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Reliable Source - Richard Leiby

Well Down the Ballot, The Race for First Pooch

By Richard Leiby
Tuesday, October 12, 2004; Page C03

Today's topic: presidential dogs. What do they say about their owners, besides "woof" and "grrrr"? Let's turn to an expert: Mo Rocca, the Bethesda-bred satirist who just happens to have written a strange but timely new book titled "All the President's Pets."

So, Mo, what traits do you see in Barney, President Bush's Scottish terrier, that may speak to the president's character?

President Bush's Barney, left, and FDR's Fala. (Rick Wilking, Reuters/AP)

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"A Scottie is a feisty, likable but sometimes rash, impulsive -- one might say preemptive -- dog," Rocca told us yesterday. "It was bred for ratting, for killing vermin in houses and bars." Anything else? "It urinates on itself uncontrollably at times, but it's forgiven over and over again."

Um-hmm. And what do we know about challenger John Kerry's canine?

"His dog, a German shepherd, matches him perfectly in temperament. German shepherds are a very deliberate, thoughtful breed and can come off as aloof as a result. They were bred by Captain Max von Stephanitz and used by German troops in World War I, so they have a strong military background."

Kerry's dog is named Cym (pronounced Kim), which Rocca finds troublesome for the candidate: "This has Teresa written all over it. A male dog named Cym is just not going to fly in a swing state like Missouri or Ohio, or a Rust Belt state like Michigan. Having a male dog with a butch name really matters in those states."

We repeatedly queried top aides in Kerry's camp for more information about the origin of Cym's name, but none could shed light. (Standard spokesperson response: "Let me get back to you on that . . .")

Rocca, a former correspondent for "The Daily Show" who now does shtick on VH1 and Bravo, further alleges evidence of Kennedy envy in Kerry's choice of a pet: "It's not a simple coincidence that Clipper, a German shepherd, was a very visible JFK dog."

Yes, and Franklin Roosevelt had Fala, a Scottie, so that means . . . ? "The Scottie is a ploy by Bush to make himself look more like FDR, the war president he keeps invoking!"

Um-hmm. If you can handle more of the truth, Rocca will expound on his theories at Politics & Prose on Thursday evening. As for the book itself, he says: "All the animals in it are real except for Chester Alan Arthur's giraffe, because he burned his papers and nobody could say he didn't have a giraffe."

The Index of Leading Political Indicators

• The Redskins' miserable losing streak: Can anything good come of it? Yes, if you're a John Kerry supporter. If history's our guide and the Skins keep fumbling, then it looks like smooth sailing for the Massachusetts senator. The theory, which has held strong since 1936, is that whenever the Skins lose their last home game before the election, the incumbent party loses as well.

Washington faces also-struggling Green Bay on Oct. 31. We're not predicting anything, of course, and the team won't touch the theory: "We're pretty one-dimensional here," spokesman Karl Swanson told us yesterday. "Our goal is to win a football game."

Now, moving on to other offbeat election predictors: The results of Family Circle's First Lady Cookie Cook-off are in! And Laura Bush's oatmeal chocolate chunk recipe wins by a landslide over Teresa Heinz Kerry's pumpkin spice cookies. The mag, which announces the results today, says 67 percent of nearly 17,000 voters went for the chocolate (and who among us does not enjoy the flavor of chocolate?). The editors point out that its readers haven't been wrong in picking the presidential winner since the cookie poll was instituted in 1992.

But it's not over yet, people. Since Oct. 1, six metro-area California Tortilla eateries have been asking patrons to vote for either the George Bush Hickory Chicken Burrito (which includes mashed potatoes, black beans and Texas hickory sauce) or the John Kerry Hickory Chicken Burrito (Mexican rice, Boston baked beans, splash of Heinz 57). The burritos come complete with the candidates' tiny heads atop toothpicks: Yum, how appetizing. So far, Kerry's winning, 357 to 299.

And we're getting indigestion just thinking about what the next three weeks will bring.


• Boomer lifeline: During yesterday's media frenzy before the Vote for Change concert at MCI Center, CNN's Wolf Blitzer landed a last-minute interview with Dave Matthews and Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band. Unfamiliar with the group's tunes -- at 56 he's the type who sings Peter, Paul and Mary around the office -- Blitzer dialed up his best source on the matter: his 23-year-old daughter, Ilana, an assistant beauty editor at Self magazine . "Quick -- sing some Dave Matthews lyrics to me," the anchor was overheard pleading.

• We're not quite over that pesky Vietnam era yet. "Unfit Commander: Texans for Truth Take On George W. Bush," a lightning-speed compilation of the prez's National Guard records, hit bookstores yesterday. It features a screed by Texans for Truth director Glenn W. Smith, the book's nominal author. No surprise: The book's type and cover treatment mimic the best-selling "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry."

With Anne Schroeder

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