Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Nation of Mutts

The "Mutt in Chief" spoke yesterday in his first news conference since being elected President. When asked a question about what type of dog he would be getting for his daughters, President-elect Barack Obama responded that because Malia, 10, has allergies, the family wants a low-allergy dog. But Obama said they also want to adopt a puppy from an animal shelter, which could make it harder to find a breed that wouldn't aggravate his daughter's problem. "Obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me," Obama said with a smile. "So whether we're going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household."

In a press conference which focused primarily on economic issues, Obama's comment added a moment of levity to press conference which began with the entire press corps standing when Obama entered the room. The self-deprecating crack offered an insight into Obama's ability to freely discuss matters of race. It also reminded us of Bill Murray in the 1981 movie Stripes.

In Stripes, Murray is the self-appointed leader of a platoon of misfit soldiers. He gives a pep talk to his fellow basic training com padres, when they face the prospect of having to repeat basic training. He says: "Our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse, the underdog, we're mutts... but there's no animal that's more faithful, that's more loyal, that's more lovable than the mutt."

Some had a problem with Obama's mutt remark. Buzz was listening to the parallel universe that's known as the Steve Corbett show on WILK Radio in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area. For three plus hours, Corbett and his "bitter" callers characterized Obama's mutt comment as a racial slur. They were outraged that the President-elect would use such a term.

They missed the point. Obama's use of the word mutt was done in the spirit described in Stripes. A mutt is a lovable, loyal, and faithful dog who doesn't have a pure bred pedigree. It describes Obama exactly. The son of a black Kenyan father and white Kansas mother, he met his father only once, was raised by his single mother and grandparents, and worked his way through college and law school. He is everything George Bush is not. Continuing the dog analogy, Bush was a pure bred, from the finest stock. He was the dog you spent $1500 for from the champion breeder. Obama was the dog you found at the SPCA. Obama knows that and he's proud of it. There's nothing racist about that.

OVC advice to Corbett, to paraphrase Sergeant Hulka from Stripes, "Lighten up, Francis."

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