Trump’s an­i­mal house

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Opinion -

WASHINGTON — Say “An­i­mal Farm,” and many lit­er­ary Amer­i­cans will think of Ge­orge Or­well’s al­le­gor­i­cal novella about farm an­i­mals re­belling against to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism in post-revo­lu­tion Rus­sia. (More or less.)

Most likely, they’ll also think of Donald Trump. For the past three years, count­less mem­bers of the politico-literati have sig­naled a con­nec­tion be­tween Or­well’s themes and Trump, es­pe­cially re­gard­ing the lat­ter’s ap­par­ent fas­ci­na­tion with au­thor­i­tar­ian lead­ers.

In a vi­ral tweet last year, hor­ror nov­el­ist Stephen King pulled a quote from “An­i­mal Farm” to il­lus­trate his view of Trump and Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin: “The crea­tures out­side looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but al­ready it was im­pos­si­ble to say which was which.” Let’s just say, it res­onated.

This Thanks­giv­ing week, how­ever, the term “an­i­mal farm” has as­sumed new mean­ing at the White House, which hasn’t been vis­ited by so many claws and paws since Teddy Roo­sevelt moved in with his menagerie, in­clud­ing a pony. Though Trump has no pets of his own, he seems to have traded in his ring­mas­ter’s top hat for a shep­herd’s staff.

In the past few days, he has hon­ored a dog, saved two tur­keys and signed into law the PACT Act, leg­is­la­tion that makes cru­elty to an­i­mals a fed­eral crime. Not to go over­board, but it would ap­pear that the man pre­vi­ously bereft of em­pa­thy has dis­cov­ered his heart. Ei­ther that, or he’s re­fresh­ing his im­age as a dis­trac­tion from the I-word. Surely, not the Donald.

If it is true that the me­dia are of­ten re­lent­less in their crit­i­cism of this pres­i­dent — and it is — then it ought to also be true that good deeds are rec­og­nized and ap­pre­ci­ated. Trump could be engi­neer­ing a new elec­tion ploy for 2020, but if he wants to sell him­self as a good shep­herd com­mit­ted to end­ing cru­elty to an­i­mals, fine by me. Pre­tend­ing to care about the help­less, af­ter all, is good prac­tice for ac­tual car­ing.

In or­der of ap­pear­ances, the dog-of-honor was none other than Co­nan, the hero ca­nine who helped trap Is­lamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi. Much her­alded at the time, Co­nan had to re­cover from in­juries be­fore he could visit the White House for his meet­ing with the pres­i­dent. (No word yet on whether he agreed to in­ves­ti­gate the Bi­dens.)

At a brief cer­e­mony on Mon­day, Trump de­scribed the dog as “bril­liant” and an­nounced that Co­nan had re­ceived a plaque and a medal. Both Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump kept their dis­tances from the pooch, who ini­tially was go­ing to be muz­zled. Co­nan was on a very taut and short leash and seemed un­in­ter­ested in any­one but Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, who stroked the dog’s head — as one would.

Later the same day, Trump signed the PACT Act, a sweep­ing piece of leg­is­la­tion that makes an­i­mal cru­elty a fed­eral crime. Pre­vi­ous ver­sions of the law were op­posed by a hand­ful of leg­is­la­tors, es­pe­cially former Rep.

Bob Good­latte, R-Va., pre­sum­ably out of deference to con­stituents who view an­i­mal cru­elty as a right.

Those days are over, thanks to the per­se­ver­ance of an­i­mal rights ac­tivists and the bill’s bi­par­ti­san spon­sors, Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Sens. Richard Blu­men­thal, D-Conn., w Pat Toomey, R-Pa. The law will ap­ply to all 50 states, ob­vi­ously, and also to the 16 U.S. ter­ri­to­ries. Without go­ing into the aw­ful specifics, the law ba­si­cally says that caus­ing pain or se­ri­ous bod­ily in­jury to any liv­ing non­hu­man mam­mals, birds, rep­tiles or am­phib­ians is a crime. Videos show­ing cru­elty are also un­law­ful.

Fi­nally, on Tues­day at 2 p.m. sharp, the pres­i­dent met in the Rose Gar­den with two tur­keys, named “Bread” and “But­ter” — and both were spared the guil­lo­tine. As he did last year, Trump par­doned both birds, who will live out their days at Gob­blers Rest, a sort of re­tire­ment home for lucky tur­keys at Vir­ginia Tech. It’s not the Wil­lard Ho­tel, where the tur­keys killed time prior to their meet­ing with Trump, but last year’s sur­vivors, “Peas” and “Car­rots,” re­port­edly give the joint a thumbs-up.

While Co­nan, Bread and But­ter are sym­bolic char­ac­ters in this notquite Or­wellian tale, the PACT Act is a bold step to­ward end­ing cru­elty and send­ing perpetrato­rs to prison for up to seven years.

As Thanks­giv­ings go, this one pro­vides much for which to be grate­ful: one hero dog, two par­doned tur­keys and a PACT with a pres­i­den­tial seal.

I don’t know about you, but I’m think­ing a pear tree for Christ­mas.

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