From the doghouse to the White House

From the doghouse to the White House

When President Barack Obama first took office in 2008, the BBC observed that he would be inheriting "the in-box from Hell" -- and they were not far off the mark. However, Mr Obama's in-tray was rather like a goody-bag compared to what lies in store for President Joe Biden. You wouldn't wish this in-tray on anybody.

To look on the brighter side, among Mr Obama's more enjoyable tasks in those early days was to find a suitable dog for his daughters.

It wasn't long before "Bo" a Portuguese water dog was romping around on the White House lawns in his capacity as "First Dog". Mr Biden already has two German shepherds, Major and Champ. The younger one, Major has the honour of being the official "First Dog" which isn't bad for a hound that was formerly a shelter pup. That's quite a promotion.

It is well-known that outgoing president Donald Trump was not a doggy person and had a complicated relationship with his former wife's pet poodle which kept barking at him.

So after four dog-less years, for many Americans it will be refreshing to see a couple of hounds running around the White House discovering all sorts of exciting new snifferies.

There have been plenty of famous White House dogs, including Warren G Harding's impressive Airedale called "Laddie" which even had its own chair in cabinet meetings. Another brainy hound was George Bush Sr's springer spaniel, Millie, which was so clever it even wrote Millie's Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush. The dog's book sold far more copies than the autobiography of then president Bush.

Then there was Lyndon Baines Johnson who had a rather strange relationship with his two beagles, less-than-imaginatively named "Him" and "Her". LBJ suffered a lot of flak for his unfortunate habit of holding the dogs up by their ears and hearing them yelp. Not exactly a vote-catcher.

Going Gaga

As usual it was pretty cold in Washington for the inaugural, so with everyone being wrapped up fashion statements were rare, but not totally absent.

Lady Gaga was wearing what can be most generously described as a "creation", with a huge red ballroom skirt reminiscent of outfits worn by pantomime dames.

Unsurprisingly she had bit of a problem walking in it. Of course, if you dress like that you just have to be good and Gaga obliged with a stirring version of Star Spangled Banner.

Far more practical clothing which caught the eye was Bernie Sanders' wonderful woolly patterned mittens, hand-knitted for him by a schoolteacher in his home state of Vermont.

Mr Sanders later told CBS: "In Vermont we know something about the cold. We're not so concerned about fashion." Those mittens might just catch on.

Beached in Florida

Someone who is perhaps a trifle more fashion conscious than Mr Sanders is former first lady Melania Trump who experienced a swift wardrobe change following her farewell to the White House. Looking stylish as always, she boarded Air Force One at Andrews base wearing a very smart black Chanel coat that was definitely not cheap.

She disembarked in Florida totally transformed in an orange Gucci kaftan, or what the BBC described as "beach club chic". One suspects Melania will be quite happy to see the back of Washington.

Sax appeal

I remember Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993 for a couple of reasons. For a start it was the first time a US president was younger than me, albeit by just a month. I suddenly felt quite wrinkly.

Then, at one of the inaugural balls Mr Clinton went on stage with a saxophone borrowed from legendary soul singer Ben E King and proceeded to accompany King as they belted out Your Momma Don't Dance (And Your Daddy Don't Rock 'n Roll). Now that's not too shabby for a world leader.

One suspects that if Mr Trump had picked up a sax at his inaugural ball the auditorium would have emptied quite rapidly.

That's okay then

What is said to be the most frequently spoken word in the world -- "okay" -- originated from a US president and may even have been uttered on inauguration day in 1837.

"Okay" reportedly began life as a joke spelt "oll korrekt" in a Boston newspaper in the 1830s, the joke being that obviously the spelling of the two words was not "all correct". It was shortened to "OK" and probably would have fallen out of use if it were not for Martin van Buren, US President from 1837–41.

Van Buren was also known as "Old Kinderhook" so he used the initials OK in his re-election campaign. It turned out to be anything but OK as he lost the election, but the word stuck.

And all this time I thought "okay" was a Thai word.

Contact PostScript via email at

Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

Email :

Do you like the content of this article?

Both Bhumibol bridges to be resurfaced, 6-month partial closure

Both Bhumibol bridges over the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok will be partially closed to traffic overnight for road resurfacing from March 15-Sept 30, the Department of Rural Roads announced on Friday.


+79 Covid

Sixty-five local infections and 14 imported cases raise the total to 26,241, as health officials say the local Covid-19 situation is "under control".


Japan supercomputer modelling shows doubling masks offers little benefit

TOKYO: Japanese supercomputer simulations showed that wearing two masks gave limited benefit in blocking viral spread compared with one properly fitted mask.