I’ve eaten some strange things in my day. Living in Japan, for example, we occasionally broke our fast with orange juice and octopus tentacles, which most assuredly is not the breakfast of champions. There was the squid pizza at the Pizza Hut, the burned caramelized meatloaf that was a Chinese chef’s gracious, but misguided, attempt to make a hamburger for the American, and live shrimp plucked from the pool, cut in half and served freshly twitching. I tried whale, which is dark maroon and too rich to eat more than a few bites, as well as some bitter sea creatures that are only delicacies by virtue of their rarity; I half-expected that they would glow if we turned the lights out.
In Europe, I’ve enjoyed pigeon lasagna and puledro, which is the equine equivalent of veal. I’ve had escargot soaked in garlic butter that was delicious and black lumacche in a brown sauce that required copious amounts of wine to face. But at no point in my travels did I ever eat cats.
And I most certainly didn’t eat dogs.
Now, some have argued that it’s unfair to hold Obama responsible for chowing down on man’s best friend as a child. After all, it’s not as if he was setting the menu when he was growing up in Indonesia, although we don’t actually know that he never requested it by choice. He is certainly a good deal less culpable than Mitt Romney for Romney’s own transgressions against the canine community.
However, to attempt to compare the two offenses against American sensibilities is to miss the point. Romney’s potentially dangerous decision to transport his dog in a kennel on the roof of his car was callous, short-sighted and stupid. But what does this tell us about Mitt Romney that we didn’t already know? He’s a Wall Street-owned Republican politician, he’s supposed to be callous, short-sighted and stupid.
Obama’s canine culinary habit, on the other hand, is extremely informative. It confirms what many of his detractors, and increasing numbers of his former supporters, have long suspected about the man. While he is a United States citizen, he simply isn’t an American in the cultural or nationalist sense. He does not share the traditions, customs and fundamental perspectives of most of the people over whom he presides, which is why his administration has been one of the most bumbling, tone-deaf and obtuse in American history. He remains, at heart, a foreigner, a stranger in what to him will always be a strange land.
It’s not that Obama did anything wrong. Dogs are animals. Animals are property. People eat different animals in different countries. But just as no Indian politician can expect to be able to eat a hamburger without offending a portion of the Hindu electorate, no U.S. politician could reasonably expect to eat canines without the American electorate looking askance at his behavior. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that if Obama were to visit Indonesia now and dine on dog meat at a state dinner, he would lose the November election in a manner that would make Jimmy Carter’s defeat to Ronald Reagan look like a photo finish.
That’s probably not going to happen, the incompetence of his advisers and the erratic behavior of his Secret Service guards notwithstanding. It’s not Obama’s behavior, but rather, his background, that is the root of the problem here. His identity as The Other looks much different now than it did in 2008; after three years of his presidency, it has become abundantly clear that he will not lower the oceans, solve the budget deficit or heal the racial divisions in the country. With the nation facing increasingly dangerous storms, Americans want someone who shares their values and respects their traditions at the helm.
So, naturally, the Republicans decided to nominate a rich cultist who makes John Kerry look consistent. So, perhaps the great devourer of dogs can still hope for four more years in office, assuming he even decides to stay in the race. After all, who knows when word might leak out of Obama’s summer vacation in the wilds of Papua New Guinea.