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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 June 2012

Forrest Maltzman
The George Washington University
James H. Lebovic
The George Washington University
Elizabeth N. Saunders
The George Washington University
Emma Furth
Reed College


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.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2012

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