Pets have taken up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since the 1800s, but First Pets have had spotty media coverage from prez to prez. Why the variance? Well, a new study, “Unleashing Presidential Power: The Politics of Pets in the White House,” is looking to answer just that.
I, for one, refuse to believe the White House uses pets as a diversion. But, according to The Washington Post:
…the article finds that White House dogs could be playing a diversionary role: They tend to get trotted out during times of international conflict and presidential scandal (no similar effect, it’s worth noting, was found for cats). Conversely, they tend to stay out of sight during tough economic times.
OK, so this actually makes perfect sense.
Pets humanize everyone, especially a president you might not like. But tending to your pet, an important responsibility, does not jive with the sleeves-rolled image expected of our nation’s leaders. Especially in times of crisis.
So, my two cents:
- Pets have a proven ability to lower blood pressure, and I’m pretty sure being POTUS raises blood pressure a good bit. Tending to the pup is for his mental and physical health!
- With the rise of Teh Cute Internets and niche-fitting blogs *cough*, I would imagine that the coverage figure is rising steadily in that category.
- I am bummed about an apparent bias in our voting populace against cats. Sadly, that makes sense, too: a “smiling” dog begging for attention surely does better damage control than a meowing cat arching for the cameras or hiding in a corner. Sigh.