All hail the woofers and the tweeters, plus a ram who chewed more than his cud. In an era of caustic partisan politics, it is the real animals of Washington who woo us most. Now on bookshelves from the Associated Press: “First Pet,” a 128-page collection of “revealing photographs” from the news service’s archives documenting presidents and their pets through the decades.
Among those to crow about: Presidents William Howard Taft‘s pet cow Pauline Wayne; Calvin Coolidge‘s raccoons, bobcat, goose and lion cubs; and Woodrow Wilson‘s curious ram Old Ike, who was addicted to chewing tobacco. Then there’s Franklin D. Roosevelt and his beloved Fala, a Scottie dog with his own Hollywood connections; plus the John F. Kennedy family pony Macaroni, their assorted birds and a rabbit named Zsa Zsa.
Other primo pets include Ronald Reagan‘s swell canines Rex and Millie, George H.W. Bush‘s other Millie (who wrote a best-seller with the help of first lady Barbara Bush); Bill Clinton and cat, Socks, and chocolate Labrador, Buddy. Then there is feisty Barney — George W. Bush‘s Scottie, who once saw fit to nip a reporter as the cameras rolled. And who does not love adorable and hirsute Bo, the Portuguese water dog of the Obama White House?
“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” President Harry Truman once said. Indeed. The new book is available through major chain stores and online book sources.
JUST SO YOU KNOW
ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” has offered former British Prime Minister Tony Blair $381,000 to compete next season.
“Come and put some sequins on and have a real life,” executive producer Conrad Green told the potential political hoofer, who also made a pitch to former President Bill Clinton.
“I did ask Clinton once; we rang up his office. But sadly, the conversation only lasted as long as it took to say ‘Dancing With the’ before they hung up,” Mr. Green notes.
I SAY, OLD CHAP
Americans should watch the upcoming British election for clues about their own political future, says David Coates, a former Brit and political science professor at Wake Forest University. The parallels between the U.S. and British elections are striking, he says.
“A moderately progressive Obama-like government is facing off against a party of compassionate conservatives and a third party parading its concerns for individual liberties. Like voters in the U.S. next November, UK voters will be choosing between ‘Big Government’ and ‘Big Society.’” Mr. Coates says.
“Will the Labor Government survive? It is the question of the hour, certainly for the Brits, and possibly even for us. The links between our political parties are close and ongoing. Where the UK moves today, we might move tomorrow,” he adds.
“In the nineteenth century, anarchist terrorists — who, by the way, were proud of the title — referred to their activities as ‘propaganda by the deed.’ Terrorism has always been designed to make more of a psychological than a physical impact. By that standard, the Times Square bomber, whoever he is, has succeeded,” says Commentary Magazine writer Max Boot.
“It dominates news coverage in the ‘Great Satan’ in a way that far more costly bombings overseas do not. Whether the culprit who placed the bomb is foreign or domestic, Islamist or survivalist, or some other creed, his purpose is to spread terror. … And he has succeeded. Imagine what the impact of a bomb that actually went off would be. The very hysteria we currently exhibit — or that was evident after the Christmas Day attempted airline bombing — only make it clear to terrorists what an inviting target the American homeland remains,” Mr. Boot notes.
SIR DENNY SAN?
Former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert will have a new title, sort of, come Friday. Emperor of Japan Akihito will confer upon Mr. Hastert, now a senior adviser at the law firm Dickstein Shapiro LLP, the “Imperial Decoration, Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun” to “honor his contributions to the enhancement of goodwill and mutual understanding between Japan and the United States.”
The award is “Kyokujitsu Daijusho” in Japanese, and it is one of the nation’s oldest decorations and among the highest honors conferred upon a foreign national. Mr. Hastert served as House speaker from Jan. 6, 1999, until Jan. 3, 2007 and was the longest-serving Republican speaker in history.
COULD BE EGGNOG
With the help of a single Democratic lawmaker, the folks along the Gulf of Mexico must feel better now about the oil spill — now approximately the size of Puerto Rico.
“What I want people to know is, this isnt [Hurricane] Katrina. This is not Armageddon,” Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi told WLOX-TV in Biloxi, Mississippi. “Yeah, its bad. And its terrible that theres a spill out there. But I would remind people that the oil is 20 miles from any marsh. That chocolate milk-looking spill starts breaking up in smaller pieces. It is tending to break up naturally.”
POLL DU JOUR
• 68 percent of Americans are “very concerned” about high unemployment.
• 55 percent of Americans are “very concerned” about inflation.
• 68 percent of conservatives and 62 percent of Republicans are very concerned about inflation.
• 42 percent of liberals and 44 percent of Democrats are also very concerned.
• 45 percent of Americans overall are very concerned about climbing interest rates; 35 percent fear the stock market will fail.
Source: A Gallup Poll of 1,020 adults conducted April 8-11.
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