We know that how we treat animals reflects the soul our characters. We know that children taught to be kind of and gentle to animals are more empathetic as adults. We also know that people who abuse animals are far more likely to abuse women and or children, and commit violent crimes. The body of evidence on these points is now considered irrefutable.
I am not suggesting that Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was intentionally cruel to his dog back in 1983. But what he did was cruel – under any definition.
What strikes as most disturbing is the Presidential candidate’s response today to his actions.
Seamus, the Romney family Irish Setter, joined the Romney clan on a road trip. It’s hard to believe, but Romney traveled with the dog inside a carrier, which was strapped to the roof of the car, traveling at speeds averaging around 50 to 70 mph for a 12 hour road trip.
This isn’t left wing propaganda – it’s true and Romney admits it. What’s more, he continually defends what he did.
Yes, to me, this was an unthinkable (never mind unlawful) way to travel with a dog. But even more telling of the candidate’s character are his responses to various reporters questioning.
You’d think the presidential candidate’s media aids might have suggested Romney say something like this. “That incident happened 29 years ago. I loved our dog, and today I know better - I would never consider traveling with our dog on the roof of the car today. I am sorry.”
Instead, in interviews, the candidate remains oddly adamant that he did the right thing.
For example, in December of last year, he told Chris Wallace of Fox TV, “This was a completely air tight kennel mounted on the top of our car. He climbed up there regularly… We had five kids inside the car; my guess is that he liked it a lot better on there (than with the kids).”
By the way, gratefully, the kennel wasn’t airtight. If it had been Seamus wouldn’t have survived five minutes.
When Wallace reminded Romney it’s against Massachusetts law to travel with a dog on a car roof (of course, it is), his response was, “He enjoyed his ride, and whether you are in the back of a pick up truck (also against the law for dogs to travel in Massachusetts) or a rooftop carrier; he enjoyed his ride. I didn’t know there were any problems with that, according to the law.”
According to printed reports, in the Boston Globe (from back in 2007), Seamus expressed his “enjoyment” of the trip by defecating and urinating. Romney stopped at a gas station to hose off the car, but placed the dog right back on to the roof.
No wonder, a website (and corresponding facebook page) www.dogsagainstromney.com was set up. Opposing candidates have questioned Romney’s judgment on the canine issue. Animal lover Newt Gingrich went the furthest by creating a contrary website.
I spoke to Gingrich (check it out yourself by clicking the link) who almost always has much to say on every issue. He could only shake his head in disbelief when asked about Romney traveling with a dog on a car roof, “Bizarre isn’t it?” he responded.
Even more bizarre but revealing is that Romney has never wavered, and his unwillingness to admit wrong or apologize. You don’t need to be a political whizzes like James Carville or Mary Matalin to figure it out – had Romney apologized, the story would have long gone away.
According to his own words, Romney believes that strapping a dog on to the roof of a car is just fine. I will end this column just as I began: How we treat animals reflects the soul of our characters.