ChrisWeigant.com

The Return Of First Pets

[ Posted Monday, November 30th, 2020 – 16:43 UTC ]

After the long weekend, I'm kind of easing back into the political world, and I thought there'd be no better way to do that than to celebrate the impending return of First Pets to the White House. Joe and Jill Biden will be bringing their two dogs to live with them, and the news was announced over the weekend that they'll also be getting a new First Cat. From Jane Pauley on CBS yesterday:

And now some breaking news. President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden won't just be bringing their German shepherds, Major and Champ, to the White House. The Bidens tell us exclusively that soon they'll be joined by a cat.

Apparently, this is due to Jill, who had said in an interview before the election: "Well, I'd love to get a cat. I love having animals around the house."

I have to say, this is exactly the return to normalcy that 80 million of us voted for. Donald Trump was unique in many ways (and that's putting it mildly), but one of them was breaking the long-standing tradition of having pets in the White House. In fact, you have to go back to the depths of the nineteenth century to find a period when there were no pets in the White House. According to Wikipedia, the last president before Trump not to have pets was officially James K. Polk, who served from 1845 to 1849. Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) doesn't really count, either, because I don't think that "fed white mice he found in his bedroom" truly qualifies as having presidential pets.

This means that for over 150 years (no matter which one you consider the previous non-pet president), America has had a president who kept pets in the White House. Until Trump. Now, this was probably a good thing, because keeping pets requires you to have at least some love and empathy for something which is not you -- so Trump quite obviously didn't qualify.

Before Trump, the Obamas had Bo and Sunny, two Portuguese Water Dogs. You have to go back to George W. Bush for the last First Cat (India, or "Willie"). But without doubt the best photo of a First Cat ever was when the Clintons' Socks gave a press conference (heh):

Socks

"I will now answer your questions...."

Hillary Clinton even eventually put a book out consisting of letters children had written to both Socks and Buddy (Bill's dog).

The only other really notable First Cat in my memory was a Siamese that a very young Amy Carter named "Misty Malarky Ying Yang." Maybe Joe Biden will name his cat "Malarkey" too, who knows?

One presidential pet (well, technically not "presidential" at the time, since this predated his win) was notably used as a political prop, in Richard Nixon's famous "Checkers speech." Lyndon Johnson also got into a little political heat when he was photographed picking up his hound dogs ("Him" and "Her") by their ears.

What's really astonishing about the list of presidential pets, however, is how much of a menagerie some First Families kept. John F. Kennedy's family, for instance, had: 11 dogs, one cat, one canary, two parakeets, an unspecified number of ducklings, three ponies, two hamsters, one rabbit, and one horse. Teddy Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge also had their own small White House zoos. Among Coolidge's array of animals was a bobcat, lion cubs, a pygmy hippopotamus, a duiker, and a black bear. Teddy's included a laughing hyena and a one-legged rooster. The winner of the strangest White House pet choice of all time, however, might go to Benjamin Harrison's two alligators.

Woodrow Wilson was the most practical, as he kept a flock of sheep (up to 48 of them, at one point) who earned their keep by cropping the White House lawn.

The Bidens will be much more conventional, with two dogs and a new cat. Which is kind of my point today -- because it will all be so normal. The White House will once again be a family residence, complete with pets. After an absence of four years, America will get to see First Pets once again.

As I said at the start, I don't really have any overarching political point to make today. I am just quietly celebrating one more step along the path to returning America and the White House to a degree of normalcy that we've all been missing. And personally, I can't wait to see what kind of cat the Bidens choose to adopt.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

33 Comments on “The Return Of First Pets”

  1. [1] 
    andygaus wrote:

    If we can't hope for Democratic and Republican cooperation, maybe we can at least hope that the dogs and the cat will get along.

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Good to see you back with some new content. Not exactly, "What are the Progressives gonna do now that Democrats beat Trump with the. Most. Vanilla. Candidate ever," but if I were to guess I'd say that you're probably as burnt out on politics as the rest of the planet.

    Give or take Trumpian schenannagins leading up to 1/20/21 it appears that #Putin'sBitch hasn't irreparably trashed our Constitutional Republic. It also appears that Trump is going to declare for the 2024 race on Joe's Inauguration Day.

    So if Joe was ever tempted to be an Obama-level idiot and let the latest batch of rich folks (Trump) simply slide for the damage they've done to We the People, well, Joe's going to need to put Trump "on ice," that is, under arrest/without Twitter.

  3. [3] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Where's the "Pee Tape" when you need it?

    Not that it would matter to the 74 million idiots who voted for Trump.

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    They prefer "deplorables"

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    What do we do with our country, nypoet22, when 74 million voters saw four years of Donald Trump and wanted four more years?

    Especially when our only hope is the Democratic-in-name-only Party that has been going along with Reaganism® for the last 40 years?

  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Sorry, Elizabeth Miller, but the future of America is in the hands of a "go along to get along" center-right Establishment Democrat? The b ar for Joe has been set abysmally low and I'm not hopeful.

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i think someone here, possibly liz, mentioned recently that the left-right axis is inadequate to describe the range of political stripes that exist in our society. i'm not really a believer in 'upwing-downwing' as a way of defining politicians, but i do think there is a populist-statist-corporatist spectrum, which cuts across all things left and right.

  8. [8] 
    MyVoice wrote:

    I sure enjoyed this shiny bauble. What if it is truly a thing?

    How VP Harris Can Sideline Moscow Mitch

    Even if the Democrats don’t win control of the Senate, there is a way to strip Mitch McConnell of his power for good: priority recognition.

    According to Article I, Section 3, Clause 4 of the Constitution, the Vice President is also the President of the Senate. The Majority Leader is not a position that exists anywhere in the Constitution. The reason that the Majority Leader has near-dictatorial powers to control floor votes is because of a tradition that dates back to 1937. The tradition is that the Vice President gives the floor leaders priority recognition. Most notably, this is not a rule in the Senate.

    As President of the Senate, Vice President Harris could give any senator priority recognition. That senator could then decide on all legislation that is brought before the entire Senate. Even with a minority in the Senate, Vice President Harris could simply give Chuck Schumer priority recognition. He could decide what is voted on and what isn’t.

    That's half the article right there; the rest says that Schumer, even if he can't peel off any Republicans for a given bill, can force them to be on record as opposing help for people or changing outmoded laws, etc. That would be swell.

    Here's a little deeper background on priority recognition: Floor Leaders' Right of Priority Recognition

  9. [9] 
    John M wrote:

    [8] MyVoice wrote:

    "I sure enjoyed this shiny bauble. What if it is truly a thing?

    How VP Harris Can Sideline Moscow Mitch"

    This would be great. BUT...

    Both being former Senators themselves, would Harris and MOST especially BIDEN go along with such a major break in how the Senate operates tradition???

  10. [10] 
    John M wrote:

    Also keep in mind that any future Republican Vice President can end up doing the same thing, once the precedent for doing so is set.

  11. [11] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Biden should get a pet llama and name it Dolly.

  12. [12] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    I'd rephrase Chris' terminology to read " . . . keeping pets (in the house) requires you to have at least some love" for having dog/cat hair all over your furniture, clothing and carpets, and for the delightful smell of pet pee and shit throughout the house!

    Obviously I understand that it makes a big difference when the burden of cleanup of all that 'delightful' stuff is borne by the taxpayers rather than the tenants, but I still think only morons tolerate animals in their houses.

  13. [13] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    andygaus [1] -

    I dunno. Socks and Buddy were always at each other's throats...

    :-)

    -CW

  14. [14] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    MtnCaddy [2] -

    I were to guess I'd say that you're probably as burnt out on politics as the rest of the planet.

    Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

    Heh.

    Yeah, I'm easing back into it, as it were...

    -CW

  15. [15] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    MyVoice [8] -

    OK, that is certainly an interesting idea. I will check that link out...

    It certainly would be fitting: "So you want to play hardball power-play politics, Mitch? Well, TWO can play at that game!"

    Certainly would be fun to see Harris do it, especially watching all the GOP heads explode immediately thereafter...

    Heh. I think you're onto something...

    :-)

    -CW

  16. [16] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    JohnM [9] -

    Good point. I doubt Harris would have any problem, but you're right about Biden and Senate traditions...

    -CW

  17. [17] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Don Harris [10] -

    My favorite name joke:

    If Oprah Winfrey married Deepak Choprah, then she'd be Oprah Choprah!

    Heh.

    -CW

  18. [18] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    C. R. Stucki [12] -

    Well, we're just going to have to disagree on that one...

    -CW

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The up-wing/down-wing classification is really the only one that matters now when judging politicians because it tells you who will get things done while moving the country and its citizens forward and who won't.

    Who has a vision for a successful future with the requisite courage to carry that vision out and who doesn't.

    This is an axis I learned about from another favourite political analyst who got the idea from Senator Gary Hart many years ago.

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    andygaus[1],

    Absolutely, positively, unequivocally!

    I mean, those animals are Bidens, after all! :)

  21. [21] 
    MyVoice wrote:

    [9] & [10] John M

    I think Mitch has sufficiently demonstrated that tradition is for dewy-eyed sentimentalists. I'd take this route over two guaranteed years of obstruction, but my preference is more along the line of seeing whether Mitch would be willing to negotiate for retaining some power, but not absolute power. New tradition?

  22. [22] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    MyVoice [8]

    Thank you for sharing this info! I LOVE the idea of shutting down Mitch McConnell, but I have a few questions:

    — Wouldn’t this be a rule change that would have to be voted on by the Senate before it could be implemented? Or as President of the Senate, could Harris issue an “executive order” canceling that rule?

    — If acting as President of the Senate, would that require Harris to physically be in the Senate to preside over it and prevent McConnell from blocking everything?

    This is the best idea I have heard of for putting down McConnell’s abuses as Majority Leader! It is worth trying if it has any chance at curtailing the GOP’s obstructions.

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    John,

    Both being former Senators themselves, would Harris and MOST especially BIDEN go along with such a major break in how the Senate operates tradition???

    I think they might very well, especially given recent history of senate tradition under McConnell and given how intimately familiar Biden is with all of it. Some traditions, after all, are meant to fall.

    And, as for what's being good for the goose also being good for the gander, maybe the days of such a closely divided senate will be over for a while. :)

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    MyVoice[8],

    That is a very interesting idea, worthy of more discussion!

  25. [25] 
    MyVoice wrote:

    [22] ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Wouldn’t this be a rule change that would have to be voted on by the Senate before it could be implemented?

    No, Sir; it is a tradition and not a rule. It's up to the VP to grant priority recognition.

  26. [26] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: Joe and Jill Biden will be bringing their two dogs to live with them, and the news was announced over the weekend that they'll also be getting a new First Cat.

    Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! ;)

  27. [27] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki
    12

    Obviously I understand that it makes a big difference when the burden of cleanup of all that 'delightful' stuff is borne by the taxpayers rather than the tenants, but I still think only morons tolerate animals in their houses.

    Stucki, you seem blissfully unaware that humans are animals... and by your own definition are therefore morons.

    Thoughts to ponder. :)

  28. [28] 
    Kick wrote:

    MyVoice

    Like I always say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Not referring to the new White House cat, of course.

  29. [29] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Referring to the fish, of course!

  30. [30] 
    nypoet22 wrote:
  31. [31] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Kick

    Yeah, I never thought about it quite that way. Maybe that explains why my wife's houseplants, resent have me in their house, although I'm not nearly as hairy as dogs and cats, especially in my old age.

  32. [32] 
    Kick wrote:

    Heh :)

  33. [33] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    A catfish, of course!

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