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Dems Compare GOP to Alleged Dog Abuser Vick

Nothing beats a good dogfight (in the proverbial sense of course) when it comes to politics.

Salivating Democratic political operatives think they've found a way to link House Republicans to America's Biggest Alleged Barbarian - accused dogfighting impresario Michael Vick.

What, you ask, do members of the House Republican leadership and Vick, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback charged in a tawdry dogfighting conspiracy, have in common?

Very tangentially speaking - though Democrats would like to draw a starker connection - the answer is: dogfighting.

They point out that House Minority Leader John Boehner, Minority Whip Roy Blunt, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole and Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor all voted against the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, which - among other things - stiffens penalties for illegal transportation of fighting dogs, one of the crimes Vick was charged with. The House overwhelmingly approved the bill in March, 368 to 39, and the pet-loving President Bush signed it into law, giving him something to crow about on the domestic policy front.

The Humane Society of the United States, in the wake of the Vick indictment, criticized Boehner and Co. for voting against the bill and giving dogfighters a "free pass."

And that was like throwing a bone to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whose job it is to retain and grow the Democratic majority in the House. The DCCC flaks are howling up a storm over the mere prospect of tying Republican leaders to the doggie cruelty scandal.

"The Republican leadership's dogged support for positions out of step with the average American now extends to protecting the horrific practice of dog fighting," says DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell. "Alienating the American people by being lapdogs to the Bush administration and rabidly protecting corrupt members of Congress wasn't enough for a Republican party already in the doghouse."

Republicans feel that the Democrats' biting, gnawing accusations hit, well, below the collar.

"That's one of the more ludicrous and intellectually-challenged shots they've taken in a long time," Boehner spokesman Brian Kennedy growled.

He suggested Boehner's vote against the animal fighting prohibition enforcement bill was based on the congressman's view that states - not the federal government - should be able to set and enforce their own laws on animal cruelty. "If we start duplicating those laws on the federal books and applying one-size-fits-all decrees to the fifty states, pretty soon you'd have PETA suing Outback restaurants for 'mistreating' its beef cattle and illegally transporting steaks across state lines," he quipped.

A spokesman for the NRCC, chaired by Cole, also a "no" vote on the anti-animal fighting bill, went much further on the snarky (barky) meter. He suggested if Republican leaders are going to be likened to the country's most famous alleged dog abuser, then their Democratic counterparts ought surely to be compared to pop culture's most celebrated (at least this week) alleged drunk and drugged out driver.

"If you were to compare the Democrats to a widely loathed celebrity, Lindsey Lohan would be a safe bet," NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said. "They have recklessly driven the agenda to the point of political catastrophe and they have blown every opportunity to cooperate and get something done."

And what did Lohan have to say about being compared to the House Democratic leadership?

OK, we didn't call her.

But searching beyond Lohan for a Voice of Reason, we asked Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, whether it was fair for the Democrats to compare Republican leaders to the likes of an accused animal abuser. He didn't directly answer the question but offered in an email:

"I was very surprised, and pretty appalled, that most members of the House Republican leadership voted against a crackdown on illegal dogfighting and cockfighting. They are out of step with their caucus, the full House, and the American public by siding with animal fighting interests."

Stay tuned to see whether there's any bite to all this bark.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  August 1, 2007; 9:34 AM ET
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