In the City Journal, Judith Miller writes that “with an eye toward the approaching campaign, President Trump tests new political moves at home and abroad.” Here’s an excerpt from “Breaking The Routine.”
Before his Thanksgiving Afghan visit, Trump followed presidential tradition by pardoning two turkeys. He also participated in a Rose Garden ceremony honoring Conan, the hero canine who helped trap and kill Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The tribute was especially unusual, since Trump, who has never owned a pet, is clearly no fan of man’s best friend. Former Republican rival Marco Rubio was “sweating like a dog” during a 2016 presidential debate, candidate Trump asserted. He has suggested that a female challenger was “barking like a dog,” said that Republican challenger Carly Fiorina had a “face like a dog,” and described a cabinet secretary being “fired like a dog.”
So it was surprising to see Trump hailing Conan on the White House lawn as “brilliant,” “smart,” “excellent,” “fantastic,” and an “incredible fighter.” Trump awarded Conan a medal and a plaque for his outstanding service. What the Belgian Malinois did not get from POTUS was a treat or even a head pat; Trump left the touchy-feely part of the ceremony to Vice President Mike Pence, a self-described “pet person.”
The significance of the Conan tribute: It’s a reminder of how closely Trump follows opinion polls. Half of all American households have dogs. And last week, Trump signed into law another measure aimed at pleasing pet-lovers — the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, which makes mistreatment of animals a federal crime punishable with stiff fines and up to seven years in jail. Whether he was trying to refresh his image or simply distract attention from the weeklong House impeachment hearings that he repeatedly denounced as a “witch hunt,” Trump won praise not only from animal-welfare groups but also from law enforcement organizations like the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Fraternal Order of Police. Spokesmen for both endorsed the measure, citing a “documented connection” between animal cruelty and other violent crimes.