Why Don­ald Trump needs to get a dog, stat

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

ELEC­TION Day 2016 brought sur­prises and firsts. Don­ald Trump will be the only pres­i­dent in US his­tory with no mil­i­tary or po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and the old­est and rich­est pres­i­dent ever sworn into of­fice. Me­la­nia Trump might be the first of all the first ladies to telecom­mute.

But one first has sel­dom been men­tioned: Bar­ring a new ad­di­tion to his house­hold be­tween now and Jan. 20, Don­ald Trump will be the first pres­i­dent in 150 years who does not have a pet.

If horses are in­cluded, ev­ery pres­i­dent ex­cept James K Polk and An­drew John­son has owned a pet for at least part of his term in of­fice, and with these furry first friends have come a host of po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fits. Aside from the pos­si­ble phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits they’ve be­stowed on first fam­i­lies, pres­i­den­tial pets have for decades served to soften the pres­i­dent’s im­age and gar­nered pos­i­tive White House news cov­er­age.

In the dig­i­tal age, when in­ter­est in on­line an­i­mal con­tent dwarfs in­ter­est in po­lit­i­cal news, the ab­sence of a Trump pet amounts to a for­fei­ture of low-hang­ing po­lit­i­cal fruit.

Since the na­tion’s found­ing, pres­i­den­tial pets have ranged from the con­ven­tional to the ex­otic. Martin Van Buren had tiger cubs, Thomas Jef­fer­son and Theodore Roo­sevelt had bears, and Calvin Coolidge had a pygmy hip­popota­mus. In re­cent decades, pres­i­dents have stuck to cats and dogs, and ad­min­is­tra­tions have strate­gi­cally spot­lighted the pres­i­dent’s re­la­tion­ship with the an­i­mals to great ef­fect.

Lyn­don John­son’s bea­gles made the cover of Life magazine in 1964, pro­vid­ing at least a brief respite from con­tentious cov­er­age over civil rights and the Viet­nam War. To this day, a book writ­ten in the first-per­son voice of Bar­bara Bush’s springer spaniel, Milly, has out­sold the mem­oirs of both the for­mer first lady and for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge HW Bush.

Per­haps no ad­min­is­tra­tion has lever­aged a pet to greater ef­fect than the cur­rent one. Even be­fore tak­ing of­fice, the Oba­mas gen­er­ated a tidal wave of pos­i­tive cov­er­age by an­nounc­ing that, win or lose the elec­tion, the Obama girls would be get­ting a dog. And to­day, Bo and Sunny are so pop­u­lar that the two Por­tuguese Wa­ter Dogs have of­fi­cial White House sched­ules, which Michelle Obama ap­proves at the be­gin­ning of each month.

Given these re­cent suc­cesses, what ex­plains Trump’s pet-less-ness?

We can only sur­mise. One pos­si­bil­ity: Trump, a self-iden­ti­fied “clean hands freak”, may be averse to the mi­crobes that come with a four­legged friend.

While it is not known whether Trump en­joys the com­pany of an­i­mals, he has been pub­licly crit­i­cised by the Hu­mane So­ci­ety of the United States for his close re­la­tion­ships with crit­ics of wel­fare ac­tivists as well as for his sons’ pas­sion for tro­phy hunt­ing. As the or­gan­i­sa­tion noted in its un­prece­dented en­dorse­ment of Hil­lary Clin­ton, Trump may have dif­fi­culty re­lat­ing to the 79 mil­lion Amer­i­can house­holds that count pets among their fam­ily mem­bers and care about the poli­cies af­fect­ing them.

But Trump may feel he is re­lat­able enough as is. Though he lives in a Ver­sailles-in­spired Man­hat­tan pent­house and trav­els in pri­vate jets and he­li­copters, Trump’s po­lit­icalout­sider sta­tus fu­elled a rise backed by mil­lions of fol­low­ers who viewed him as a re­fresh­ingly au­then­tic voice amid a sea of poll-tested, prepack­aged can­di­dates. Trump eats fast food reg­u­larly and un­apolo­get­i­cally. He speaks plainly and ex­tem­po­ra­ne­ously. He tweets im­pul­sively in the mid­dle of the night. He is, for bet­ter and worse, an av­er­age Amer­i­can in many ways.

Still, even if the pres­i­dent-elect sees no need for an im­age boost, it may help him to have a friendly an­i­mal around.

Per­haps most im­por­tant for Trump, a man who has fix­ated on triv­ial slights for decades and con­stantly de­scribes him­self in su­perla­tive terms, an­i­mals can si­mul­ta­ne­ously boost self-es­teem and keep ego in check. They love un­con­di­tion­ally, for­give un­re­servedly and al­ways be­have hon­estly. An­i­mals don’t care whether you spent the last year ma­lign­ing or hu­mil­i­at­ing your op­po­nents, or whether your op­po­nents em­bar­rassed and de­graded you. It makes no dif­fer­ence to them whether you are the leader of the Free World or you’ve never been a leader at all.

To them, we are just larger an­i­mals who know how to open the re­frig­er­a­tor.

So, Mr Pres­i­dent-elect: For your own good, the good of your ad­min­is­tra­tion, and the good of the na­tion, please get a puppy.

– The Washington Post

Photo: EPA

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s two pets Bo (left) and Sunny (right) have helped bol­ster his im­age in an an­i­mal-ob­sessed in­ter­net age. Will Trump fol­low suit?

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