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Unleashing Presidential Power: The Politics of Pets in the White House

Forrest Maltzmana1, James H. Lebovica2, Elizabeth N. Saundersa3 and Emma Furtha4

a1 The George Washington University

a2 The George Washington University

a3 The George Washington University

a4 Reed College

Abstract

In this article, we use a multimethod approach to shed light on the strategic use of presidential pets. We draw on primary source materials to demonstrate that pets are an important power center in the White House. Then we turn to presidents' strategic use of their pets in public. We present a theoretical framework and statistical evidence to explore the conditions under which presidents are most likely to trot out their four-legged friends. We show that presidents carefully gauge the best and worst times to conduct a dog and pony show. In times of war or scandal, dogs are welcome public companions, but not so in periods of economic hardship.

Forrest Maltzman is professor of political science at The George Washington University. He owns a Portuguese water dog named Moxie. He can be reached at forrest@gwu.edu.

James H. Lebovic is professor of political science and international affairs at The George Washington University. He is owned by a standard poodle named Softly and three cats (Jellybean, Bessie, and Woody). He can be reached at lebovic@gwu.edu.

Elizabeth N. Saunders is assistant professor of political science and international affairs at The George Washington University. She remains petless. She can be reached at esaunder@gwu.edu.

Emma Furth is a student at Reed College double majoring in math and general nerdiness. She wanted a cat, but her brother was allergic and wanted a dog. Her mother eventually got her a guinea pig named Eevee. She can be reached at efurth@reed.edu.

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