Animal Crackers

By lambert strether, who is an old-school blogger from Corrente.

So far, I’ve successfully avoided commenting on the primary campaigns of either legacy party; the spectacle seems much too far above my poor power to add or detract. But… Check out this video. When Santorum told this story on himself, what was he thinking? Watch it; it’s only 46 seconds long, though it seems longer:



(Transcript here.) Yes, unable to confess to the dominant Pirates pitcher Kent Tekulve that he’d been pissed on by an old lady’s dog, Santorum tells Tekulve a story: that he (Santorum) pissed himself because he was so “excited” to see him (Tekulve). Isn’t this a perfect example of the authoritarian mindset? I mean, at least Santorum didn’t roll over so Tekulve could scratch his belly…

Anyhow, I can guess what Santorum was thinking; he was thinking about dogs, and probably more than the rest of us do. Because Santorum, despite having dodged a Google bomb, with some assistance from Google, still has troubles: dog troubles, and has had, ever since — sharing his views on gay people — he also shared, by an association natural to him, his views of “man on dog” sex with the Associated Press. Thing is, Santorum’s not the only leading Republican candidate with dog troubles; Mitt Romney’s famous for them too, since it emerged that he’d strapped his Irish setter, Seamus, into a carrier on top of his car, and drove until he had to stop because a a “brown liquid” was dripping down the back windshield.

And indeed Romney ought to be famous; MoDo’s understudy, liberal Gail Collins, has riffed on the Seamus story over thirty times since 2007; and good Democrats have been pounding Santorum for the “man on dog” thing for donkey’s years. With the result that both men are now running for President, but what of that?

Still, and as usual, liberal Democrats always go for the capillaries; they’re focusing on Republican candidates, instead of treating the Republican aristocracy as the tightly connected, tribal network of friends and families that it is (for example), and trying to take them all down. Consider the following examples of extremely creepy behavior:

President George W. Bush (R), as a child, “put firecrackers in frogs” and blew them up.*

Fred Malek (R), McCain’s 2008 national finance co-chair and now a Romney advisor, looked on and did nothing while a dog was killed, then barbecued, when drunk in college.

George Allen (R), the once and future Senator of Virginia, shoved a severed deer’s head into a black family’s mail box.

Bill Frist (R), former Senate Majority Leader, while a medical student, stole cats from the pound, treated them as pets, and only then dissected them.

And if it’s not the Republican dads, it’s the wives and kids:

Rudy Giuliani (R)’s current wife, Judy, used puppies to demonstrate surgical staplers on sales calls, then had the puppies put down.

Mike Huckabee (R)’s son, David
, was fired from Boy Scout camp after killing a dog (“a Scout is kind.”)

That’s one President, two Senators, four presidential candidates, two current presidential candidates, one governor, the Mayor of New York, and “Richard Nixon’s Jew counter”. (Numbers do not add because some players have played more than one position.) These are not “isolated incidents.” These are not “bad apples.” We’re looking at the Republican aristocracy here. It’s no wonder that we turned us into a nation that wasn’t ashamed of torture under Bush.

Of course, I wouldn’t want readers to think that Republicans were the only sick puppies in town. Here’s the Drone King telling a joke. At least, he says “You think I’m joking,” so I’m guessing that’s irony, right?



Frankly, I’m not sure which politician repels me the most. Which is more evil? Likening gay people to animals? Or joking about blowing people into pink mist, after having turned war into a first-person shooter game with real blood? Santorum looks a little foolish, a little… puppy-like, but Obama… Am I the only one who thinks Obama’s eyes look dead?

NOTE * I won’t say psychopath. But feel free to think it. I mean, if you found out your neighbor’s child was torturing animals, wouldn’t you be creeped out?

NOTE An earlier and partisan version of this post appears at Corrente; it’s heartwarming that all the players mentioned back then are still in action now.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. sadness

    unfortunately there’s at least one other of us here that seems to be able to see in a face what the mind, and it’s words, create – need more on board please

  2. LucyLulu

    I remember Obama telling that joke, I believe it was the White House Correspondents dinner 2-3 years ago, and he didn’t write the jokes, the Daily Show comes to mind. I thought it was funny at the time but he hadn’t actually used them to assassinate anybody yet, only for surveillance (is that right?). It has a different flavor now.

    Torturing animals actually is one of the triad of symptoms seen in children who are likely to become sociopaths (aka psychopaths aka antisocial personality disorder) which requires at least 18 years old before diagnosis can be made, before then a child would be diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder. I’m trying to recall the other two symptoms. I’m pretty sure one was bedwetting and the other was either setting fires or stealing unneeded things. Its been more than a few years, I’ve gotten rusty on my book lernin’, and over 10 years since I’ve worked with kids with psychiatric disorders. I’ve had some career changes along the way, am working on my next one now. So much to do, so little time.

    1. Bill C

      You’re right: CHILDHOOD fire setting, torturing or killing animals, and bedwetting are all indicators or alarms for adult Antisocial Personality Disorder.

      Note that some laypeople, in particular I think in British English, use antisocial person to mean someone who is shy, reclusive and avoids gatherings. Not the same thing at all.

      1. LucyLulu

        Thanks for the reminder of the triad signs, Bill. A couple times before I’ve been talking or watching a show or something and bugged that I couldn’t remember and I’ve been too lazy to look it up. I was just a starry-eyed student when I had been assigned a boy who exhibited all three. I have no idea what happened to him, but my starry-eyed condition was never fully cured. :=)

    2. Susan

      when Obama made that “joke” in May 2010, and he had already killed people with predator drones. Plenty of them.

  3. bhikshuni

    Blank face – tabala rasa;

    Refusing to leverage campaign finance reform, it is now available to the highest bidder!

  4. polistra

    This is so absurd and pointless that it actually made me feel sympathy for ALL those politicians for a moment. And that takes some doing!

    Single incidents in the past, and poorly chosen jokes, are utterly irrelevant when there’s such a huge pile of CURRENT AND CONSEQUENTIAL ACTS to critique.

    1. ambrit

      Dear polistra;
      Methinks you put the cart before the horse. These character flaws, generally crippling ones to boot, precede the CURRENT AND CONSEQUENTIAL ACTS. If cause and effect be our guide, then reducing the number of crooks in office would tend to reduce the amount of crime in government. Q.E.D.

    2. UL_2

      Sorry, I too agree this is a sub level post. Ms Dowd’s or Collin’s level, lowering discourse.

  5. LAS

    Whatever politicians talk about, it NEVER is a straight-forward, honest discussion of policies they advocate, who benefits/hurts thereby and how much/little. The politicians may or may not be sociopaths, psychopaths or worse, but settling that issue is mostly a distraction. Their personalities are a distraction. The truth is in their actual policies.

  6. Norman

    Leaders of the free world, wannabes, etc. Is this the best humankind has to offer? Perhaps that Mayan calender is correct, the world as we know it will cease to be next December.

    1. ambrit

      Let’s all emigrate to Nibiru! Better bring your Passport to Magonia, the two have an existential understanding.

  7. ambrit

    What’s so disturbing about these politicians doing these “mini mea culpas” is that “normal” people generally do not do so for many useful reasons: Shame, Conscience, Modesty, a Regard for the Feelings of Others, a Desire the Improve (such faux ‘confessions’ suggest a rationalizing function,) and that great character trait, Compassion. (Of course, I’m assuming any of them has any Character.)
    This is the best American Politics can do?

  8. anon62453

    I’m just going to disagree. I thought the Santorum anecdote was mildly humorous. While I think the instances of animal abuse are reprehensible and deplorable, what does that have to do with Santorum getting peed on?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s the “man on dog” story from Santorum that’s so repellent.

      If I had a tinfoil hat and some evidence, I might argue that some consultant told Santorum to erase one dog story from the public mind by replacing it with another.

  9. Susan the other

    Santorum’s story was funny and told with skill. I’ve been wondering how a pol like him jumped the gun on the jesusesque Romney. But just think about Romney’s stories. They are so bad. Romney is so repressed. Anybody’s dog could beat Romney as long as he doesn’t stuff ballot boxes all the way to the convention and then on to the White House.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Well, putting gay sex and bestiality in the same mental box (which is what “man on dog” does) is a deal breaker for some. YMMV and, apparently, does.

      That said, I far prefer Santorum’s joke to Obama’s.

  10. Fraud Guy- Also

    The Santorum video is small beer indeed.

    I would characterize it as unworthy of this site.

    I am definitely no fan of Santorum’s candidacy or views, but I think he was self-consciously making a good and funny point about politics and vote-seeking in general, which is that the candidate frequently ends up prostrating himself in a silly way before anybody who might be a vote for him.

    John Stewart should be the lesson for the left that Ronald Reagan was for the right: He who can good-naturedly chuckle at the silliness of his ideological opponents has the high ground and will win ultimately. Continuous outrage gets so tiresome.

      1. Fraud Guy- Also

        The remainder of the post is a feeble effort to conflate Santorum’s funny story, in which he did nothing to hurt the dog he mentions, with animal torture by other prominent conservatives. Santorum may very well have an “authoritarian mindset”, and I totally agree that many of his views are total repugnant. Nevertheless, you need to have your outrage sensitivity meter permanently set on “high” to find this humorous story offensive. Could you imagine Obama telling this story? I totally can. Would you find it offensive? I would not.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          As I say in the post — and I grant this falls into the “it would be irresponsible not to speculate” category — Santorum has dogs on his mind for a very good reason; his previous dog remark.

          I’m glad you read the whole post; now please try to contextualize…

          1. davrus

            As a person who was once a member of a fundamentalist church, I doubt that Santorum, nor the fundamentalists who make up his base have any problem with him equating homosexuality with bestiality. After all to their minds Adam and Steve goes against God’s natural order of man and woman in much the same way as Adam and Giraffe would. Similarly while you could attempt to argue that man on dog, was somekind of freudian slip, betraying his own secret lusts for rover, it seems more likely that he simply is a member of a subculture which places homosexuality and bestiality in the same category of sexual deviancy.

        2. LucyLulu

          P.S. The stories about torturing animals and Romney’s putting his sick dog on the roof of his car are very disturbing, however. I saw Chris Wallace interview Romney about the incident with Seamus. Romney laughed about it. He thinks the backlash over the story is just silly and sees nothing wrong with how he treated the dog, which was “like a member of the family”. So, how many times did the kids get put in crates on top of the car? (Albeit, those who have traveled with children might see some advantages.)

          1. davrus

            To be fair to romney. Most people who think of their dogs as members of their family wouldn’t think twice about spade/neutering them, i.e. mutilating their pets. Generally speaking these same people wouldn’t even think about doing the same to their children. Society in general doesn’t bat and eye at this, except probably PETA. When people consider animals as part of their family it is generally implied that the animals are second class members of the family. I’m not saying that agreeing with how the Romneys treated their dog, just trying to give some perspective.

      2. LucyLulu

        I love most of your comments, Lambert, and what you add to this site (really, been meaning to tell you, and loved the links last weekend), but I have to agree about Saintorum’s dog story. It was funny and cute, and I don’t make the connection to his homosexuality/bestiality views. Somebody without the same history could just as easily have told the same story, and probably has. I’ve been in a similar dog accident situation away from home, and its embarrassing and awkward. People relate to being embarrassed, and he broke the ice well with the man who obviously had questions. JMHO.

        I do agree however that Saintorum (sp intentional) is sexually repressed and has perverted notions. He apparently thinks he can bring his dogmatic religious notions about sexuality into the bedrooms of America, which is pretty sick, IMO. I can’t stand the guy, and for the life of me, can’t understand how he has gotten the traction that he has. But then I could say the same for Romney and Gingrich, and Obama, too.

  11. F. Beard

    I am no Santorum fan but his quip was rather cute and perhaps a gallant way to avoid embarrassing the neighbor lady.

  12. falun bong

    This man is a dangerous psychpath and ideologue who is just itching to start another illegal and immoral war. Americans should be embarrased and ashamed at what their political process has become. Grotesque.

        1. ambrit

          Who was it who said that anyone who seeks public office should be disqualified from it? One of the Ancient Greeks?

  13. Mike S.

    “won’t say psychopath”

    Good, I try not to say it either – in any context – mostly b/c I think it’s psychiatric bullshit; it’s subjectivity masquerading as objective scientific medicine.

    It’s much better to characterize these things according to the somewhat more objective standard of “lawful vs unlawful conduct” and the openly and admittedly subjective standard of “moral vs. immoral”.

    Torture under the Bush Presidency? Illegal.
    Failure – by the Obama administration – to prosecute said torture committed by those in the Bush administration? Illegal and itself subject to prosecution under our treaty obligations.

    POTUS is a POS in so many ways, this is but one of them.

    1. Hotel Scheveningen

      +10 to the 11. Obama breached Article 12 of the Convention Against Torture, supreme law of the land, making himself, in the legal argot, hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind. Obama violated UN Charter Articles 41, 46, and 48 supreme law of the land, committing aggression, a crime against peace. Why do we waste time on this psychological bullshit, if not to divert attention from the simple question: Is he a criminal, or is he not? Let’s stop trying to psychoanalyze these people and let the ICC do their job.

    2. LucyLulu

      Are you familiar with how psychiatry defines a “psychopath”? It is not required that one who suffers commit illegal or immoral acts, nor do most who commit such acts suffer from antisocial personality disorder, the correct terminology.

      The DSM-V lists the specific criteria required to make the diagnosis. In a nutshell, these people have never developed the ability to feel empathy with the plight of others nor have they developed a conscience/experience guilt. Granted, the terms psychopath and sociopath are used far more broadly by laypeople in conversation, and incorrectly. But it is hardly psychiatric bullshit to those who have spent significant time interacting with some of the people suffering from this disorder, observing their behavior and how they relate to others in their life, nor to those who suffer, as the prognosis is very poor, many consider incurable. While every bit as real as schizophrenia, they tend to result in a far greater impact on other people’s lives. They are often very charming individuals, and usually male.

      Whether somebody is sociopathic or not has no bearing on what is considered illegal or criminal behavior, prosecution, and sentencing. This is the position the law and the courts have adopted….. and those who work in psych. I don’t think anybody here has been arguing it as an excuse for awful behavior, only trying to make some sense out of what falls outside their own experience.

  14. BDog

    i can’t stand santorum but this is a dumb post, i didn’t get anything out of the dog story and nor did 99% of the population, the animal cruelty by the other repubs is sick and obama’s comment is sick, but santorum’s comment is just a not so humorous story, he is a warmongering neocon religious nut job, no need to read into silly told stories

  15. Peripheral Visionary

    “I am reliably informed that a near friend of the candidate was seen engaging in the sort of behavior that is so appalling I am reluctant to mention it in public” is the sort of yellow journalism that graced the nation’s newspapers two hundred years ago. Two centuries of “progress”, and it’s a round trip. The more things change . . .

    1. kris

      Oh wait, wait…
      In french it sounds much much better:
      Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

      1. Tony Wonder

        See above, if you disagree with the content you must not have read the entire post, and your views are objectively incorrect.

        This board is going to the dogs.

        Pun intended.

  16. James Cole

    This is a 100% anecdotal post, and the anecdotes are 100% unsurprising–what part of our political economy fails to reward “antisocial personality disorder,” aka the complete lack of empathy, conscience and remorse?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      What interested me is that I looked for, and couldn’t find, similar practices in the Democratic aristocracy. So I may actually have found a difference between the two parties. Not that it counts for a lot, as Obama’s “joke” shows. Some say anedotes, some say data points….

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