President Barack Obama campaigns in Oskaloosa, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Welcome to the dog-eat-dog world of Campaign 2012. Mitt Romney's campaign hit back hard at President Barack Obama on Tuesday for needling his rival about a long-ago incident in which Romney put the family dog in a carrier strapped to the roof of his car as they headed out on vacation. Republicans highlighted that Obama, as a child in Indonesia, ate dog meat.
"After sanctimoniously complaining about making a 'big election about small things,' President Obama continues to embarrass himself and diminish his office with his un-presidential behavior," Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement.
"This election is about creating jobs, turning around our economy and helping the middle class. The President's policies have failed on all counts and he will do anything to distract from his abysmal record," Williams said.
Obama in 2008 had complained about politicians who turn to scare tactics and "make a big election about small things" when they don't have a record to run on.
Not to be outdone, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus took to Twitter to denounce Obama's "bone mot."
"Obama campaign about small things - accusing Romney of being a felon & murderer. Next thing you know, they'll accuse Romney of eating a dog," he tweeted. That was a reference to past Democratic attacks on Romney, including a top Obama campaign aide's charge that he may have broken the law in his personal financial dealings and a pro-Obama super PAC's misleading ad linking the Republican to the cancer death of a laid-off steelworker's wife.
But wait, "accuse Romney of eating a dog?" Yes. For months, the Republican rejoinder to the story of Romney's Irish setter Seamus has been to point to Obama's autobiographical "Dreams From My Father," in which the future president admitted to eating dog meat as a child in Indonesia.
Two Republican operatives drew Yahoo News' attention to this clip, in which Obama reads the relevant passage.
The flap began when Obama, campaigning in Oskaloosa as part of a three-day bus tour through Iowa, connected the Seamus story to his attacks on Romney's opposition to a tax credit on wind power linked to thousands of jobs in the Hawkeye State.
"He's said that new sources of energy like wind are 'imaginary.' His running mate calls them a 'fad.' During a speech a few months ago, Gov. Romney even explained his energy policy this way: 'You can't drive a car with a windmill on it,'" he said.
"I don't know if he's actually tried that—I know he's had other things on his car. But if he really wants to learn something about wind, all he has to do is pay attention to what you've been doing here in Iowa," the president said.
Other things on his car? The only well-known thing Romney has had atop his car was Seamus. That June 1983 family trip has become the stuff of legend in the 2012 campaign (in the Republican primaries, Romney rivals Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both used the tale as ammo against the former Massachusetts governor).