Kudos to Kevin Drum, who caught National Reporter blogger Shannen Coffin writing in a tripery* Thursday for claiming that the White House had sent Bo to Hawaii and then flew him back just so President Obama could go shopping with the dog. Only three problems:
1. Hawaii has a quarantine for pets, so it would have been a fairly immense act of stupidity for the White House to attempt to fly Bo out there in the first place.
2. Bo didn't go.
3. Fala (la la la la la la la). At one level, thank you, Mr. Coffin, for this holiday
libel gift by forgetting one of the great acts of political humor in the 20th century. At another level, ow (the humanity!), for forgetting.
Fala was a Scottish terrier given to FDR in late 1940, and when he accompanied Roosevelt on a trip to the Aleutian Islands in 1944, Republicans made up a story that a destroyer had been sent to pick up Fala, left behind by a careless president. Lying about a pet is a wonderful straight line given to a politician with a masterful sense of humor, and Roosevelt took full advantage in a speech in September 1944 to the Teamsters, and the relevant passage of the speech is right here on DKos (uploaded in May 2009).
Kevin Drum suggested that Obama respond as follows:
Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Bo. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family don't resent attacks — but Bo does resent them. You know, Bo is Portuguese, and being a Portuguese water dog, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I'd left him behind on a Hawaiian island and had sent a 747 back to find him — at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or 20 million dollars — his Iberian soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself — such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I'm constantly apologizing for America. But I think I have a right to resent, to object, to libelous statements about my dog!
What's important to remember--and many people forget--is that earlier in the "Fala speech," FDR had talked about the dangers of importing "the big lie" propaganda style to the United States:
The opposition in this year has already imported into this campaign a very interesting thing, because it is foreign. They have imported the propaganda technique invented by the dictators abroad. Remember, a number of years ago, there was a book, Mein Kampf, written by Hitler himself. The technique was all set out in Hitler's book - and it was copied by the aggressors of Italy and Japan. According to that technique, you should never use a small falsehood; always a big one, for its very fantastic nature would make it more credible - if only you keep repeating it over and over and over again.
One bit of perspective: it's not as if Joseph Goebbels invented the Big Lie. John Adams used it against Thomas Jefferson. We have a long and ugly history of lying in American politics. But we also have ways to fight it, and humor is one of the best.
* a place where you make or sell tripe.