Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from the LA Times

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

So, if Obama was like a dog, what kind would he be?

September 8, 2010 |  4:04 am

Air Force personnel stand at attention as First Dog Bo Obama Debarks Air Force One 8-15-10

The peripatetic President Obama, who's off again today to Ohio of all places to talk more personally about spending even more billions to help the economy, may have made an unintentionally revealing personal comment during his last speech on the subject. (Listen for him to cite the same grandparents he brought up in last year's healthcare townhalls.)

On Labor Day in Milwaukee, having doffed his coat and tie just like a real working guy, the Democrat tried to launch the fall election campaign by listing his many accomplishments and his fights for real Americans. (See full Milwaukee text here.)

And as is the Democratic party line between now and Judgment Day Nov. 2, the chief executive who promised before the last election to take us all beyond the old-style partisan politics, warned....

...that the sinister folks on the other side want to turn things around and go backward. Easily doable in even an American-made car. But not a good thing in political symbolism, in case you want to know.

But then Obama told the union crowd something that was not "in his prepared remarks," an alarming phrase that makes nearby political aides suck air anxiously because public spontaneity at carefully-staged events often has a way of backfiring badly. Obama said:

"They talk about me like a dog. That’s not in my prepared remarks, but it’s true.”

That strange line, possibly uttered to elicit sympathy from a sympathetic crowd, puzzled many other Americans. Unless they're Jimi Hendrix fans; the line is an uncredited verbatim quote lifted from his song "Stone Free." (See video below.)

So, a desperate Obama played the dog card. But three-quarters of his countrymen have pets of some kind, mostly dogs and cats.

Why would Obama allege that his political opponents talk about him as affectionately as so many millions of Americans talk about -- end even to -- their dogs? "C'mere, you big furball. Are you happy to see me? Well, yes you are. Yes, you are! And I love you too. Yes, I do. Do you want some food, baby? And then we'll go for a walk?"Democrat president Barack Obama making a point in a Labor Day speech in Milwaukee 9-6-10

Americans love their nearly 80 million dogs so much they make them family members. They spend billions on them every year and are even willing to pick up the creature's South Side aftermath from those walks.

Now, Obama didn't have a dog as a senator. Young, stylish urban couple shopping for arugula and all that. And to be fair, walking the sidewalks of Chicago's Hyde Park or Washington nightly is not something that many wise folks do willingly without a Secret Service contingent.

But as soon as it came out in the 2008 campaign that Republican John McCain had several dogs and more pets than houses, word came the Obamas would acquire a dog with the White House. Which they did. Or which Sen. Edward Kennedy did for them.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday he'd not talked with Obama about the increasingly famous doggie quote. "I assume," Gibbs said, "that if you look at some of what is said about the president and matched them up against the facts, on occasion dogs get a better representation.”

As to who the “they” is who talk about Obama like he was a dog, Gibbs added, “I think there’s probably -- we could probably find you several hundred thousand quotes.” But he provided none.

No one except maybe Bo himself expects the president of the United States to walk behind with a little plastic bag. Americans would, however, expect a president to at least talk fondly about a pet, even if it was a prop.

But the context of Obama's canine comment reveals that he thinks allegedly being talked about like a dog family member is a bad thing. Is it also perhaps a little whiney?

All of which prompted amusing exchanges on The Ticket's Facebook page about what kind of dog breed the unidentified "they" were likening Obama to. Loyal Ticket reader Pete provided the best candidates:

TeleprompTerrier. CHE-huahua. Open Border Collie. And Labrador Deceiver.

Already the Democrat's dog quote has made it into late-night comics' repertoire. Tuesday NBC's Jimmy Fallon mentioned the canine line, adding when Vice President Joe Biden jumped up to agree with his boss, Obama barked, "Joe, sit! Stay!"

Another reader, Howard, listed famous phrases from previous presidencies -- "I did not have sex with that woman" and "I am not a crook." And he wondered if perhaps "They talk about me like a dog" will become the trademark dogtag for Obama.



-- Andrew Malcolm

Speaking of family members, join the 52,000+ global readers who follow The Ticket with Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or follow us @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available here on Kindle now.

Photo: Jason Reed / Reuters (Air Force personnel stand at attention as First Dog Bo Obama debarks Air Force One after his vacation last month); Rick Wood / MCT (Obama speaking in Milwaukee).