By Michael Levin
Published December 04, 2018
People from around the world are recalling President George H.W. Bush’s many accomplishments and outstanding qualities with words of praise – but one of the most beautiful and moving tributes was a wordless expression of love from his service dog, Sully. Unbelievably, a mean-spirited writer for Slate has chosen to attack this loyal dog.
Dogs aren’t called “man’s best friend” for nothing. If you’ve ever owned a dog, you know the bond between this animal and we humans is very real. We mourn our dogs when they die. And yes, after sharing our homes and our lives, they mourn us when we die. We feel genuine love for each other.
Slate staff writer Ruth Graham is clueless in recognizing this.
On Tuesday, Sully – a 2-year-old golden Labrador – was brought to the Capitol Rotunda, where President Bush’s body lay in state to honor the 41st president. Sully wore and American flag vest with his name on it. It was a touching moment.
On Sunday, Bush spokesman Jim McGrath tweeted out a photo of Sully lying in front of the former president’s casket in Texas, with the caption “Mission complete.” The photo went viral because it suggested the strong bond between animals and their humans.
Graham’s Slate piece went viral because she attacked the dog, the late president and all of us. Her piece criticizes the nation for making too much of the photo of Sully laying in front of President Bush’s casket. She wrote that dogs like to lie down – so there was no special significance to Sully doing so near the casket.
This is doggone ridiculous. And attacking Sully for being a devoted dog is beyond ridiculous.
Sully was a loyal companion and helper to President Bush, who used a wheelchair since 2012. The dog helped the former president open doors and retrieve small items, and helped comfort Bush after the loss of his beloved wife, Barbara, earlier this year.
Animals absolutely understand the death of those to whom they feel attached. Anyone with a pet will vouch for that fact. Did Sully recognize the scent of his late master and choose to stand guard by his casket? Or was the dog, as Graham seems to think, oblivious to the passing of the former president?
The larger issue is what happens when you give millions of individuals the courage of the keyboard and they feel comfortable attacking anything they think has no value.
What’s Slate going to come out against next? Motherhood? Apple pie? Reverence for the American flag?
I’d love to see Graham come to Washington, look the surviving members of the Bush family in the eye, and make fun of the relationship between George H.W. Bush and Sully.
Never gonna happen, because hiding behind technology has given us the drive-by hit piece.
I was watching the arrival of President Bush’s casket at the Capitol and felt uplifted by the military ceremony with which America honors its fallen leaders. And remember, George H.W. Bush was not only our nation’s president, vice president, and holder of other public offices – he was a courageous Navy pilot who nearly lost his life defending our country in World War II. He was a hero and patriot in the truest sense.
There is so much to write about the life of President Bush and the ceremonies honoring him following his death. This should give any writer dozens of topics to choose from.
But no – Graham had no interest in any of these matters. Instead, she made her target … a sweet and devoted dog, knowing that Sully could never write back, never speak up in his own defense.
Graham justified her sarcastic attack on the basis that Sully had only worked with President Bush for six months. So how connected, Graham wondered, could president and dog have become?
Oh, OK. If Sully had been assigned to President Bush for nine months, would Graham have remained silent? A year? Two years? Is there a minimum amount of time that would have caused her to give Sully, the president and the rest of us a pass?
Graham was clearly disturbed by random comments on Twitter to the effect that we should “Never elect a President who does not love and is not loved by pets.” Since when does the comment of a non-celebrity deserve the ire of a member of the chattering classes?
Or was Graham upset due to the fact that the person who issued that tweet, one Ana Navarro, actually tweeted favorably a dozen times about President Bush’s character and integrity?
Amazingly, Graham also painted Sully not just as lazy but as a hypocrite. That’s because the Sully’s Instagram account – which has 147,000 followers – says he will make his “forever home” at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.
In fact, President Bush asked that Sully be reassigned to Walter Reed Medical Center to help wounded military service members as they recuperate from serious injuries.
To her credit, Graham does allow that it’s “wonderful” that the dog will indeed serve others at Walter Reed. “But it’s a bit demented,” she adds, “to project soul-wrenching grief onto a dog’s decision to lie down in front of a casket.”
That’s just cold.
Maybe it’s a left-right thing. I just have to ask myself if I’ve ever seen a conservative commentator make fun of a dead liberal president’s pet. Did William F. Buckley, Jr. trash President Lyndon Johnson’s beagles? Did Walter Lippman scorn Fala, a Scottish terrier, after the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt?
It seems that sniping at Sully is just a way to attack the memory of our 41st president.
Aren’t there any grownups over at Slate who could have said to Graham: “Sorry, we’re spiking this piece. We don’t attack presidential dogs, especially when the nation is mourning the death of the former president who loved the dog.”
Sully isn’t a Democrat or Republican. It’s a safe bet that he no political ideology and has never voted, made a campaign contribution, or endorsed a candidate. And he never will. So for Pete’s sake, leave this loyal service dog alone!
What can I say about the lack of judgment on the part of Graham for writing an attack piece targeting a service dog, and whatever editing process – if any exists – exists at Slate prior to posting?
I don’t know. All I can say is, it gives one paws. I mean, pause.