do when he was under attack?  He told union guys something about a dog.   But instead of tossing off some humorous line about Bo the First Canine, he blurted out a bit of witless self-pity. 

It was as senseless as it was unfunny.  Not even the world’s looniest dog-hater has ever accused a pooch of ignoring the Constitution and a running up a $13 trillion debt.   

 – John J. Pitney Jr. is Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College.