“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
In the imperial capitol, people have interests, not friends.
The implication is that any gesture of friendship in the context of politics should be viewed as forwarding that person's interest and nothing more. It seems to me that this is among the most self-evident of the political dogs. The line is attributed, without dispute, to Harry S. Truman, a man known for his acerbic wit. Having barely escaped Gerald Ford's fate of becoming the first unelected President of the United States, Truman surely had numerous reasons to be cynical about Washington politics.
1. Dowd, Maureen. 2002. Attack of the Calico Clones. New York Times, Feb 17, 11.
This oft-quoted aphorism plays off of the presumption that a dog is man's best friend. While this use of the dog reference calls on the noble qualities of canines, it seems it is always an easy leap to the more common negative associations. For instance, after citing Truman, William H. Plenge, president of the lobbying firm Potomac Services International, Inc. (PSI), reminds us, “Dogs bite.” In trying to convince us that we need his influential services in Washington, he is careful to remind us that dogs are treacherous. He would like you to think that lobbying firms (or at least his lobbying firm) are better friends than dogs, who can always turn around and bite the hand that feeds them. Perhaps he is trying to insinuate, without actually saying so, that attack dog politics is effective and that PSI is ready and willing to do the biting for us. There may even be a subtle reminder to beware of watchdog groups.
Plenge goes on to say that, “Current scandals aside, honesty and integrity are highly valued.” Should the dog lovers of the world take offense at this? When he says that dogs bite, is he suggesting that dogs lack honesty and integrity? Of course he is! As noted throughout this text, it is safe to assume that people are always ready to believe the worst about dogs. What makes Plenge's choice of wording in this line so masterful is its timelessness; there will never be a need to update this part of the web site.
Administrations may come and go, but there are always current scandals. Even this picture (Figure 2) caused some stir. I guess some folks thought the President looked foolish, though I cannot imagine why.
About the illustrations:Figure 1: This White House photograph shows former President Bill Clinton with First Dog, Buddy, as he (the Prez, that is) spars with the press. Clinton was particularly in need of friendship, since he was so often in the doghouse in his marriage. And perhaps he found it useful to have the dog on hand to keep the press, that so often hounded him, at bay.
This image is a work of a U.S. employee, taken or made during the course of the person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image or file is in the public domain.
In Figure 2, an AP photo by Susan Walsh, we see President Bush and Barney in more innocent days, when many Americans were still willing to admit how goofy the man is. Here we see him saluting his dog's ear. AP ID:
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