Opinion

Mike Pence's pet rabbit is the best thing about Washington

I love you, Marlon Bundo

Nobody seems to be having much fun at the White House. Officials are "grim and nervous" and President Trump "seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods." But thankfully, there is an exception — though it is one step removed from the first family, and a handful of branches removed on the phylogenetic tree.

Yes, I'm talking about Vice President Mike Pence's pet rabbit.

When Pence and his family moved to the U.S. Naval Observatory last January, they brought with them a "menagerie" of pets. Chief among them was Marlon Bundo, an adorable, wittily named black-and-white rabbit that had been adopted by the Pences' eldest daughter, Charlotte, 24, for a film project while she was in college:

The vice president's first Monday on the job was Bundo's big day, too. In the first photo posted to the rabbit's newly minted Instagram account, which went up just three days after Trump's inauguration, Bundo is poised on what is presumably the VP's office desk:

Had a productive first day as #botus working hard to #makeamericagreatagain !

A post shared by Marlon Bundo (Pence) (@marlonbundo) on Jan 23, 2017 at 6:42pm PST

It didn't take long for Bundo to start winning over fans. "Marlon is kind of famous because he is the first bunny to ever ride on Air Force Two," Karen Pence told a group of thrilled children at the rabbit's White House debut last May. The official transcript from the event contains the delightful parenthetical: "(The bunny is admired)."

On Instagram, Bundo "speaks" in a playful first person. "Ugh, I get so bored when Mom has to work from home and can't play all day with me," the rabbit laments in one post. In another post, Bundo wishes his "awesome Aunt Audrey" — Charlotte's younger sister — a happy birthday.

The posts are disarmingly earnest and refreshing. It's no wonder that at the time of writing, Bundo had almost 17,000 followers. An account for the other Pence pets, Hazel and Harley, has also since popped up.

Still, like any new social media star, it took Bundo awhile to find his voice. Early Bundo posts often read as contrived promotions of the Trump agenda — "I need to rest up to be able to #makeamericagreatagain," Bundo wrote on Jan. 28. Dropping the motto, though, Bundo has become one of the most enjoyable glimpses into what otherwise seems like dysfunctional life in the Trump administration. Holidays, for example, are celebrated with relish. So far, Bundo has posted no less than 12 winter holiday photos (including one of his own stocking, and another posing with a menorah).

It’s December 1st, Mom! That means we can start opening presents, right?! • | | #bunnies #bunny #bunniesofinstagram #weeklyfluff #fluff #marlonbundo #marlonbundobook #kids #family #pets #pence #pencepets #pencefamily #vp #mikepence #karenpence #usa #christmas #christmastree #holidays #holidayfun #ornaments #deco #decorations #christmastime #2017 #fun #friends #rabbits

A post shared by Marlon Bundo (Pence) (@marlonbundo) on Dec 1, 2017 at 9:05am PST

The captions for the posts are dorky and also endearingly familiar, like your mom making a Facebook post in the voice of the family dog. And while most of the photos are relatively unexciting — domestic rabbits do a lot of sitting around on rugs, apparently — Bundo is just a joy.

The result? There is a Marlon Bundo fan page, a Marlon Bundo T-shirt, and, incredibly enough, Marlon Bundo fan fiction. Leporidae obsessives fret over the state of Bundo's nails. Soon there will also be a Marlon Bundo children's book authored by Charlotte Pence and illustrated by Karen Pence.

My grandparents brought some new siblings home for me to play with! They should go to Indiana every weekend! @hazelnharley

A post shared by Marlon Bundo (Pence) (@marlonbundo) on Jun 19, 2017 at 5:24am PDT

Ultimately an Instagram account for a rabbit is not actually going to make the White House better. But what the Bundo Instagram inadvertently highlights is the contrast between what could have been, and what is. In an April article, The New York Times called Trump's conspicuous petlessness "emblematic of [his] blaring tone-deafness for the office." Trump has allegedly "ridiculed" the Pences' hoard of pets, The Atlantic wrote earlier this month: "[Trump] was embarrassed by it; he thought it was so low class," an adviser recounted. "He thinks the Pences are yokels." Never mind that some six in 10 Americans are pet owners (and 1 percent have rabbit companions).

Excuse me, Mom, but you're squishing my head....

A post shared by Marlon Bundo (Pence) (@marlonbundo) on Jun 30, 2017 at 9:01am PDT

Bundo represents what the administration is missing: commonness. The fact that the account even exists is a hop toward making the White House a little more bearable. The alternatives are few and unappealing: Melania Trump's Instagram account is so obscure and impersonal that all it reveals is "a woman in hiding from the world." Tiffany Trump's is achingly lonely. Ivanka Trump posts photos impossibly out-of-reach of the average American — immaculate apartments, children clambering over expensive designer dresses, and her priceless art collection.

The Marlon Bundo Instagram belongs in a different world — an account that, for a brief moment, you can almost imagine is run by the yokel next door.

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