After watching the second presidential debate, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the dog. When I first heard the story that Mitt Romney had strapped their dog, Seamus, to the roof of their car on a trip to Canada, the dog lover in me was horrified that a pet owner could do such a thing to an animal. But I didn’t think that it had much to do with the presidential race.
As I’ve learned more about Mitt Romney’s career, however, it strikes me that the experience with the dog is emblematic of his entire professional trajectory – he will do anything to get to where he wants to go. More specifically, he will step on anyone or anything in order to get there.
As a venture capitalist at Bain, Romney was a leader and innovator in the field of leveraged buyouts. For these evangelical capitalists, the end is profit. If the means entailed massive layoffs, corporate bankruptcy, and the destabilization of the local economy where the company was located, the end goal of profit justified any resulting human, economic, or social costs.
When Romney decided he wanted to be governor of Massachusetts, he set aside decades of support of neo-liberal economic policies and his very conservative social positions on women’s issues to present himself as a moderate that would appeal to voters in this traditionally Democratic state. Prior to this transformation, Romney had, as a bishop in the Mormon Church, demonstrated a strong belief that women should remain in traditional roles and that abortion was never to be considered an appropriate “choice.” Romney reversed these ostensibly moral stances in order to achieve the governor’s mansion.
As a presidential candidate, Romney has again remade himself, this time in a more conservative direction. Much has been said about Romney’s changes of position – I won’t go into more detail about that here. But what struck me during the debates is his willingness to say anything, change any previous position, in order to achieve his goal of the presidency. In the second debate, Romney claimed he supports contraceptive coverage for women, something entirely at odds with his previous statements on the subject and the Republican Party platform.
Romney strapped the dog to the roof of his car because it was more convenient than having the dog in the car. When the dog defecated all over himself and his dog carrier, Romney hosed him off and kept going. For him, the destination is what matters, and he has shown this repeatedly over the course of his career.
You can tell a lot about a person by looking at how they treat the weak and vulnerable. Thinking about Seamus makes me worry what a President Romney would do to any American he thinks might stand in his way.