What does it mean? Does it mean anything?
Does the dog story matter?: Does the Mitt Romney dog story matter?…
The white Chevy station wagon with the wood paneling was overstuffed with suitcases, supplies, and sons when Mitt Romney climbed behind the wheel to begin the annual 12-hour family trek from Boston to Ontario....
Before beginning the drive, Mitt Romney put Seamus, the family's hulking Irish setter, in a dog carrier and attached it to the station wagon's roof rack. He'd built a windshield for the carrier, to make the ride more comfortable for the dog.
The ride was largely what you'd expect with five brothers, ages 13 and under, packed into a wagon they called the ''white whale.''
I want to pause to note the various details that make it clear that this car was a large station wagon, and not a compact car that might make packing a large dog in it truly impossible.
As the oldest son, Tagg Romney commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. ''Dad!'' he yelled. ''Gross!'' A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who'd been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.
As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.
It's always tough to know how to take these stories. On one hand, they feed the cult of personality built up around politics that has become rather toxic in the past few decades. On the other hand, behavior like this can also be a remarkable, easy-to-understand symbol for a candidate's larger worldview…. [A]s a symbol of the conservative worldview, strapping a dog to a car roof for 12 hours, and then simply hosing him down when he shits himself, but then pointing to a "windshield" as evidence that you're not a total monster? If it were a novel, you'd be indicating that the character was an irredeemable monster, with no self-awareness to boot….
What really makes this story interesting is how Romney responded recently when confronted with this story:
"Uh...," Romney said, clearly caught off guard by the question. "Love my dog."
"That’s all I’ve got for ya."
Asked about the idea that his treatment of the animal had been cruel, Romney replied, "Oh please. I’ve had a lot of dogs and love them and care for them very deeply."
With that, an aide abruptly ended the interview.
This story resonates because it neatly captures the cruelty at the heart of the paternalistic conservative worldview. Now some conservatives are just openly hateful, thus the whooping and hollering from the crowd at the idea of just letting uninsured people die at a Republican debate. But then there's the "compassionate conservatism" mentality, where arguments about depriving people of legal protections, rights, and a social safety net are framed as somehow loving and compassionate. You see it everywhere, from arguments that taking away the social safety net toughness people up, or taking their Medicare somehow gives them "choice", or that taking abortion rights is somehow good for women…. In Romney's mind, what's good for him---to have a 12 hour drive without a slobbering dog in the car---is just good for the dog, and evidence that it's not is dismissed out of hand with a few noises about how he doesn't intend to hurt anyone. You see the same thing in play, in an even uglier way, with Ron Paul's defenders trying the "he's not racist in his heart; he just signed off and probably wrote a bunch of unbelievably racist rants" number. It's this imperious demand that we take them at their word when they say they care about and love others, and ignore their actions….
[Romney] will swear up and down that he loves this country and loves Americans, but if it's in his best interest---and the interest of his rich friends---he'll strap us to a car roof and when we shit ourselves in terror, he'll hose us off and leave us wet and shivering as he takes us back into the unforgiving winds.