As thousands of new pet-owners have discovered during the pandemic, dogs are simply the best. I have two myself and being without them has made returning to Ann Arbor each semester incredibly difficult. During a pandemic that has burdened millions with increased anxiety and stress, it should be no surprise that a significant number of people have recently chosen to add some furry members to their families. After all, dogs are proven to provide legitimate health benefits, both physically and mentally. The University of Michigan realized this fact long ago, offering times for students to hang out with dogs at least a few times a year.
Nearly 40% of all American households own dogs, including (except for former President Donald Trump) every U.S. president since William McKinley, which is over 100 years of presidential dogs. President Joe Biden revived that presidential trend, welcoming his two beautiful German shepherds, Champ and Major, into the White House.
This past week, Greg Kelly — host of the conservative news outlet Newsmax — took a dig at Champ, Biden’s 12-year-old dog. Kelly and presidential historian Craig Shirley labeled Champ as unpresidential, saying he looks like he is “from the junkyard.”
In response to both Kelly and Shirley: Find something better to do with your time than ridiculing the president’s elderly dog.
Although I suppose they should not be surprising in the context of an increasingly petty and partisan political sphere in the U.S., these comments were ridiculous. Criticizing a president’s dogs is crude and criticizing Champ as ‘unpresidential’ is simply incorrect. If not an American icon, dogs are most certainly a presidential staple.
German shepherds have long been considered a favorite amongst Americans in several categories, for both their loyalty and intelligence. Most police canine units country-wide, including the Michigan State Police, rely on German shepherds for their high work rate and intelligent problem-solving abilities — two ideal presidential qualities. So, if Champ’s smarts were at all in question, they shouldn’t be.
This is also not the first time a German shepherd has been a resident of the White House. Former presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy also had German shepherds — they were certainly considered adequate presidential pets at the time.
If it was his physical appearance, give Champ a break. He is 12 years old — that is well into his 80s in human years. Would you go up to your grandpa and say he was junkyard-like or looking as if he was uncared for simply because he looked old? No. It should be normal for an old dog to look, well, old. One of my dogs is starting to become a bit feeble, but I am certainly not going to ridicule her for it.
Personal attacks have sadly become the new norm in politics, it seems. We saw it consistently throughout the past two presidential elections; Vice President Kamala Harris was regularly mocked for her tone of voice, her name and her race — as were many politicians before her.
It is frustrating that these attacks have become standard in the U.S. They reflect poorly on the character of both American politics and the intelligence of the American people as a whole. Our time is spent on narrow-minded, irrelevant jabs and Twitter comments, including Greg Kelly’s response to the backlash he received following his segment.
But, if personal attacks are going to be a norm, so be it — it seems there is not much that can be done to buck that trend in a post-Trump America. With that being said, dogs need to be left out of those digs. A politician’s dogs are irrelevant to their politics and should only be discussed as a potential judge of character for any candidate. Using them simply as a way to belittle a president or politician is immoral. Instead, find a way to criticize Biden’s agenda or policies. That is the basis of what politics should be: informed debate regarding what legislation our elected officials should be passing.
Rather, this is a wake-up call for the state of our political discourse in this country. It is time to bring back some intelligence to our discussions. Leave Biden’s dogs alone. Dogs have only served to be a positive American icon within the White House — Major and Champ are no different.
Jack Tumpowsky can be reached at email@example.com.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.
For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.