With reports that President Barack Obama's dog Bo arrived separately to join the First Family at Martha's Vineyard — flying on a MV-22 Osprey — presidential historians recalled how President Franklin D. Roosevelt turned charges involving his dog's travels into political capital.
"The 'Air Bo' saga certainly summons memories of the FDR 'Fala' scrape of 1944 in which critics charged FDR's black Scottish Terrier Fala was accidentally left on an island in the Aleutians and FDR dispatched a Navy vessel to retrieve him," recalled historian David Pietrusza, author of three books on presidential campaign years. "It turned out the story wasn't true, and FDR craftily turned the tables on Republicans."
Ever since the Obama family received Bo as a gift from the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, the First Pet's travel arrangements have been the source of interest.
In July 2010, a rumor began that Bo was flown out to join the Obamas on vacation in Maine on his own plane.
Days after an initial story suggesting that Bo was on a "dog-only" flight, the Waterville (Me.) Morning Sentinel pointed out "there were other occupants on the plane, including several other staffers" and that the presidential party took two jets to the Hancock-County Bar Harbor Airport because the airport was too small to accommodate the president's usual jet.
When the Obamas went on vacation in Martha's Vineyard in August of 2011, similar claims were made about their dog traveling solo. Again, subsequent clarifications were published noting that although Bo often flies on a plane separate from that of the First Family, it is always on aircraft carrying presidential personnel and baggage.
Even now, the same clarifications are appearing about the reports of how Bo got to Martha's Vineyard this weekend.
That didn't stop Obama critics from questioning why Bo couldn't have traveled with the rest of the family.
"President Obama is officially on vacation with his family in Martha's Vineyard but apparently," wrote Katie Pavlich in Townhall, "there just wasn't enough room on 4,000 square feet of Air Force One for their dog Bo. Naturally, the dog was put on a separate flight."
Back in 1944 during the presidential campaign, when rumors spread that FDR had left his dog Fala in the Aleutians and ordered a Navy vessel to retrieve him — they actually travelled together from the Aleutians on a destroyer to Seattle — simple clarifications weren't enough for the Democrat.
Appearing before the Teamsters Union in speech broadcast on nationwide radio, Roosevelt declared that "these Republicans are not satisfied with attacks upon me or my wife or on my sons — they now include my little dog Fala."
The audience roared, and the president kept it up. He noted that once Fala heard "the Republican fiction writers had concocted a story I had left him behind on an Aleutian island and had sent a destroyer back to find him at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three or 20 million dollars, his Scotch soul was furious! He has not been the same dog since!"
"He was like a veteran virtuoso playing a piece he has loved for years," wrote Time Magazine of the president and the "Fala Speech."
As presidential historian Irving Gellman told Newsmax yesterday: "I'm just waiting for President Obama to tell us Bo is a direct descendant of Fala!"
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax
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