Puppy Quandary

“[T]his is a major issue,” President-elect Barack Obama noted in his first post-election news conference yesterday. “I think it’s generated more interest on our Web site than just about anything.” He was speaking, of course, about the pressing personnel decision for his incoming administration: what sort of quadruped is to be appointed as First Dog? America’s allies clearly share his concern; it’s the subject of an article in no less than the Financial Times Deutschland (The animal for the president, by Anja Rützel). The lede: “Barack Obama promised his daughters a whelp. What that says about the new president and means for all of us.”

Now, of course Rützel’s treatment is tongue-in-cheek. If the comparison she makes in her first paragraph of election night with the Eurovision Song Contest isn’t enough to tip you off, you’ll probably realize what is going on just after that, when she praises Obama as having “enough guts to clear up in full publicity the first bribery-deal” of his administration, i.e. that of a puppy for his daughters in exchange for behaving themselves so he could get them a residential gig at the White House. But even still, she has three questions:

  1. “To earn oneself a puppy” – is that what Obama means literally, or is this some sort of American slang, like an investment banker would exclaim to another who has closed a big deal, “Congrats Frank, you really earned yourself a puppy there!”
  2. Will puppies will be the key to Obama’s problem-solving approach? After all, Natalie Portman and Rashida Jones seem to recommend that. Who are they? Darned if I know – basically Rützel is referring here to this “Funny or Die” video.
  3. So does that mean we all get a puppy? Is that Obama’s update to Herbert Hoover’s “chicken in every pot”?

This is all pretty jejune, I admit. The two notable aspects to the fact that a bit of fluff like this would appear, I submit, are 1) It’s from the Germans – and “German humor” might be a concept many of us are still trying to wrap our brains around; and 2) It comes from the FT family of publications.

Oh, but John McCain supporters don’t get a puppy. Rützel prescribes a “shriveled tortoise” for each of them instead.

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