Simon Says
8:57 am
Sat March 3, 2012

Politics Gets Dirtier: Attack Ad Goes After Cat

Originally published on Sat March 3, 2012 1:38 pm

If American politicians are going to quarrel like cats and dogs, why not just elect cats and dogs?

They may scratch furniture and make an occasional mess on the floor, but look at the messes some elected officials leave.

Almost every election cycle, you see a story in which someone, somewhere, thinks it's pointed or funny to run a pet for mayor or sheriff. The person print up some buttons and has a few laughs. But the candidacy of Hank the Cat may reach a new level.

Hank is a 9-year-old Maine coon who resides in Springfield, Va., with his campaign and media managers — "owners" seems a little sterile — Matthew O' Leary and Anthony Roberts.

Last October, they declared Hank a candidate for the Senate seat in Virginia being vacated by Sen. Jim Webb. Mr. O' Leary says they wanted to "kind of let off some steam" about the "negative and vitriolic" nature of politics and opened a Facebook page to promote their feline favorite son.

And of course, they produced a video that began, "America is the greatest land of all. A land where all people can live free," showing the Statue of Liberty at sunrise, moon-lit cityscapes, school kids, cowboys and other emblematic Americans of all hues in classrooms, farms and factories. It is indistinguishable from many other political ads until the end, when you hear: "Vote Hank for U.S. Senate."

And you realize: That's a cat.

Hank's ad became popular enough online to inspire an attack ad from a superPAC calling itself Canines for a Feline Free Tomorrow. In it, a typically menacing voice-over asks, "What do you really know about Hank?"

Hank has never released his birth certificate, his tax returns and has never responded to allegations that he used catnip. He says he's gone to the vet — but there's no record of him having served in any military branch. Would Hank force females to undergo an ultrasound before being spayed? And should a Maine coon really be running for Senate in Virginia? We need more facts and fewer fat cats in Washington.

Eight months from Election Day, and cats and dogs are already quarreling like Democrats and Republicans.

It seems to me that all this campaign and superPAC caterwauling — and that's perhaps a feline-insensitive phrase — overlooks the many hopes and dreams that American cats and dogs share and can use to nurture our democracy, from sea to shining sea.

After all, unlike lots of things in politics, cats and dogs can be fixed.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Back to our U.S. election season now. If American politicians are going to quarrel like cats and dogs, why not just elect cats and dogs? They may scratch furniture and make an occasional mess on the floor, but look at the messes some elected officials leave. Almost every election cycle, you see a story in which someone somewhere thinks it's pointed or funny to run their pet for mayor or sheriff. They print up some buttons and have a few laughs. But the candidacy of Hank the Cat may reach a new level. Hank's a nine-year-old Maine Coon cat who resides in Springfield, Virginia with his campaign and media managers - owners seems a little sterile - Matthew O'Leary and Anthony Roberts. Last October, they declared Hank a candidate for the Senate seat in Virginia being vacated by Senator Jim Webb. Mr. O'Leary says they wanted to kind of let off some steam about the negative and vitriolic nature of politics and opened a Facebook page to promote their feline favorite son. And of course, they produced a video.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: America is the greatest land of all. A land where all people can live free...

SIMON: Showing the Statue of Liberty at sunrise, moon-lit cityscapes, school kids, cowboys and other emblematic Americans of all hues in classrooms, farms and factories. It is indistinguishable from many other political ads until..

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Vote Hank for U.S. Senate.

SIMON: ...and you realize: that's a cat. Hank's ad became popular enough online to inspire an attack ad from super PAC calling itself Canines for a Feline-Free Tomorrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hank wants your vote for Senate, but what do you really know about Hank?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Hank has never released his birth certificate, his tax returns and has never responded to allegations that he used catnip.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: He says he's gone to the vet, but there's no record of him having served in any military branch. Would Hank force females to undergo an ultrasound before being spayed? And should a Maine Coon really be running for Senate in Virginia? We need more facts and fewer fat cats in Washington.

SIMON: Eight months from Election Day and cats and dogs are already quarreling like Democrats and Republicans. It seems to me that all this campaign and super Pac caterwauling - that's perhaps a feline-insensitive phrase - overlooks the many hopes and dreams that American cats and dogs share and can use to nurture our democracy from sea to shining sea. After all, unlike lots of things in politics, cats and dogs can be fixed.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WILL FIX YOU")

COLDPLAY: (Singing) I will try to fix you.

SIMON: Coldplay. You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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