In 2007, a Boston Globe article unintentionally revealed an act of animal cruelty by Mitt Romney against the family dog, that showed not only his cavalier attitude towards animals, but his cold as ice decision making in times of crisis.
Animal advocates of 2011 however, are asking today if this is really the kind of decision making the United States needs in their presidential candidate.
Stroll back to the year 1983. It's summer, and the Romney family is packing up their station wagon for a 12 hour drive from the land of the Appalachian Trail to the shores of the Great Lakes in Ontario. Everyone is excited to get on the road and start making some distance between them and the old neighbourhood, except perhaps for one unwilling passenger. Seamus, the family Irish Setter.
Mixed in with all the suitcases and other travel gear on top of the family car, Seamus is hoisted up in his crate and strapped down like luggage by good old Dad. Sure, Mitt's been nice enough to "build a windshield" for the front of the carrier to make the trip a bit more comfortable, but when the dog releases its bowels all over the roof and back windows of the car as a response to extreme distress, it's Mitt's "emotion-free crisis management" that gets referenced in the article. Nada on the animal abuse.
An article by Time in 2007 explained the guffaw that Boston Globe reporters Neil Swidey and Stephanie Ebbert managed to miss because "the reporter intended the anecdote that opened part four of the Boston Globe's profile of Mitt Romney to illustrate, as the story said, "emotion-free crisis management": Father deals with minor — but gross — incident during a 1983 family vacation, and saves the day. But the details of the event are more than unseemly — they may, in fact, be illegal," the Time report said.
Mitt Romney's "emotion-free" solution to the crisis was to pull over and borrow a water hose from a stranger, douse the car and the dog, cram good old Seamus back into the crate and complete their 12 hour ride up to Canada. Problem solved. Yay Dad.
When this story first broke in 2007, PETA's president Ingrid Newkirk was quick to stand up and point out to Time that incident was a lesson in animal cruelty that was "wrong for [his children] to witness...Thinking of the wind, the weather, the speed, the vulnerability, the isolation on the roof, it is commonsense that any dog who's under extreme stress might show that stress by losing control of his bowels: that alone should have been sufficient indication that the dog was, basically, being tortured," Newkirk said.
As a politician and presidential candidate that has long had a reputation for being strange, cold and impersonable, this type of resurgence of indiscretions long ago are obviously apt to start up a new wave of conversation, and given the response from a sampling of animal advocates, both Democratic and Republican, this story may just be getting warmed up again.
Elizabeth Jackson, founder of the Animal Rescue Fund of Mississippi explained that "certainly the public should be made aware of this, as this is an issue that speaks to character, moral fiber and common sense. If someone is running for President of the United States, then their ability to think through the effects of their choices is extremely relevant.
"There are many candidates," continued Jackson "who have made poor decisions that need to be made public. Mitt's Griswald family 'National Lampoon's Vacation' scene with the dog strapped to the roof of the car for a 12 hour drive, and Newt Gingrich delivering his wife divorce papers whilst she was dying in the hospital so he could marry his paramour. Character is very important in public service, and when it is missing, then how are we to expect them to make the right, moral decisions that affect the entire nation rather than their own personal agenda and desires?"
It gets worse for Romney when you include registered Republicans such as Patty Tinny from Penn Yan, New York who feel that "there is no way I would vote for someone who abused an animal. Past, present or future, anyone who would do this to an animal has serious issues and a lack of character. There is ... a serious lapse of compassion in a person who could to that to an animal ... and just think what this sadist would do with all the power that comes with the presidency."
And as many are asking how a story like this could break and there be no legal repercussions for Mitt Romney because of it, one need only look to Massachusetts state law and their statute of limitations on crimes like these which has allowed Romney the ability to give no response to questions about the incident once, ever, to this day. Perhaps it's time he started talking ... and according to his official website, here's where to start.
Mitt Romney for President
P.O. Box 149756
Boston, MA 02114-9756