Posted by: Randy Allgaier | December 8, 2008

Obama’s most important selection

I know everyone is speculating- but the transition team is tight lipped.  We know how much President-elect Obama dislikes leaks.  There haven’t been any trial balloons put out there, it will clearly be an selection kept under wraps until the last minute.  The President–elect has said there are a number of considerations in play for this important post and the decision won’t be made until a few months after coming to the White House. 


It’s likely to be the selection that will elicit the most passionate views and arguments in the country.  Everyone will have a position on this selection and no one, and I mean NO ONE will be shy about expressing that view.  Mr. Obama will be getting advice from the far left, the center left, the center, the center right and the right wing.  I’m sure that even neo-cons will have their suggested choice too.   Well- I have decided to add my voice to the cacophony of self-styled pundits and givers of unsolicited advice.


This position is among the most important in any administration.  Some Presidents have gone without making this appointment, but they inevitably regret it- or should regret it.  Invariably this position is a key advisor acting as a sounding board and often being the lone member of the White House team in the Oval Office when the President makes some of the most difficult decisions.  Harry S Truman extolled the virtue of this position as a singularly important source of support for Presidents.


It was this past week’s issue of “The New Yorker” that lit the proverbial light bulb in my head.  It was that “aha moment” where the planets align in your brain. 


A number of luminaries have held this key post all being trusted confidants and most have kept the seal of confidence, although a few have penned books- but not many.  Then Vice President Nixon centered an important speech on the key role of this advisor.  President Bill Clinton made the appointment during the Lewinsky scandal and this advisor was almost always at his side.  Of course we’re talking about Checkers and Buddy.


White House dogs are involved in diplomacy, political crisis management, even in helping to hold their owners’ precarious marriages together.


Revolutionary War and founding the nation to own ten hounds: Taster, Cloe, Tipler, Forester, Captain, Lady Rover, Vulcan, Sweetlips, Madame Moose and Searcher. Theodore Roosevelt, who worked hard on his macho image, kept a pit bull, Pete, that nearly provoked a diplomatic incident when it attacked the French Ambassador, tearing the seat out of his trousers. Pete was banished to Roosevelt’s home on Long Island.


Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Scottie, called Fala, became so much part of his avuncular image that Fala received sacks of fan mail, was buried alongside his master and is immortalized in the memorial to FDR on the National Mall. Roosevelt responded to a false story that Fala had been left behind on a trip to the Aleutian Islands and a destroyer had been sent to pick him up, with a speech in which he said: “His Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself…But I think I have a right to resent, to object to, libelous statements about my dog.” Fala supposedly bonded with Rufus, Winston Churchill’s poodle, in the secret confines of a cruiser off Newfoundland in 1941.


The Cold War was thawed by a degree or two when Nikita Khrushchev gave Pushinka, a mongrel descended from Russian dogs sent into space, to President Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline. A litter of puppies was born in the White House. The family’s other dogs included Charlie, a Welsh terrier.

Lyndon Johnson caused uproar when he was pictured picking up his beagles, Him and Her, by their ears. Richard Nixon proved master of using his cocker spaniel, Checkers, to get out of trouble. When he was Eisenhower’s vice-president he was accused of pocketing money from supporters and for accepting the dog as a gift. He went on television to deny the accusations, held up a picture of the dog, said his kids loved the animal and “regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it”. Viewers lapped it up and the crisis was defused.


His successor, Gerald Ford, had a more practical use for Liberty, his golden retriever, whistling for her to come and break up boring meetings.


The Bush political dynasty is matched by that of their dogs. George H.W. Bush had an English Springer Spaniel, Millie. “ Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush”, described a day in the life of the President, which burnished his profile and cemented his wife’s status as the nation’s grandmother. Spot, one of Millie’s puppies born in the White House, returned with George W. and died there in 2004. The outgoing President now has two Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beasley. However low Mr. Bush’s opinion poll ratings go the dogs are always ready to come bounding enthusiastically across the lawn to greet him.


So, Mr. President-elect I know you promised a puppy to your daughters, but this puppy is likely to play a key role in your administration.  I know that there are the issues of allergies and getting a shelter dog to grapple with- but I have a recommendation. 


I think the dog that is pictured being interviewed by you on the cover of the December 8th “The New Yorker” is the perfect choice; the beagle.  True- they are not hypoallergenic, but there are remedies for that.  There are, unfortunately, too many beagles in need of rescuing- so a beagle fits that criterion. 


I admit I am partial to beagles- I’ve been owned by my beagle Darwin for more than a decade.  But by living with one, I have unique insight and have come to appreciate why this is the perfect breed for the President-elect.


It is clear that Mr. Obama likes to surround himself with smart independent thinkers.   He is building a circle of advisors with strong personalities.  With a beagle the President-elect will have someone with a strong voice (a very strong voice), intelligence, a strong sense of self esteem, confidence, and tenacity-and although the beagle can be quite stubborn he will eventually fall in line in order to be a team player especially when there is the appropriate incentive.  Most importantly you will never have a better confidant – someone who will be with you in your best moments and your darkest hours; a constant source of support.


So, Mr. President-elect, I know you haven’t asked my opinion- but I am giving it anyway.  The nation is facing incredible challenges and this appointment is too important to give it to just any dog- you need to have a beagle by your side. 


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