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These should be Mitt Romney's glory days. What with his round up of all those juicy delegates in the primaries recently, everything should be coming up roses for our hero. And yet things just haven't been going his way. A photo caption in this week's Time Magazine reads, "Why is this man smiling?" Why indeed.


It must be a terribly frustrating thing to be Mitt Romney these days. Were he to be elected president (and that's never gonna happen, I promise you) he would be an unerringly reliable water boy for the plutocracy. In spite of this fact, establishment Republicans continue to remain wary of him.

He has been stumbling all over the country saying all of the idiotic things a candidate needs to say in order to fire-up "the base". But still, the nincompoops who tend to vote in Republican primaries - particularly down in Dixieland - refuse to see this "sternly conservative" guy as an honest-to-goodness right winger. They steadfastly refuse to embrace this damned Yankee who was once the governor of "Taxachusetts" - a hostile foreign nation in the eyes of these chuckle-heads.

And then there are the religious bigots and fools who tend to populate that region of the country. They just can't bring themselves to vote for a Mormon. As if things could not possibly get any worse for the guy, there is the Ghost of Seamus, the Irish Setter, to contend with. He has risen from the dead and he is chasing the Mittster across the American night. He is hounding his former master. Dogging him. Pun intended.

I never thought anyone would replace Molly Ivins when she died five years ago - and nobody has. But Gail Collins of the New York Times comes just a tad too close for comfort. She has been having more fun with this story than the law should allow. A column hasn't gone by since this primary season began where she hasn't managed to insert it somewhere into the piece regardless of its relevance to the topic in question . It really has been scads of fun to watch! Just in case this story has somehow managed to elude your attention, here are the Cliff Notes:

In the Spring of 1992, Picture-perfect Mitt packed his picture-perfect Missus and their picture-perfect kids into the family station wagon and took off for a twelve-hour drive from Boston to Toronto. He just couldn't bear to leave his dog behind languishing in a kennel. Isn't that sweet?

Well, not really. He stuffed the poor creature into a dog carrier and strapped the crate onto the roof of the vehicle. En route, Seamus protested this harsh treatment by making a bit of a mess - which apparently started to leak down onto the windows of the car. This is the most apropos example of the "trickle-down" theory I've ever heard of.

Halfway toward their destination, Mitt pulled into a rest stop and calmly hosed down the station wagon, Seamus, and the crate. They then went on their merry way, Seamus and crate refastened to the roof. Once they arrived at their destination, Seamus ran away and became a temporary refugee of sorts . Legend has it that he sought asylum from the Canadians.

In 2007, one of Romney's sons cheerfully related this jaw-dropping story to the Boston Globe in an attempt to illustrate what a cool, take-charge kinda guy dear old dad is. Apparently, sociopaths loom large in that family.

Mitt should be cut at least a little bit of slack here. We should not read much into the fact that the dog ran away upon arriving in Toronto. Some Irish Setters are prone to that sort of behavior, but they always return home. Well almost always....

When I was a little kid we had a Setter named Rex. He was an excitable pooch who (for his own well being) needed to be kept chained up when he was outside due to the unfortunate fact that whenever he got loose, he would run-a-terror all over the damned town.


My cousin Mike Cullen remembers that "REX IS LOOOOOOSE!!!" was the regularly scheduled shriek that could be heard emanating from our neighborhood on any given mid-1960s afternoon. It was always next-to-impossible to catch the little bugger and bring him home. What usually happened was that, come dinner time, old Rex would be reminded of the hands that fed him and he would happily prance back to the door of our house, where a tasty plate of Purina Dog Chow was waiting and thankfully received.

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Then one fateful day in the autumn of 1966 - right around the time I entered the third grade, if memory serves - Rex got loose again. Like a rabid bat on an LSD binge, he tore off for the abandoned harness racing track that once stood behind our home. We never saw or heard from him again - not even a postcard.

To this day, his fate remains a mystery. His disappearance soon gained him a sort of legendary status; the Ambrose Bierce of hound dogs. As was the habit of so many restless souls in that bygone era, he quite possibly made his way to Haight Ashbury and got strung out on the hard stuff. We'll never know know.

In the long scheme of things, how a man treats a dog is not necessarily a reliable gauge as to what kind of chief executive he will turn out to be. Teddy Roosevelt once shot and killed a neighbor's dog merely for barking at him. He had recently lost his new bride Alice - and his mother - on the same day and was not in a particularly playful mood - as the poor canine found out much to its eternal chagrin I'm sure.

tom degan

Still, Roosevelt turned out to be a pretty good president. One of the best, in fact! It must also be remembered that at the moment Teddy committed this inexcusable act of Fidocide, he was in a horrible mental state. At least, it was not his own dog that he offed. I'm not trying to be an apologist for TR here, but he had many dogs throughout his life and by all accounts was very fond of - and kind to - each and every one of them. To the best of my knowledge, no historical record survives of him ever strapping any of the little darlin's to the roof of Sagamore Hill.

Maybe we should take Mitt Romney's word for it when he tries to make us believe that he was ignorant about the laws against using a live Irish Setter as a roof ornament. Maybe he is telling us the truth when he says that on that trip to Toronto 20 years ago, as the winds were blowing into his little face with all of the force of a major hurricane, Seamus was just having the time of his life.

Sadly, he is no longer around to confirm or deny Mitt's claim. He shuffled off to doggie Heaven a long time ago, living out his declining days with Mitt's sister and her family on a farm in California. Again, pun definitely intended: Maybe this story is all bark and no bite (Clever, huh?). Maybe this is one of those non-issues that is intended to distract us from the real story which is, of course, the economic plunder of the American economy that's been going on for over thirty years now. Nonetheless, it does make you wonder about Mitt just a bit, doesn't it?

Not long after Rex took off to find the great American dream, he was replaced by a big black poodle named Bijou. Bijou's demeanor was more low key than the psychotic but perfectly lovable Rex. Whether Long Beach Island, New Jersey or Stowe, Vermont - he always joined the family when we went on vacation.


FOR THE RECORD: And he always rode inside of the car. I'm just sayin'.

Tom Degan
The Rant


Know Your Irish Setter:
A Comprehensive Owner's Manual

Just a thought.