Harry Truman once said that if you want a friend in Washington D.C., "get a dog." Bud Grant said that one of the great things about having a dog is that "as long as you feed him, he's your friend." The threshold should be so reasonable for most of our human companions.
The iconic coach Grant likes hunting dogs. He's iconic but he lost four Super Bowls. By any criteria he was at the top of his profession, but people remember the four "super" setbacks. I'm sure coach Grant came home to his dogs each time and found them delighted to see him. Unconditional affection. As long as you feed them.
Now we have a political controversy, really just a passing kerfuffle, here in Minnesota involving dogs. I'm sure "Mesabi" and "Dakota" didn't want to enter the public spotlight. These are the dogs of Mark Dayton who I'm sure prizes them. They are grand German Shepherds. This was the breed showcased many years ago in the TV show "Rin Tin Tin."
Some people refer to German Shepherds as "police dogs."
The kerfuffle grew out of an incident on August 12. Democrat Dayton, freshly crowned with the DFL gubernatorial nod, held a press conference at the State Capitol. He probably wishes he had had his dogs at his side. Remember Richard Nixon's "Checkers speech?"
Nixon, for all his faults, had the political instincts to know that a charming dog might help people dismiss troubling issues connected to him.
Nixon was just vice president at the time and the nickname "Tricky Dick" was long from being coined. "Ike" Eisenhower ran the steady ship of state.
Dayton held his press conference while his dogs were out in the car. In this day and age of political "tracking," you don't dare even leave a too-small tip at a restaurant. (Are you reading this, Tom Emmer?) Any alleged indiscretion will get reported and have the potential to go "viral."
Dayton's alleged indiscretion with his dogs is exhibit "A" of how the new media (sometimes folded in with the traditional media) can be an annoying gadfly for politicians. The allegation, of course, is that the outside temperature was too hot for dogs to be kept in a car.
The Emmer camp was quick to trot out the "erratic behavior" accusation toward Dayton. The political silly season is setting in. It's problematic for the old media which are supposed to sift through the reams of information out there and report what's relevant. Often an ideological niche website or blog can cause enough of a ruckus to get a story at least on the periphery of the mainstream media. This is what happened with the Dayton/dogs story.
Political "tracking" yielded some gold nuggets, for a day or two anyway, for Republicans.
There are lots of dog lovers out there like yours truly. A story like this might well stick in your craw. I doubt that Dayton would feel his judgment was perfect in this case. But he was not oblivious to the dogs' welfare.
The "other side of the story" has it that the car was parked in the shade with windows open for the first half-hour, and then a staffer was dispatched to turn on the air conditioning.
Republicans pushed the "viral" potential and very soon we saw a Facebook group sprout: "Dog owners and lovers for Emmer." Which makes me realize that Betty White was probably right on, when she suggested on Saturday Night Live that Facebook is "a big waste of time."
To suggest that Republican Emmer is a more feeling person than Dayton makes me want to laugh harder than the Saturday Night Live audience.
The Humane Society says there is no safe temperature to leave your pets in the car. As a rule of thumb that's nice to observe, but real life calls for discretion sometimes. Dayton was totally aware of the welfare of his grand animals.
People who say there should be a law against leaving children unattended in a car should be asked: What about when you have to leave the car to pay for gas at a gas station? We must allow for discretion, and I wish this dictum had remained for seat belt use!
It's one thing to suggest seat belts in the Twin Cities where driving can entail real hazards on any given day. But here in Mayberry (Morris), where a typical motorist might be going just a few blocks to get a gallon of milk at Willie's?
And the fines seem more onerous out here where the average yearly income is lower. We ought to start a movement to get the state to lighten up on seat belt enforcement. And no, I haven't received a citation myself.
There is a law on the books about pets and vehicles. It's state statute 346.57 which reads: "A person may not leave a dog or a cat unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog's or cat's health or safety."
There is a lot of room for judgment there. Most of our domestic animals should just be thankful to have masters. Us masters must recognize our responsibility that comes with pet ownership. In the broad picture, "Mesabi" and "Dakota" are fortunate to have Mark Dayton as their owner.
This whole story makes me want to get familiar with these big wonderful animals.
This media story will prove to be the proverbial "blip" so typical in the Internet age. Emmer would love to see a similar fate for the story about the Target boycott. Attention pet owners: Don't buy your pet supplies at Target.
I wrote long ago that Dayton was likely to "put on his cape" and run for Minnesota governor. I'm proud of how I characterized it now. It will take a significant effort to defeat the Republicans and their crazed friends at Fox News, who have such a pied piper effect with so many shallow people.
I feel sorry for Margaret Anderson Kelliher who actually got my vote. But Dayton bypassed the endorsement process (a sticky issue for DFLers) and now he may be flying, adorned with cape, to the governor's mansion.
I first met Dayton at a house party in Morris way back when he was starting to build his political stock in Minnesota. Certainly this was the early 1980s. I had an immediate favorable impression. The handshake and eye contact were endearing.
Many years later, when my newspaper career was soon to crash on the shoals, I crossed paths with him again. His visit here, to Morris Area Elementary School, was coordinated by teacher Ken Gagner. The eye contact and handshake hadn't changed a bit.
I doubt he remembered me, although I should note that had this been Bill Clinton, based on what I've read, he would have remembered me!
Dayton is up to the battles that await him on the campaign trail. The "dog" story will barely be a trivia item when it's over. I wish him luck and extend my regards to "Mesabi" and "Dakota," who now relish getting back into the background I'm sure.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org