Every presidential candidate is a traveling salesman, but Romney's rootlessness makes him more Willy Loman-esque than others. Last week, his sales prowess and slickness were both on display: He raised more money than any other Republican, then promptly bought himself seven figures' worth of bad publicity by overselling his hunting past.
Romney is a nomadic creature, so his past is an elusive prey. To find out whether he'd ever applied for a hunting license, the Associated Press had to ask officials in four states: Michigan (where he grew up), Massachusetts (where he went to graduate school and served as governor), Utah (where he went to college, ran an Olympics, and owns a ski home), and New Hampshire (where he is running for president and owns a lake house).
The nationwide hunt came up empty: Romney didn't apply for any hunting licenses, and not one of his vacation homes is a hunting lodge.
Indeed, to repair his image with gun lovers on the right, Romney might want to promise that he will never let hunting in America go the way of hunting in France. Not only are licenses required, but it takes weeks—and 225 Euros—for a foreigner to get one. Predictably, one French hunting Web site warns Americans: "War or defense weapons forbidden."
Like the British, the French used to hunt rabbits with ferrets. Today, the award-winning rabbit chaser is the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. The one problem for Romney: The Petit Basset's small stature, long ears, and furry coat run the risk that a novice hunter might not be able to tell dog and bunny apart.
Le Club de Griffon Vendeen says that for a long time, Petit Bassets were "semi-crooked," but are now "naturally endowed with all moral qualities which presuppose the passion for hunting." These days, Romney would kill for a review like that.
The honest excuse for not hunting rabbit since he was a teenager is that Romney was too busy running for president. Obviously, he didn't realize that the worlds of rabbit-hunting and vote-hunting have more in common than one might think. The home page of the American Rabbit Hound Association reads like every political journalist's analysis of the 2008 presidential race. The ARHA divides competitive hounds into four categories: "Big Pack," "Little Pack," "Gun Dogs," and "Progressive Pack." Romney's no Gun Dog—he's running with the Big Pack of McCain and Giuliani, in hopes of facing whichever competitor emerges from the Democrats' Progressive Pack.
This weekend, the Little Pack showed that when there's blood on the trail, hounds in the Big Pack had better watch their backs. Little Pack member Mike Huckabee, desperate to escape the beta male rut, contrasted Romney's gun pander with what he termed Giuliani's "real gutsy move" to defend public funding for abortion. In truth, Huckabee was shooting with both barrels, implying that Romney's a liar and Giuliani a principled liberal.
When Romney was a little boy, he must have seen the Warner Brothers classic, Duck! Rabbit! Duck!, in which Daffy Duck writes Elmer Fudd a license to shoot rabbit, and Bugs Bunny gives him license to shoot everything else. The cartoon was the second in a trilogy that began with Rabbit Seasoning and ended with Rabbit Fire. It's easy to see why Duck! Rabbit! Duck! might have made the biggest impression on Romney, if not some of his future rivals: According to Answers.com, "This is the only cartoon in the trilogy where Bugs Bunny does not crossdress."
On Friday, Romney tried to defend himself by comparing himself to another itinerant millionaire, Jed Clampett, who struck oil when he shot the ground. But to get back on track, Romney needs to look for modern inspiration. A fellow Has-Been recommends this YouTube clip. Like Romney himself, the video may not be endowed with a French hound's moral qualities, but the passion for hunting is never in doubt. ... 4:44 P.M. (link)