President needs a best friend

Mary Thomas Watts - Contributing columnist

I’m thinking a dog might be the solution. Goodness knows, anything is worth trying at this point.

The idea actually came from Donald Trump himself, who, during the campaign, said he would get a haircut and a dog if he won the election. Yet, the months and seasons have rolled on, and neither presidential haircut nor White House dog has materialized.

If you’ve seen the recent video of the back of the president’s signature mane dislodged by high wind as he was ascending the stairs of Air Force One, you know as well as I do that a haircut is never going to happen.

While Trump’s dessert plate-sized bald patch might be a singular phenomenon in the annals of hair follicle anomalies, dog ownership would lend at least an appearance of ordinariness to this anything but ordinary man. And, perhaps in time, the dog might accomplish what a lifetime of people — parents, teachers, friends, wives, children, Mike Pence — have been unable to do: humanize Donald Trump.

There’s a long history of First Pets at the White House. Some of the more illustrious ones are Franklin D. Roosevelt’s beloved Scottish terrier, Fala, whose statue stands at the FDR memorial; Caroline Kennedy’s pony, Macaroni, Richard Nixon’s cocker spaniel, Checkers, a campaign gift whose name is attached to his owner’s maudlin, self-pitying speech that came to bear the dog’s name; Barbara Bush’s pooch, Millie, who authored a book; the Clinton’s chocolate lab, Buddy, and cat, Socks; Dubya and Laura’s Scottish terrier, Barney; and the Obama family’s camera-friendly Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny.

If my rescued boxer, Tallulah, could weigh in, she might advise me that most dogs would choose an animal shelter over the current White House. And I would tell her, “Well, Tallulah, precisely because dogs can’t broker their own circumstances, that’s where the ASPCA would come in, carefully vetting, prior to placement, both the president and the canine candidates to find a suitable match, and exercising ongoing oversight of the First Dog’s well-being.”

I hope that would satisfy her.

Assuming Trump would prefer a male dog, for fear a female might pull an Omarosa on an Animal Planet reality show, I like the name “Pasha”, which a Russian baby names website says will bring its bearer admiration. Trump should go for that, so long as he doesn’t discover that Pasha means “small.” (Historical footnote: Tricia Nixon’s Yorkie was named Pasha, the only Russian name that would have been uttered with affection in her father’s White House.)

Trump’s Pasha would have a big, big job. Tremendous. Harry Truman said it best: “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog” — and inside the Beltway, Trump is shorter on real friends than hair on the back of his head. (I cannot unsee that video.)

Granted, outside D.C., Trump voters have made their peace with bombshell after bombshell, from classified secrets blabbed to Russian officials visiting the Oval Office to $130,000 in hush money paid weeks before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels, with whom he allegedly had an affair a decade ago.

But where the West Wing shuts down after another day of wrecking the fundamental institutions of American democracy, the MAGA-hatted enthusiasts can’t curl up on POTUS’s bed for another night of fast food and cable news.

It won’t take long for Pasha, like the canary sent into the coal mine, to reveal what the world wants to know: Can this president be kinder, more compassionate, less self-involved? Is he capable of showing empathy, sacrificing for another, tempering his own appetites? Will he share his bedtime cheeseburgers? Will he follow his doctor’s orders to get some exercise and walk the dog?

It’s a tall order, expecting a new dog to teach an old dog new tricks, and if it doens’t work out … run, Pasha, run, toward the nearest protestors outside the White House fence.

Tallulah and I have your replacement picked out: the ill-tempered feral cat who hangs out on our deck. Not the kind of animal Donald Trump needs, but deserves.

Mary Thomas Watts lives and writes in Wilmington.

Mary Thomas Watts

Contributing columnist