Column: First Dog Decision '08 Takes Over Media

This story was written by Russell Stoll, Daily Bruin
(UWIRE) -- Election season has come to an end, and now we can finally get back to covering the issues that matter: puppies!

In a time when the country is divided as red states and blue, when our economy is in crisis, when we are still throwing billions of dollars at wars that have lasted for over half a decade, what better way for news media to really connect to the American people than with talk of cute, fluffy, adorable puppies?

This hard-hitting coverage has been a long time coming, and its great that the media has finally stopped trying to deluge the American people with the fear and depression that comes with reality and has started presenting us with that which is cute and adorable.

For far too long weve allowed political issues like that of the first dog slip, so its inspiring to see that more reputable news sources are taking this monumental decision seriously. Sources like the Associated Press, BBC News and the New York Times have all spent time covering the first dog decision. CNNs Anderson Cooper has started a blog asking what people think about breeds and names, and discussed the topic on AC 360. The Chicago Tribune has even called in the seasoned experts, such as an allergist and the founder of PAWS, to weigh in on which dogs might be best for the First Family-elect. Im utterly ashamed that our own Daily Bruin has not yet tackled this important issue.

But lets face it, members of the Cabinet will come and go, and theyre only guaranteed to be around for four years anyway. The choice of first dog is one that will stick with President Obama, his family and our country for what could be almost an entire decade. On Nov. 6, President-elect Obama chose Rahm Emanuel to be his chief of staff. This might be important to Obamas own internal delegation of duties and such, but how does this matter to the American people? Mr. Emanuel isnt the one running the country, Obama is, and unless a chief of staff has become mans new best friend, first dog seems to be the position that is going to tell us most about what kind of president Obama is going to be. And based on the amount of coverage thats been given to the position of first dog in comparison to that of chief of staff, its obvious that the media feels the same way. Thank goodness.

First Dog Decision 08 has proven to be a hot-button issue, already revealing so much more about the president-elect than some silly choice of chief of staff. Less than a week after the election, this was the subject of Obamas first gaff as president-elect, when he mentioned that they might just get a dog from a shelter where they have mutts like (him). Sure, this statement might just be a self-effacing joke, but is this sort of humility really something a president should exhibit? Is America ready for a humble president comfortable with his ethnicity? Fox News said the message is clear: Here is a president who will be quite at ease discussing race, a complex issue as unresolved as it is uncomfortable for many to talk about openly. And at a time when whites in the country are not many years from becoming the minority.

So what can the epic dog decision really tell us about Obama? Other than acting as a gauge of racial insensitivity, the pet choice will clearly symbolize what kind of decision-maker Obama will be. Obama said that his goal with this choice is to find balance between the familys desires for a shelter dog that is also hypoallergenic. A shelter dog would be a great way to parallel the message that comes with Obamas election, that mixed ethnicity citizens are just as acceptable as purebred citizens.

This will be the first test of Obamas ability to compromise, and even though finding a hypoallergenic mutt might be difficult, its the only way to pove to the American people that he has what it takes to run this country. Hes already done it once: Rahm Emanuel is both of Israeli and American descent, and is hypoallergenic as far as we know, although sources have yet to confirm his allergenic status, But can Obama translate these standards to the choice of first dog? If Obama cannot find a dog that is both of mixed breed and hypoallergenic, he will have to choose between making a political statement, and his own daughters health. The decision clearly comes back to an old question of ethics: is the suffering of one child worth the benefit of millions? Well, which is it, Mr. President-Elect?

Everyone seems to be interested in what kind of dog the Obamas will choose, and isnt that enough to completely steer what should be covered in the news and what should not? Sure, newspapers and televised news media could spend more time covering things like the economy or the two wars or civil rights issues, but that kind of stuff is such a downer. News that isnt entertaining and fun just sounds like homework, and everyone knows that homework is useless and accomplishes nothing. Its fantastic to see that the mass news media is covering a major issue that also brings in the ratings.

Good luck to the Obamas and their choice of first dog. While we may not get to choose whether its a Goldendoodle or something that looks like a bald rat from Peru, all we can hope is that this is one choice that will be properly vetted.
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