Why Gail Collins's Crate-Gate Crusade Won't Die

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Some say that by devoting her entire Thursday column to the tale of Mitt Romney driving to Canada with his dog on the roof of the car, The New York Times's Gail Collins has finally (finally) found the line past which readers would no longer tolerate her many mentions of the story. But don't underestimate the persistence of Seamus: This old dog still has some bite.

Collins has made a recurring joke of mentioning as often as possible the story of the Romneys driving to Canada in the 1980s with their dog defecating in terror in a rooftop crate. Decades old, Seamus's very bad day has slowly made its way into this campaign season, alluded to by Obama campaign head David Axelrod, and this week's New Yorker cover. In fact, that cover, by Bob Staake, may have inspired Collins to go full-on Seamus this week with a Q&A format column addressing the Seamus story and her dogged (sorry, we had to) pursuit of it. 

And yet, as Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins noted Thursday morning, many political writers took to Twitter with less-than glowing reviews of Collins's effort. "I don't find the Gail Collins dog thing funny anymore. It's just annoying," wrote Politico's Ben White. "Gail Collins moving from column-writing to SEO optimization?" wonders Slate's Jacob Weisberg. It would seem that Collins's many mentions of Seamus had reached some kind of peak. By giving over her entire column to it, she'd jumped the Irish setter.

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Back in January, The Atlantic Wire documented the many ways that "Crate-Gate" had already grown stale, but clearly, we spoke far too soon. Here are some things we've learned since then:

First, people really, really enjoy the dog story. Sure, Buzzfeed's Coppins found scathing reviews of Collins' column, but there are just as many favorable ones: "Oh, Gail Collins: How I love you for your Seamus fixation"; "Gail Collins is brilliant & funny w/this one"; "Don't listen to the haters, Gail." Maybe Gawker's Max Read says it best. "Guys, dont you get it, the more you complain about Gail Collins writing about Romney's dog, the funnier it gets to her, and to me." 

Second, Mitt Romney has genuinely angered some dog lovers. This we learned every time a post we wrote hinted that the Seamus story might be lighthearted. Even Collins says she writes about Seamus not to anger readers, but to cover politics "in a way that did not cause [readers] to want to throw themselves out the nearest window."  Nick Kristof columns these are not, and yet, without fail, each time we write, we are always, always contacted by an angry dog lover who makes the serious argument that Romney treated Seamus cruelly and is thus less qualified to be president. "The behavior is JUST WRONG," wrote one such commenter. We're not saying these people are a major voting bloc, nor are we casting judgement on how they decide to cast their votes. We're just saying, there's a group of people who read Gail Collins and vote. And they're pretty mad at Romney.

Lastly, Collins is not writing for those of us who live on the internet and track her every move. And she will not be deterred. Her campaign to bring Seamus publicity started getting a fair amount of attention back in December, with stories in NPR and The New York Observer documenting her crusade, and she told The Atlantic Wire even then, "I have to admit it's become a kind of challenge to see if I can keep going." Want to bet this week's press is just raising the stakes of that challenge? Collins has her readers, and they find her funny. She's often declared that she will stop mentioning Seamus once the Republicans settle on a nominee. ("This is not the sort of thing you want to turn into a career," she told us.) And we bet she will indeed stop then, but not a moment before. Whether you like it or not, Seamus lives on. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.