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CONCORD, NH - JANUARY 08:  Supporter of Republican presidential candidates and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Bill Gordon of Loudon, New Hampshire, holds sign with his dog Miles outside the Capitol Center for the Arts where Republican presidential candidates participate in the NBC News Facebook Debate on  CONCORD, NH - JANUARY 08: Supporter of Republican presidential candidates and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Bill Gordon of Loudon, New Hampshire, holds sign with his dog Miles outside the Capitol Center for the Arts where Republican presidential candidates participate in the NBC News Facebook Debate on 'Meet the Press' January 8, 2012 in Concord, New Hampshire. The six candidates participated in the last debate before the primary election on Tuesday. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)  

GOP race goes to the dogs: Santorum says Seamus issue is ‘important’ character matter

Photo of Gregg Re
Gregg Re
Associate Editor

Not long after Mitt Romney strapped his Irish settler, Seamus, into a dog carrier on top of his Chevrolet station wagon for a 12-hour roadtrip to Ontario, evidence that the then-36-year-old management consultant had made a big mistake began trickling down the window of his car.

“Dad!” Tagg, Romney’s oldest son, yelled as he observed a brownish liquid on the car’s back window. “Gross!”

The Boston Globe first reported in 2007 that, in the summer of 1983, Romney was on his way from Boston to his parent’s cottage in a packed station wagon — crammed full with luggage, five sons, his wife and pet dog, Seamus. Something, it seemed, had to go, and Romney, ever the careful manager of limited resources, sprung to action.

Within minutes, Romney had constructed a special windshield for Seamus’ dog carrier, which he attached to the roof of the station wagon for the duration of the 12-hour journey north.

But even after Romney became aware that Seamus was apparently in distress, he opted to simply pull over, hose the dog down and continue on his journey.

“As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station,” the Boston Globe reported. “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.”

That, some critics say, might amount to criminal animal cruelty at worst and a character issue at best — even 25 years later.

The most recent criticism on the Seamus debacle comes from the campaign of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santroum, whose advisers have mentioned the issue twice in the past week.

“Look, I’ll be honest with you,” Santorum adviser John Brabender told The Washington Post this week. “I sit there like every other American and say, ‘What the heck was he thinking, putting the dog on the top of the roof?’ With that said, that is not going to become the center, core issue of this campaign, nor should it. I think there are huge differences between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney on all these other issues, and I think those should be the focus.”

Brabender added that he wouldn’t trust criticism of Santorum from “a guy who strapped his dog to the top of the roof of his car and went hurling down the highway.”

Santorum himself doubled down on that criticism earlier today.

“As far as Seamus the dog, look, all I would say is, the issues of character are important in this election, and we need to look at all of those issues and make a determination as to whether that’s the kind of person you want to be president of the United States,” Santorum said on ABC this morning.

Animal rights activists have been using the incident to attack Romney since 2007. Numerous images mocking Romney — including several that display him in a cage on top of a car driven by dogs — are viewable on a variety of blogs. For its part, The New Yorker magazine featured a cover image of Santorum riding on top of Romney’s car.

Romney’s campaign has never commented on the matter.

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