“How can you say no to that face?” asked Gov. Jim Justice during a Thursday news briefing, holding up his bulldog, aptly-named “Babydog” and mugging for the camera.
How indeed, especially when looking at Babydog’s face next to Justice’s.
We at the Gazette-Mail love Babydog, who has often accompanied the governor during COVID-19 briefings, and is typically brought out for a bit of comic relief. Not so long ago, Justice brought her out at the end of a briefing and moved her paws around to predict the score of the Super Bowl (Babydog had the Bucs all the way, and actually came pretty close to the correct final score).
Just what the COVID-19 briefings are — aside from still being online only, despite Justice having lifted nearly every public health restriction in the state — depends on the day, the governor’s mood or, lately, what might be happening with his businesses. But they are mostly solemn affairs. Some might blanche at bringing a dog out to give betting lines for major sporting events. Justice has always offered the disclaimer that he’s trying to provide a smile and some levity during a troubling time.
Yes, it’s a bit weird. But folks love Babydog.
Now, however, Justice is putting her to work. When he was mugging with his beloved pet Thursday, he announced that a lottery cash prize and other prizes, such as guns and trucks, that are being offered as incentives for West Virginians to get vaccinated, will now be known as the “Do it for Babydog” campaign.
There’s also the tagline of “Save a life, change your life,” which seems more appropriate. But that kind of gets lost in the initial, “Wait, it’s called what?” reaction to the full title.
Put aside for a second whether you approve of offering a chance at $1 million or some other prize as an incentive for people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Put aside whether you think those incentives work. The governor of the state is asking that you step up and do this for his dog.
If you believe prizes cheapen the gravity of the situation or get people to do things for the wrong reason, where does this fall?
It’s as if this entire thing, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,800 West Virginians and done massive economic harm, is now one of those commercials where the owners use their kids as actors.
If it works, and lethargic vaccination rates suddenly spike, we’ll shut up. But, given how needlessly contentious the whole issue of vaccinations has become, it’s probably better to keep Babydog out of this, especially when she doesn’t really get a vote on participation.