Washington – Newly-released documents reveal that Barney, one of President Bush’s two dogs, has been regularly consulted on issues of foreign policy and international relations, often being relied on for advice that is said to have been valued by Bush “as much as advice from Vice President Cheney.” The documents consist mainly of minutes from White House meetings and were obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by the group People for Greater Ethics in Washington.
“What these documents show is that President Bush has had another main confidant, if you will, besides Vice President Cheney,” said Nelson Riegel, a researcher with the group. “In this case, that confidant is a Scottish Terrier.”
The White House was forced to address the issue on Saturday. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino was barraged with questions at a hastily-convened press briefing. Reporters wanted to know what expertise Barney has, and how it is he could be relied on for expert advice of any kind.
“Well, it may sound odd to those of you in the press, but Barney is, in fact, an expert on foreign policy matters,” Perino said. “He has been present during many high-level talks between the president and several of his top advisers. Many talks. He’s been there, chewing on that…thing he chews on. So, some may want to exclude certain types of, uh, experts from the discussions, but we don’t exclude in this administration. We include. We include many different types of expertise, from many different sources. So, yes, he may not be an expert in the ‘traditional’ sense, a human being who went to a fancy college, or served as an ambassador or something like that. His experience is different. Because…because he’s a dog. But we value that experience. The president values that experience. He values it so much, in fact, that he’s sure to give Barney one of those little bone-shaped biscuits he likes if he contributes something really useful.”
Members of the White House press corps were not appeased. They continued to confront Perino with questions about the matter, even as she urged them to move on to a different topic.
“How do they communicate, for God’s sake?” asked David Gregory of NBC.
“Well, David, if you’ve ever tried to communicate with a dog, you know that they use barking as their main form of communication,” Perino replied.
“I’m aware of that, yes.”
“Well, they–President Bush and Barney–have developed a system whereby the president understands, based on the number of barks, whether Barney is answering in the affirmative or in the negative,” Perino explained.
“So, so, like, for instance,” Gregory persisted, over the shouts of other reporters hoping to follow up on his question. “So the president says, for instance, ‘Barney, do you think military action against Iran is a good idea?’ And if Barney barks twice, that’s a yes?”
“No, David. No,” Perino scoffed. “Don’t be silly. Please. Two barks is a maybe. Three is a yes.”
Gregory then asked, “And is it the White House’s position, the president’s position, that this is a good idea, a good way to determine foreign policy?”
Perino squinted and said, “Uh, if the alternative is negotiating with terrorists, then yes, it is a good idea. It’s a fantastic idea, in fact.”
Later in the day President Bush was also confronted about the matter. Mr. Bush, in Egypt for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was asked by reporters to explain his working relationship with Barney. “Well, Barney has been with me a long time,” Bush said. “And I value his judgment. I value it very much. You know, some people might say, ‘He’s not an expert. He’s a dog.’ And that’s just not true. I mean, it is true that he’s a dog, it’s not true that he’s not an expert. He is an expert. Anyone who’s talked to him about these issues, foreign policy issues, so on, they’re amazed at his depth of understanding, his…his ability to grasp complex situations. Even with his…that tiny dog brain he has. I’m telling you, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a bigger brain. A human-sized brain or something. Although, I guess that would be tough, since his head is so small.”
After a confused silence, Mr. Bush continued, “Look, I do things differently than other people. You should all know that by now. I do things differently than other presidents might do it. Other presidents might have a whole group of experienced, highly-educated foreign policy experts that they rely on whenever these kinds of questions come up. I have a dog that I rely on. So it’s the same thing. But different in a way, too. I mean, I can see how it’s different. But is it better or worse? I mean, who’s to say?”