As you know if you haven’t been vacationing on Mars over the past year, in 1983 the Romney family took a car trip to Canada with the family dog, Seamus, riding in a pet carrier on the roof. Romney planned out the trip and made only a limited number of stops, but at some point on the trip Seamus became incontinent, forcing Romney to take an unscheduled break to hose Seamus down.
Walter Shapiro writes today that he sees “no larger presidential significance in Romney’s actual treatment of Seamus.” And yet:
What gives the Seamus story legs (four) is the inadvertent glimpse it offers of Romney’s rigidity. For all the natural parental annoyance with the constant are-we-there-yet demands and the bodily needs of five boys on the trek to Canada, it is a rare father who would so zealously limit bathroom and food stops. Remember: The Romneys were not exactly desperate refugees racing to get across the Canadian border before they were stopped by the authorities. They were an affluent American family on vacation, but with all the spontaneous joy of an automotive assembly line. Seamus was collateral damage. What matters is the suck-it-up discipline that Mitt Romney tried to impose on his family.
People are not cyborgs—they have human needs, including a propensity for rest stops and, in politics, healthy egos. But an awareness of these personal factors does not seem to be part of the Romney repertoire.
Give me a break. I would guess that nearly every family that’s ever taken a long road trip has tried to stick to a schedule and keep stops to a minimum. Was Romney a little stricter than average? Maybe. Does this offer a glimpse of Romney’s “rigidity”? Please. The Seamus story came from Tagg Romney, and he doesn’t suggest that any of the Romney kids felt especially downtrodden during the ride. Romney was just an ordinary guy trying to cram a 12-hour trip into a single day and he didn’t want it to turn into a 14-hour trip. Shapiro had it right when he said this story has “no larger presidential significance.” He should have stopped right there.
I wish we could give stuff like this a rest. I know we won’t, but I can dream, can’t I?