Lap Dogs: The Politics of Presidential Puppies

By Michael Baker

Lest we leave any analytic stone unturned, a new piece by a group of Georgetown political scientists examines the politics of Presidential pets, giving us a look at when and how Presidents use their pets to gain sympathy or appeal to public sentiment. For example, presidents are likely to appear in public with their dogs during times of war, but not during times of economic instability.

There is no doubt in my mind that any public display of a Presidential pooch is politically calculated.  Not that our fearless leaders don’t actually like their pets, but I imagine that any part of a politician’s personal life that’s deliberately made accessible to the rest of us is made so for PR purposes.  Ever since Nixon addressed the nation by introducing his pup Checkers, the American public has proven to be a real sucker for a four-legged political distraction.  And can you really blame us?