By Michael Smerconish
Let me finish tonight with this.
Despite my love for our miniature dachshund, Mr. Lucy, I refuse to pile on the story concerning Mitt Romney's treatment of his Irish Setter, Seamus. By now the facts have been widely circulated.
In 1983, then 36-year-old Romney packed his wife and five sons into the family station wagon for a 12-hour drive into Ontario, Canada, to his parent's cottage. Romney fashioned a windshield to a dog carrier and then strapped the crate to the roof of the car. Midway into the drive, there was a cry of "gross" from the eldest son, Tagg, who'd seen a brown liquid running down the rear window. Romney pulled over, hosed down the dog and car, and got back on the road.
We know this because Neil Swidey wrote about it in the Boston Globe as part of a pre-election profile five years ago. But it was Swidey's recent explanation to me as to how he learned of the Romney recital that causes me to cut Mitt some slack. He said he'd gone looking for the Romney versions of those stories that every family has that are both embarrassing and usually shared only among one another.
Embarrassing family stories? Like the night when my mother didn't like the looks of the crowd outside a student dance where she'd just driven my brother, so after circling the block, she decided to march inside wearing her bathrobe and remove him from his peers?
Or when my dad got so excited while winning Wheel of Fortune that host Chuck Woolery told him he was concerned he was going to have a heart attack?
Growing up Smerconish, the Romney's had nothing on me when it comes to such tales. And today, a family of my own means my embarrassments are still being recorded.
Mention dogs to my brood and someone will surely tell you about the day we lost our cocker spaniel, Winston. I was devastated, totally overcome, so my wife wisely decided I needed some grieving room and she took the kids out for a drive. By the time they returned, I'd taken an antique chest which once belonged to her deceased mother out of our living room and used it to bury Winston in the back yard. She still complains about my use of a "family heirloom." I tell her not to worry, we know right where it is.
Our sons never let me forget the time I badly misjudged the opening night demand for movie tickets to see Talladega Nights. I was so sure the Will Farrell/Sacha Baron Cohen movie would sell out that I drove to the box office in advance to "beat the rush" before later returning with my family to a nearly empty theatre.
According to our middle son, who has taken to writing down some of the more ridiculous things I often say, I give him plenty of material. I confess to once having tried to impress a gallery owner in SoHo who was trying to sell me album art by offering that I was a "nationally syndicated radio host." The man was a stranger and I was a blowhard. And I am reminded of it constantly.
If you think my stuff is simply embarrassing where Romney's was potentially dangerous, my wife begs to differ. She reminds me that I once took our then 4 year old on the Space Mountain ride at Walt Disney World even though the safety harness barely fit him, and just last year, I was intent on taking a 27-foot Pontoon boat with our kids aboard into the Gulf of Mexico despite a storm until I saw fishermen standing on neighboring docks, swaddled in quilts and shaking their heads.
Neil Swidey told me that he printed the Seamus the dog story "for a particular reason as part of a larger story as to how the guy operates in big ways and small." I think many of us have plenty of our own material.