The wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told ABC’s Diane Sawyer on April 16 that their dog “loved” riding on the roof of their vehicle.
“He would see that crate and, you know, he would, like, go crazy because he was going with us on vacation,” said Ann Romney. “It was to me a kinder thing to bring him along than to leave him in the kennel for two weeks.”
The incident has been common knowledge since June 2007 when The Boston Globe’s Neil Swidey broke the news during Romney’s first presidential run. Romney’s eldest son, Tagg, confirmed that in June 1983, during a 12-hour, 650-mile drive from Belmont, Mass. to his parents’ cottage in Beach O’Pines, Ontario, on the Canadian side of Lake Huron, the future governor of The Bay State strapped Seamus, the family Irish Setter, to the roof of their Chevrolet Caprice station wagon.
“Romney attached a special windshield onto Seamus’ carrier to protect him from the wind,” wrote The Globe’s Michael Levenson. “But hours into the ride, Seamus apparently suffered diarrhea, which ran down the back window of the car. Romney’s sons, all under 14, howled in disgust. Romney pulled off the road into a service station.There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, and they drove on to Ontario.”
Notice that the story does not say that Seamus was allowed to re-enter the automobile once his release was hosed away and the trip continued.
“At that speed, assuming sea level conditions, the poor little dog would have about 10 pounds per square foot pressing against his head,” said Russell Cumming, a professor of aerospace engineering at California Polytechnic State University, in another ABC News story. “He would constantly feel a little less than three pounds pressing on his head for the entire trip. The windshield would help, but boy that would get tired.”
Romney’s reaction perplexes me. For five years, Romney has defended his decision. Tellingly, the title of his most recent book is “No Apology.” I won’t demand an apology from Mitt. I don’t believe in forcing people to give half-hearted mea culpas. It’s insincere and sets a bad precedent. And Seamus wouldn’t have understood anyway. Mitt is 65 years old. Any human that lives to retirement age nowadays will have done something that would disqualify them from public office. As the headline from satirical newspaper The Onion said: “Every potential 2040 president already unelectable due to Facebook.” But the least Romney could do is admit that, hindsight being 20/20, it wasn’t right.
Google “Romney” and you’ll immediately come across a re-definition of his surname to describe one suffering similarly terror-induced gastrointestinal problems. Now-vanquished Republican rivals Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum (who has his own Google problems) previously joined President Barack Obama in using this against him. No less than two super political action committees have been formed in direct response: “Mitt is Mean — The Animal Lovers Against Romney Committee” and “DogPAC.”
Mitt told Sawyer that the Seamus attacks were the most wounding of the campaign “so far.” Sawyer asked Mitt if he would have done the same thing again.
“Certainly not with the attention it’s received,” he replied.
This doesn’t get to the heart of why people are upset. It speaks more to not wanting to hear about it. Doesn’t the sting of these attacks come from his stubborn refusal to just admit his mistake? Would a reversal not show voters a higher level of self-growth? Sadly, I don’t see that happening. But what are we going to do? Force him to personally re-enact Seamus’ fateful rooftop ride until he relents? We can’t do that.
Although, I have it on good authority it’s pretty great up there.
• Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached via email at