Can you be a pet lover and still vote for the Clintons? According to Caitlin Flanagan, writing in the November issue of The Atlantic, the answer is no. Remember Socks, the Clinton’s family cat? Socks became nationally famous when the Clintons adopted him as the First Family’s primary pet. Socks received national attention as he visited nursing homes, hospitals, and schools. He was even featured on the Internet, guiding children through a virtual White House tour.

Flanagan, initially a devoted fan of the former first lady, wants to know why Socks was “jettisoned” by the Clintons, thus putting them on a list of “the annals of human evil.” Socks, says Flangan, helped to humanize the Clintons, especially Hillary who took the cat with her on personal appearances. The cat’s ultimate fate was to be off-loaded and adopted by one of Bill Clinton’s secretaries.

Then there is Buddy, a chocolate Labrador retriever, given to the president in December 1997, just a few days before the surfacing of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. There are still those sour critics who say the 3-month old puppy arrived in anticipation of the media maelstrom that was to follow. Buddy, was killed 2002. Left unattended, he ran into the path of a car near the Clintons’ home in Chappaqua.

A similar fate befell Zeke, a Clinton pet that paid the ultimate price when it ran, unattended, near the Arkansas state capital and was struck by a car.

A month after Buddy’s death, Mickey Kaus, writing in the online magazine Slate, asked “Who killed Clinton’s Dog?” Among the tongue-in-cheek suspicious circumstances cited was the fact that the one high-tech security device that the Clintons failed to install was an invisible dog fence. And who was the “shadowy contractor” who left the gate open, then left in such a hurry?

Humorous send-ups notwithstanding, Americans, like the British, are avid pet lovers. And if you are going to use a pet for publicity or to “humanize” one’s image, it stands to reason that one should also project some semblance of regarding these pets as literal family members.

As the race for the presidency plays out, one can sense a frangible edge forming as the individual campaigns evolve (or devolve). And some of the hardest-hitting strategies are being devised by Howard Wolfson, Mrs. Clinton’s principal political consultant. The New York Times describes Wolfson as a “take no prisoners” architect of Hillary’s strategy. It was Wolfson who created the legendary Clinton “war room” from which her opponents, including media types, are examined microscopically for flaws.

The Times notes that Wolfson’s “bare-knuckle brand of politics is reminiscent of the tactics of Karl Rove,” President Bush’s former chief political adviser. The Times further defines “bare-knuckle politics” as Wolfson’s willingness to make an opponent’s character the central theme of a race. Barack Obama has of late been going head to head with Hillary, most recently focusing on her vote for the resolution authorizing President Bush to invade Iraq. It’s only a matter of time before Hillary’s war room unleashes a barrage of Obama’s personal foibles and the Democratic field of viable candidates will be further reduced.

Since this blog began with a reference to Socks, the former White House first cat, it is only fair to end on the same note and a further reference to Caitlin Flanagan’s tale of estrangement from Hillary Clinton.

“[Hillary Clinton] should really be on Cat Fancy’s Most Wanted list. Exploiting the emotions of good-natured people (including ‘many of the retired servicemen and women who live at the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home in Washington, D.C.,’ whose bravery and patriotism she honored by having them send out kitty-cat “greetings” to Sock’s correspondents) – well, that’s just another example of her three-decade-long drift from the girl she once was to the woman that circumstance and ambition have made her.”

– Chase.Hamil

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