Opinion by Bill McGowan and Juliana Silva
Updated: Tue, 23 Feb 2021 19:06:53 GMT
Editor's Note: Bill McGowan is the founder and CEO of Clarity Media Group, a global communications coaching firm based in New York. He is the author of "Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time." Follow him on Twitter @BillMcGowan22. Juliana Silva is a strategic communications adviser at Clarity. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors. View more opinion articles on CNN.
For conservative media looking to throw Joe Biden for a loop, these are lean times. It's not for lack of trying. Tucker Carlson scraped the bottom of the partisan-attack barrel a couple of days after Valentine's Day, insinuating that Joe and Jill Biden's love story was nothing more than PDAs: "Pretend Displays of Affection." He said the first couple's devotion was "as real as climate change." I guess for some people, denial springs eternal. In response, the President's granddaughter Naomi said she thought Carlson "needs a hug."
But if you thought the right-wing couldn't get any more petty and pathetic, Newsmax, that journalistic bastion, went after the Bidens' German shepherd, Champ. It aired a segment claiming that he was "dirty," "unpresidential" and looked like a "junkyard dog." Between the pandemic and the weather disaster in Texas, clearly there wasn't enough news for them that day.
The accusations that Champ, who is 12 years old (84 in human years) is over-the-hill and unsuitable to take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a broadside that his owner can easily relate to. That's the failed strategy Biden's opponent tripled down on in the presidential campaign by attacking his age and mental acuity. Perhaps in these bitterly partisan times, the old expression, "love me, love my dog," needs to be changed to, "attack me, attack my dog."
Belittling Champ's canine dignity was like questioning Dr. Anthony Fauci's scientific chops. Year in and out, German shepherds rank among the top three breeds in a variety of qualities. "Overall, they are the top dog," said Tina Zinn who runs ARK Charities, a non-profit organization in Fairfield County, Connecticut, that specializes in rescuing German shepherds. "They are the most well-rounded, loyal, smart, loving, affectionate dogs. They're MVPs: Most Versatile Pooches."
What the Newsmax crew failed to realize is that German shepherds are "working dogs." They are a breed you're more likely to see in the trenches of a war zone than in an expensive grooming salon. They are rough and tumble by nature, not some perfectly coifed designer dog.
And yet, German shepherds have been deemed noble enough to play a prominent role in first family history. They graced the White House grounds for the administrations of the Democrats Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge, both Republicans, also had German shepherds.
But just as the majority of American voters decided in November that Joe Biden, despite his age, has the necessary vigor to occupy the Oval Office, the same could also be said for Champ.
In just a little over a month, he and his cohort Major, a three-year-old German shepherd, have been put to work in a Covid-19 prevention public service announcement and an inspection of the White House grounds on Valentine's Day. Together, they have also been amassing Twitter followers at a staggering pace. At this rate, they could pass Newsmax's Greg Kelly by summer.
The absurd swipe at Champ was a thinly veiled dig at the Bidens, questioning how much love and attention they give him. The timing of the implication by conservative media that Champ is somehow neglected makes one wonder whether this was a "wag the dog" situation, an effort to divert attention from the ongoing crisis in Texas and the saga of poor Snowflake, Ted Cruz's family dog. A reporter learned that Snowflake was left home while the rest of the family flew to Cancún. While Newsmax may have missed that story of canine neglect, it did not go unnoticed on social media, where "Justice for Snowflake" was trending for days.
Ask any dog which they'd prefer, Snowflake's solitude in a dark, cold house or Champ lying in front of a roaring fire in the Oval Office, and the results would likely be a landslide.