It might be unseemly to bring this up just as Mitt Romney celebrates his win in New Hampshire on Tuesday night and seems to be a strong front-runner for the GOP nomination. But the story of his putting his dog in a carrier on his car roof for a 12-hour family trip is spreading again on the Internet and disturbs me the more I learn about it.
And I am betting the more it gets out, the more votes Romney loses -- red, blue and purple.
When, in a campaign debate, Romney opposed allowing a non-documented worker who has lived here for 25 years to stay and earn his way to citizenship, he struck me as heartless.
But when I read the story recently in greater detail about what Romney did to his Irish Setter, Seamus, that struck me as more than heartless -- it struck me as downright cruel.
In brief, as the Boston Globe first reported in 2007, in 1983, Mitt Romney, then 36 years old, drove his station wagon packed with five sons and his wife on a 12-hour trip from Boston to Ontario, where his parents had a cottage on Lake Huron.
He took a dog carrier and attached it to the station wagon's roof rack, built a special windshield, and put his dog Seamus into the carrier, where the dog remained for the 12-hour trip.
Was the dog distressed? Was it illegal under Massachusetts law as cruelty? There is some evidence that both are true.
During the trip, the Boston Globe reported, Romney's oldest son, Tagg, looked around through the rear window and yelled, "Dad -- gross!" A brown liquid was dripping down the back window -- diarrhea from an animal that just might have been caused by the stress of being inside a cage for 12 hours on top of a car going 60 mph.
And what did Romney do, even after knowing of the dog's diarrhea? Did he realize that perhaps Seamus should be shown some mercy, cleaned up and allowed in the car, to sleep on someone's lap?
Here's how the Globe described what Romney then did:
As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.
This post first appeared in The Hill.
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Mr. Davis is the principal in the Washington D.C. law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, which specializes in strategic legal crisis management. He served as President Clinton's Special Counsel in 1996-98 and as a member of President Bush's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in 2006-07. He is the author of the forthcoming book to be published by Simon & Schuster, "Crisis Tales -- Five Rules for Handling Scandals in Business, Politics and Life." He can be found on Facebook and Twitter (@LannyDavis).
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