Friday, May 15, 2009

Political Attacks on Presidential Dogs

Most parallels between Barack Obama and Franklin Roosevelt focus on their activism in the face of economic crisis. But there is another similarity: they have both seen their dogs used in political attacks.
Greg Sargeant highlights a Republican National Committee web video parody of the MasterCard "priceless" commercials that opens with the words, "a new best friend: $2,000" over a picture of Barack Obama walking his new dog, Bo.
Now the video seems tame enough, and unlikely to make much of a dent in Obama's poll numbers. But if Michael Steele's crack communications team at the RNC had read their history, they might have learned the perils of using a popular president's dog in a political attack.
Republicans learned the lesson in the 1944 campaign against FDR, who turned the attack around in what Joseph Alsop described as "the craftiest political put-down one American Presidential candidate has ever inflicted on another..." It became known ever after as the Fala speech:
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.
Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him -- at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars -- his Scotch soul was furious.
He has not been the same dog since.
The speech helped cement FDR's election to a fourth term. Fala became known as the most famous dog in the world.

2 Comments:

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4:30 AM, May 18, 2009  
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