Crazy week, huh? Just the other day, Diane Sawyer was advocating on behalf of Seamus the Dog. Now all our moral, ethical, and intellectual superiors in the media are tripping over themselves trying to explain why it’s okay to talk about Romney’s dog but not Obama’s lunch. Now we’re getting all sorts of very, very concerned think-pieces about the dire state of political discourse in America, which didn’t seem to be an issue when they were hammering Romney about his dog for months.
All because of lil’ ol’ me?
The thing of it is, I didn’t do anything extraordinary. I just published a quote from one of Obama’s several autobiographies that one of my commenters, FlatFoot, pointed out.
If we can derail a stupid, dishonest Democrat talking point this easily, anyone can do it.
Guess this shows that people only buy Obama’s books for the covers, and that the American media only cares about vetting candidates when they’re Republicans. “Sure, Obama eats dogs, but have you heard about Palin’s tanning bed???”
Anyway, let’s get back to me. I just read a couple of interesting reactions to the major fallout from my minor effort. First, the New Yorker‘s John Cassidy:
From Hilary Rosen-gate, to “Nugent Goes Nuts,” to “Bam Bites Dog”—well done to the woman or man who first tapped out that headline—the “Phoney War” of 2012 is upon us…
The flap over “Bam bites dog”… originated in a column on the Daily Caller, a conservative Web site, by Sean Medlock, a blogger who writes under the pseudonym Jim Treacher. In a feat of intrepid reporting, Treacher pulled a passage from Obama’s 1995 memoir, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,” about spending time with his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, in Indonesia…
From the G.O.P.’s perspective, reminding people of Obama’s cosmopolitan family history serves two purposes. In the immediate sense, it provides a riposte to Romney’s own shaggy-dog story: the infamous twelve-hour journey of his Irish setter, Seamus, on the roof rack of a family vehicle. “Obama would never put a dog on top of a car,” Treacher chortled. “Dries out the meat.”
But there’s also a bigger, less explicit message here, and it’s one that the Republicans and their surrogates have been alluding to for months: Obama isn’t like most Americans—he’s different, foreign, weird, a Europe-loving crypto-socialist, and perhaps even a closet Muslim. Despicable as it is, this whispering campaign is based on some sound political logic. With Obama’s unfavorability ratings already in the mid-forties, the G.O.P.’s best hope of defeating Obama is to drive them up further and make the election a referendum about him.
Or, maybe the message is: the President of the United States ate a damn dog.
Don’t get me wrong, having the New Yorker sneer at me is something of a career highlight. But isn’t the point that it doesn’t require any feats of intrepid reporting to dig up facts about Obama? Isn’t the point that the media could perform this task quite easily, if only they wanted to? I mean, if this guy is on such an unstoppable march to reelection, how did he get tripped up, even for only a day or two, by a nobody like me?
Speaking of which, I’d like to admit something right now, before it comes out in the press: No, I do not have a plumber’s license. And not only is this not my real name, but in real life I go by my middle name. Believe me, I do not say these things out of pride.
Meanwhile, as John Podhoretz writes at the New York Post:
Rarely has there been a more ridiculous moment in American politics than the one that began on Tuesday when conservative blogger Jim Treacher dug into Barack Obama’s 1995 memoir and made puckish note of a passage in which Obama alludes to having eaten dog meat as a child in Indonesia…
Treacher was engaging in a logical process called reductio ad absurdum — taking an argument so far it becomes an absurdity. The Obama-dog story was the “reductio” of a different story, one about which liberals and the Obama campaign have been in a state of glee for months.
In case you haven’t heard: In 1983, Mitt Romney and his family went on vacation. Romney determined that having five sons, two parents and lots of luggage in one car was enough, and decided to strap a dog carrier on the roof with the family Irish Setter, Seamus, housed inside. The plan went awry when Seamus relieved himself and Romney had to hose down the car at a truck stop…
People love dogs, and it sounds like Romney did something thoughtless with his. The logic of making Romney’s treatment of Seamus in 1983 a campaign issue in 2012 is this: If he treats his dog this way, imagine how he’ll treat you.
And that’s where Treacher’s manufactured story comes in.
The tone of Obama’s sentence from “Dreams from My Father” is one of nonjudgmental, multicultural, oh-look-how-colorful-my-life-has-been pride. He was “introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher), and roasted grasshopper (crunchy)” by his stepfather, Lolo, he wrote.
The message of Treacher and everybody who followed him was this: You want to make a political issue out of a decades-old dog story? Fine, then. Here’s one that makes your guy look really weird. How do you like dog stories now?
There will always be a dog story. Treacher’s amazing stunt indicates that, in part due to the Internet-driven democratization of opposition research, there will always be a counter-dog story, too.
I take issue with some of John’s wording — I’m not sure how quoting from the President of the United States’ own book is either an “amazing stunt” or a “manufactured story,” and I’m a bit annoyed at the idea that a story can’t be a story simply because it happens to be true — but otherwise I find this sufficiently laudatory.
He’s right, this is less about anything I did than about the fact that it can be done. When corrupt hacks push stupid narratives and make scandals out of minor, decades-old incidents to embarrass people they disagree with politically, you can talk back to them. You can’t get them to admit they’re wrong, because that’s f***ing impossible, but you can knock them off their game. You can ruin their day. You can force them to resort to, say, reporting on what the Republican candidate said about a cookie in Pittsburgh. Because their previous worldshattering scoop blew up in their faces.
And you can do it in your pajamas.
Update: Someone just reminded me that Obama actually won a Grammy for reading the audiobook of Dreams from My Father, in which he bragged about feasting on Fido. Why? Because they couldn’t figure out how to give him an Oscar, a Tony, and the NFL MVP award for it too.
Update: It just occurred to me that Michelle Obama will need to think twice the next time she tries to tell the rest of us what to eat. What a great week this has been.
— ‘Jim’ ‘Treacher’ (@jtLOL) April 20, 2012
Update: Courtesy of WMAL in DC.
Well, it’s too late for regrets.
Update: The Spot thickens! Indonesian source says Obama would have to hunt for dog meat in Indonesia. Will Obama’s defense be that he lied about it? Finally, an excuse we can all believe.
Update: All dogs are equal, but some dogs are more equal than others. (Also, notice how all these stories have to note that this came from a “conservative blogger” at a “conservative website”? That’s so the readers know to stop thinking for themselves. It’s a lot rarer for a reporter to specify “liberal bloggers” at “liberal websites,” because that’s considered the default position.)
Moose chili = “Crazy redneck murderer!” Dog kebabs = “We need to respect the traditions of people who are different than us.” #ObamaEatsDogs
— ‘Jim’ ‘Treacher’ (@jtLOL) April 20, 2012
Update: Ace of Spades looks at a couple of inept attempts to deal with Obama’s dog-eating, from BuzzFeed and PolitiFact. Be warned, at the BuzzFeed link there are some grim pictures of how dogs are treated in Indonesia.
.@BarackObama once said of his opponents, “They talk about me like I’m a dog.” You would think he’d be flattered they find him so delicious.
— ‘Jim’ ‘Treacher’ (@jtLOL) April 20, 2012
Update: A poem.
There once was a fellow named Barry
Whose internal polling was scary
So his acolytes flogged
An old tale ’bout a dog
Until suddenly, things got too hairy
Update: Meme of the Week: Obama Eats Dog. I like how halfway through this Daily Beast slideshow, they complain that it’s not funny and nobody cares.
— ‘Jim’ ‘Treacher’ (@jtLOL) April 21, 2012
Age 10: Eats dog. Age 33: brags about eating dog in autobiography. Age 44: wins Grammy for audio of self bragging about eating dog.
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) April 21, 2012