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Parker: Trump's animal house

WASHINGTON — Say “Animal Farm,” and many literary Americans will think of George Orwell’s allegorical novella about farm animals rebelling against totalitarianism in post-revolution Russia. (More or less.)

Most likely, they’ll also think of Donald Trump. For the past three years, countless members of the politico-literati have signaled a connection between Orwell’s themes and Trump, especially regarding the latter’s apparent fascination with authoritarian leaders.

In a viral tweet last year, horror novelist Stephen King pulled a quote from “Animal Farm” to illustrate his view of Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin: “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” Let’s just say, it resonated.

This Thanksgiving week, however, the term “animal farm” has assumed new meaning at the White House, which hasn’t been visited by so many claws and paws since Teddy Roosevelt moved in with his menagerie, including a pony. Though Trump has no pets of his own, he seems to have traded in his ringmaster’s top hat for a shepherd’s staff.

In the past few days, he has honored a dog, saved two turkeys and signed into law the PACT Act, legislation that makes cruelty to animals a federal crime. Not to go overboard, but it would appear that the man previously bereft of empathy has discovered his heart. Either that, or he’s refreshing his image as a distraction from the I-word. Surely, not the Donald.

If it is true that the media are often relentless in their criticism of this president — and it is — then it ought to also be true that good deeds are recognized and appreciated. Trump could be engineering a new election ploy for 2020, but if he wants to sell himself as a good shepherd committed to ending cruelty to animals, fine by me. Pretending to care about the helpless, after all, is good practice for actual caring.

In order of appearances, the dog-of-honor was none other than Conan, the hero canine who helped trap Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Much heralded at the time, Conan had to recover from injuries before he could visit the White House for his meeting with the president. (No word yet on whether he agreed to investigate the Bidens.)

At a brief ceremony on Monday, Trump described the dog as “brilliant” and announced that Conan had received a plaque and a medal. Both Trump and first lady Melania Trump kept their distances from the pooch, who initially was going to be muzzled. Conan was on a very taut and short leash and seemed uninterested in anyone but Vice President Mike Pence, who stroked the dog’s head — as one would.

Later the same day, Trump signed the PACT Act, a sweeping piece of legislation that makes animal cruelty a federal crime. Previous versions of the law were opposed by a handful of legislators, especially former Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., presumably out of deference to constituents who view animal cruelty as a right.

Those days are over, thanks to the perseverance of animal rights activists and the bill’s bipartisan sponsors, Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. The law will apply to all 50 states, obviously, and also to the 16 U.S. territories. Without going into the awful specifics, the law basically says that causing pain or serious bodily injury to any living nonhuman mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians is a crime. Videos showing cruelty are also unlawful.

Finally, on Tuesday at 2 p.m. sharp, the president met in the Rose Garden with two turkeys, named “Bread” and “Butter” — and both were spared the guillotine. As he did last year, Trump pardoned both birds, who will live out their days at Gobblers Rest, a sort of retirement home for lucky turkeys at Virginia Tech. It’s not the Willard Hotel, where the turkeys killed time prior to their meeting with Trump, but last year’s survivors, “Peas” and “Carrots,” reportedly give the joint a thumbs-up.

While Conan, Bread and Butter are symbolic characters in this not-quite Orwellian tale, the PACT Act is a bold step toward ending cruelty and sending perpetrators to prison for up to seven years. As Thanksgivings go, this one provides much for which to be grateful: one hero dog, two pardoned turkeys and a PACT with a presidential seal. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking a pear tree for Christmas.

Talkback Tuesday:

Substitute teacher lectures Utah child over his 2 dads

Three girls stood up, then walked out to get someone in authority. I am so proud of those girls. — Lana Creer-Harris

I was mortified to think that a sub hadn’t been trained at all apparently!

Bless those classmates who stood up for him and for bringing it to the principle’s attention! Escorting her from the room was sending the message that she was very wrong in her actions/words. I hope the boy being adopted hasn’t been scarred by this experience (I don’t even have the words here!). — Karma

Schools have approved curricula and this teacher was outside the bounds of what was appropriate to say to a student at that school. On the other hand, if the curriculum included statements that homosexuality was ok (or being a Mormon or a Muslim or a Catholic) then a teacher could make that statement as it wouldn’t be just a personal opinion. I would think that at this time in history that many schools are teaching that homosexuality is a normal, acceptable sexual orientation. Not so forty years ago. Should enough people lobby the school district to teach otherwise it would be a different story. What bothers me most about the situation is that the teacher determined she had the authority and right to lecture the student about personal matters in the first place. Very old school behavior. — Cookster

Officials release name of 6-year-old killed in snow removal accident

My prayers go out to the family & friends of this little one! Especially his dad! May the Lord bless you with peace & comfort at this time! I’m so sorry for your loss! — Sharon De la Cruz

Just heart breaking..I am so sorry... — Cathy Deveraux

Such a tragedy. May they have peace during this difficult time. — conform

BYU football vs. SDSU grades: Offensive failures loom large

Your grade for coaching is too generous, should be an F-. But don’t worry I’m sure it’ll be fine cuz as Kalani repeatedly tells us he’s going to fix it. — Steve24/7

Most grades seem appropriate. Everybody has an opinion. However, there are just too many glaring mistakes, as pointed out in the article. Maybe some players do better in practice than in games and vice versa. — Rtl73

Thank you for rating Special Teams as an F. Well deserved. Worst special teams I have seen in a LONG time. — Mabramso

The team was not ready or motivated to play. I have seen this several times in the Sitaki era. This is unacceptable. There were a lot of bad plays. Zac still looked rusty from his time off. But the lack of preparedness from the coaching staff should have been an F. — Jim Nail

This is the worse game I can remember for BYU. The coaching deserved and F-. There should have been a QBack change, change at running back, so many penalties, no imagination in play calling, poor defense as usual and the team in general was poorly prepared. A three year extension after wining a game against one of the nation’s worst teams and a 50% overall winning record? A new AD should be a heavy consideration for the new year. What ever happened to blitzing? Every game the other team’s QB looks all world as there is no rush. Can’t happen with only three defensive line men, surprised they do as well as they do. The coaches should observe and learn from the opposing teams success in putting pressure on our QB’s. Don’t expect much for the upcoming “no nothing bowl”. Sitake is a nice man, but more concerned with being the player’s friend rather than their coach, but no worries as he now has a new 3 year contract and can continue his dancing for the team rather than holding them accountable and being a coach. He wouldn’t last a few games for any other team. — Jerry Kite

Evan Vucci, Associated Press 

Vice President Mike Pence pets Conan, the U.S. Army dog that participated in the raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Washington.