Thank goodness there’s no YouTube video of Mitt Romney’s dog strapped to the car, or his candidacy might be over.

Under the title “Things I Shouldn’t Admit Publicly” is the fact that when I first heard the story about the Romney family dog taking a road trip on the roof of the family station wagon, I was amused. It sounds like something that might have happened in the small rural town where I grew up — a town I’m sure Bill Press, who expressed his outrage at Romney’s animal recklessness in an earlier post, would never set foot in.

Adding to the hype, PETA — that obnoxiously self-righteous, militant animal rights group that goes around harassing school children by telling them, “Eat veggies, not your friends” — has weighed in with their response to the Clark Griswold-like story of one Massachusetts family’s vacation in 1983. There is probably no organization more out of the mainstream than PETA. 

Even more hysterical are the claims that Romney should have treated his dog the way he treats his children. Thing is, in small communities around the country, pets are pets — they’re not children. You don’t treat your pet the way you would treat your child for reasons so obvious to most Americans they aren't worth explaining.

Did a much younger Mitt Romney, setting out 24 years ago on a family vacation with five young boys, a wife and the family dog mean to do his pet harm? I honestly believe he did not. Nor do I think it suggests Romney is a “cold, cruel, callous human being,” as Mr. Press wrote. Give me a break!

I know the Beltway finds this hard to believe, but most American men — the kind whose closets aren’t full of madras pants and seersucker suits — probably sympathize with what Romney tried to accomplish on that family vacation so many years ago. He tried to make his kids happy by finding a way to take the family dog on a road trip.

About the same year the Romney family was driving 12 hours to Canada, my parents, my cousin and I set about on an 18-hour road trip between Washington state and California. It may have been the greatest test of father’s character. How he kept from pulling the car over to the side of the road and strapping my cousin and me to the rooftop, I’ll never know. God bless any man who can make it through a 12-hour road trip with a car full of children.

Fathers go to great lengths to make their kids happy. Say what you will about Romney the presidential candidate, but there is no denying he has managed to foster a happy home with his wife of nearly 40 years, their five children and twice as many grandchildren. And at least Romney is the kind of man who works creatively at keeping a happy home, even if sometimes, as with the case of Seamus speeding down the freeway on top of the car, it’s with mixed results.

Political pundits who are more outraged over a dog than they are about other domestic issues — like the litany of problems in both the Clinton and Giuliani families — show how misplaced their priorities are. I find that weird.