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HUMOR
Least Likely to Leak?
Buddy the Dog

By Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 1, 1998; Page B01

It is hard to find a photograph of President Clinton these days where he is not in the company of his dog, Buddy. We have seen Buddy and Bill romping on the White House lawn, Buddy and Bill ascending the stairs to a helicopter, Buddy and Bill sauntering down a Martha's Vineyard lane, Buddy and Bill smooching.

The heck with man's best friend. Buddy appears to be this man's only friend.

What can we make of this?

It is not as though Buddy has become a valued adviser. Even for a dog, Buddy is an idiot. Trust me. I had a chocolate Labrador retriever. I loved her. But chocolate Labrador retrievers are not skilled at policy analysis. They are skilled at snorking down huge chunks of food without chewing.

Perhaps it is that only with Buddy can Clinton feel entirely secure, since Buddy is the only Clinton confidant who is not currently under subpoena.

Most likely, though, it is simple spin. Since White House photo opportunities are invariably carefully scripted, one can only conclude that with these pictures of the president and his Buddy, the White House seems to be issuing a subliminal message:

Poor Bill. He is in the doghouse.

This is a canny strategy. It humanizes the president. Being in the doghouse is something that any man who has ever forgotten his wedding anniversary can relate to. Up to a point.

"I'm in the doghouse with my old lady. Hey, pass me some of them beer nuts, will ya?"

"What happened, guy?"

"Well, she finds out I'm gettin' a little on the side."

"Jeez. You gotta buy her some flowers, man."

"And the girl was 22. She worked for me."

"Holy cow. That'll cost you a diamond."

"And then when I confessed I cheated on her, it was in front of more people than watched the 1990 Super Bowl, where Montana hit Taylor in the end zone."

"Whoa. You may have to bomb Afghanistan."

(Oddly enough, women never find themselves in the doghouse. This is a great irony of married life. If a man gets caught doing something crass or insensitive -- say, ogling his wife's sister -- he will be issuing wretched, squirmy apologies for approximately the gestation period of an elephant. When a woman gets caught doing something crass and insensitive -- say, marketing her undergarments on the Internet -- she yells at her husband for being overly critical. Eventually, they kiss and make up, and the big dope figures he got off easy.)

My fear, with Clinton, is that the Buddy ploy might be working. Our president is not above a little strategic manipulation of the emotions. If he discovers that being photographed with Buddy has won him public pity, there could be no end to the lengths he will go.

Will he start appearing in sackcloth? In dark glasses and a metal cane? Naked, in a barrel held on by straps? Will he don the pathetic uniform of every man in the throes of serious marital discord -- three days' stubble and a wrinkled shirt?

For the dignity of the country, let's hope Clinton just sticks with the Buddy scenario.

The fact is, various presidents have found it advantageous to be associated with their little, loyal, yapping pets. Roosevelt and Fala. Nixon and Checkers. Bush and Quayle.

One thing I am sure of: These days, you will not see a picture of Clinton and Socks.

A message that the president is in the doghouse is one thing.

A message that the president is in the cathouse is quite another.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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