12/15/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


What kind of puppy will it be?

The first great crisis of the Obama presidency is nipping at his heels. It all started election night at about 11:30 Eastern Standard time.

President-elect Obama blindsided his staff when not half-way through his victory speech, he freelanced the notion of a "well-earned puppy" for his girls Sasha and Malia.

Immediately, Obama's chief political strategist, David Axelrod, muttered, "Why couldn't he have said 'pet' instead of 'puppy'? The press is going to have a field day with this! Barack's brilliant, but doesn't know there are 90 million pet cats in the U.S.? 16 million pet birds? 11 million pet reptiles -- many of them in the emerging Democratic Southwest.

"And what kind of puppy will it be? There may not be blue states and red states, but there sure are poodle states and lab states." Axelrod hasn't slept a wink since.

Now, the whole country's in a growing frenzy. We're obsessed.

The other day at the economic advisory briefing, Obama pulled the towering, former Federal Reserve Chairman, Paul Volker aside and said, "Paul, do you know anything about puppies?"

At the President-elect's first press conference, he took only nine questions hoping to avoid "the issue." A few softball questions -- on the nation's worst economic crisis in generations and relations with Iran -- lulled Obama into a state of complacency. The unrelenting press corps then pounced like a cat after a mouse..

Omitting questions on Russia, China, or energy independence, they demanded, "What kind of puppy will it be?"

Axelrod leaned against the back wall, slumped down and whispered, "I was worried this would happen." While acknowledging it was a "major issue" that's "generated more interest than just about anything", the President-elect tried to diffuse the situation with a long-winded explanation.

He suggested it might be "a mutt" like him, but that since "Malia is hypoallergenic" they might not be able to get a shelter dog and perhaps it would have to be a pedigree. The Drudge Report screamed: "President-elect Elite".

There's no puppy yet, but the leaking has already begun.

The Obamas were leaning towards a pit bull, but realized they already have one in Rahm Emanuel, the new White House Chief of Staff. Besides, President-elect Obama made the no bulldog point clear, "the Bushes and Clintons were from Yale. This is a Harvard-Columbia administration. There will be no bulldogs here."

The puppy dilemma has the talking heads on cable television talking. I heard a guy on Fox -- I think it was Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity -- say the President-elect was "barking up the wrong tree with all this puppy focus."

Someone at MSNBC -- probably Chris Matthews or Keith Obermann -- said it was a bold strategic stroke calculated to get the economy growing. After all, the guy pointed out, 63% of Americans (and that is 11% more than voted for Obama) own a pet -- 71 million homes... and last year alone despite the impending economic crisis Americans spent about $16 billion -- that's billion with a "B" -- on pet food alone.

A CNN expert, I think he was a doctor, argued that Obama was already working to bring down the cost of the nation's medical bill because people with pet dogs are healthier, get more exercise, have lower blood pressure and are less likely to have common cancer or severe depression.

By now Axelrod is in a state of high panic worrying that the new President's honeymoon will be frittered away, "Once Sara Pallin's dresses go on consignment the press will be on this full time. I learned this year you can put lipstick on a pig, but I still know you can't put lipstick on a puppy... they're too furry....unless we get one of those hypoallergenic dogs without any fur," he mused. "Hmmmmm...."

Meanwhile, the transition staff has gone into a stall mode while they try to figure things out. It's already five days since the election and no cabinet appointments and no puppy. They must be using the time to poll Obama's five million contributors on what kind of puppy they prefer.

Axelrod finally breathed a sigh of relief. "Mr. President, we've got a plan in place to figure this out....soon we'll be able to put it behind us."

Ever cool and focused, President-elect Obama sighed, "David, our work has just begun. We still have to name the puppy!"