Tags: Buddy | Never | Had | Chance

Buddy Never Had a Chance

Sunday, 15 June 2003 12:00 AM

Julia Gorin started worrying about Buddy, the chocolate Labrador retriever, when he was brought to the White House as a puppy late in 1997.

She had heard that Bill Clinton's poll-oriented advisers feared the president would lose his "family man" image when his daughter, Chelsea, went off to college and recommended a dog as prop. A Lab, America's most popular breed, was the obvious choice. Even the color was calculated.

Gorin, a dog lover who adopted a pit bull she found discarded on a New York subway platform, didn't think that was the way to select a pet.

She also was aware of the fate of Zeke, the Clintons' cocker spaniel that was run over in Little Rock when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas.

During the 1992 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying that Zeke had been killed by a car "after years of near misses."

But Gorin "went into a panic mode" after the 2000 election, when she realized that Buddy would be in the care of the Clintons themselves and not the White House staff.

She bet her husband $50 that Buddy wouldn't make it into 2002. She lost, but only by two days.

On Jan. 2, 2002, while the Clintons were vacationing in Acapulco, Buddy playfully chased a contractor through an open gate at the Clinton's property in Chappaqua, N.Y., and was struck and killed by an SUV driven by a 17-year-old girl.

In the introduction to her new book, "The Buddy Chronicles," Gorin recounts the consternation she felt in 2001.

"The early weeks and months of Bill Clinton's post-presidential life brought forth photographs of the man more or less alone in his new house and new life, looking melancholy and lost. ... I couldn't help thinking, 'What about the dog? There's a dog in the house who needs a walk!'"

She would pace around her Manhattan apartment yelling at the TV and the newspaper:

"He wants to take care of the nation? Take care of the dog! How's that for a plan to start the day? Think FORMER president, CURRENT dog owner!" Sometimes she wondered if Buddy even knew who his master was.

After Buddy's death, Gorin poured out her feelings in an op-ed column for the Philadelphia Inquirer that appeared on Jan. 4, 2002, a Friday. The paper is owned by the Knight-Ridder Company, which made the essay available on its wire.

It was picked up by more than a dozen papers across the country. The Web site Jewish World Review ran it under the headline "Buddy's Dead. Is Anyone Surprised?"

Gorin is a stand-up comic as well as a writer, something of a Lennie Bruce of the right, and her prose can reflect the rock 'em-sock 'em cadences of her craft. Her basic point was that when people go on vacation they should either put their dog in a kennel or in the hands of a responsible dog-sitter. The Secret Service is not set up to care for rambunctious canines, and it was unclear who in Chappaqua had responsibility for Buddy.

"A dog's babysitters will take their cues from the dog's owner, and will tend to be either as vigilant or as cavalier as the master is," Gorin wrote.

If she had left it at that, the uproar that followed might not have occurred.

But Gorin went on to say that what happened to Buddy "is precisely what can be expected to happen to a dog when it's meant to be little more than a pawn in its owners' attempt to impersonate human beings. ... So Buddy's dead. Socks (the cat) they gave away. Has anyone seen Chelsea?"

Gorin expressed surprise that Chelsea had "made it past the '93 inauguration, having already done her part to fulfill the minimum quota for a family unit so her parents could have a political life."

In her concluding paragraph, Gorin feigned a reluctance to rush to judgment in the absence of all the facts.

"Maybe Buddy wanted to die. Maybe he pulled a Vince Foster. Perhaps he had seen and heard too much in that house, was privy to too many unspeakable schemes and just couldn't take the guilt."

Well.

In a phone interview, Gorin explained what happened next.

"A steady stream of the most colorful e-mails you could imagine started to fill my computer. It reached 400 by the end of the weekend." As she went to sleep, she could hear her computer going "ding," "ding," "ding."

All together, she received 750 e-mails.

Gorin delicately summarized the nature of the correspondence.

"The writers interpreted my article to say that I was comparing Chelsea to a dog and that I was taking the opportunity of a dog's death to spew hatred at the Clintons." That summary, she said, was all that was fit to print in a public news outlet. Otherwise, "you would have to do a lot of bleeps."

The messages, however, appear uncensored and unexpurgated in "The Buddy Chronicles," available for $14.95 from bruiserbooks.com. Original spelling, capitalization and punctuation have been preserved.

"Are you one of those rabid right-wing hate-filled christian wackos???" asked a Texas man.

"How would you feel if someone wrote some article blaming you for the death of your dog, cat or in your case bat you witch?" wrote another man.

"Are you sure you have a husband?" a woman asked. "God forbid you have kids."

Other readers wished her a "poetically just" death, like Barbara Olson's.

And Gorin is right -- some of the messages cannot be repeated here.

But 130 out of the 750 responses were favorable, and they are in the book as well. Gorin said those readers were not used to seeing their views represented in their local papers and wondered how her column "got past the censors."

Gorin, 30, came to the United States with her family from Russia in 1976, the bicentennial year of America's independence, she was quick to note.

Her father, a violinist for the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, joined the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She lived in Maryland for 15 years and went to New York City when she was 18. Her husband's family, also from Russia, came to the United States in 1980.

She was asked how coming from a refusenik background has influenced her thinking.

"Ninety-nine percent of what I call the first wave of Soviet Jewish immigrants who came in the '70s and early '80s are conservative," she replied. "Basically, they experienced the extreme of left-wing policies and the welfare state."

But as a teenager, she repeatedly tested that position, noticing that her contemporaries did not share it.

"They were into this hippie stuff and these posters of Jimi Hendrix, and I thought that's what I was supposed to be interested in. So I constantly reevaluated my politics to see if I had it wrong."

But to the immigrant girl, "America didn't seem as bad and problematic as I was getting from the hipsters."

And what was she interested in?

"Jewelry. And buying my first car with my own money from waitressing. I was very ambitious. I just wanted to get on the road."

Gorin dedicated the "Chronicles" to Buddy and chose her epigraph from the Book of Proverbs (12:10): "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel."

--

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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Julia Gorin started worrying about Buddy, the chocolate Labrador retriever, when he was brought to the White House as a puppy late in 1997. She had heard that Bill Clinton's poll-oriented advisers feared the president would lose his "family man" image when his daughter,...
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2003-00-15
Sunday, 15 June 2003 12:00 AM
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