I can’t imagine any circumstances in which I would have voted for Mike Dukakis for President back in 1988. Well, maybe if someone gave me a pre-frontal lobotomy perfomed with dull swiss army knife and a dirty spoon. Maybe. I never liked him, and he stood against pretty much everything I stood for politically. But I always thought he got a raw deal one time.
When he was running for President, he faces an opponent with military experience and a great deal of foreign policy background- George H.W. Bush. Bush had been a Naval Aviator in WWII and had served in a wide variety of positions including Director of Central Intelligence and of course, two terms as Vice President under Ronald Reagan. Dukakis was the Governor of Massachusetts, but had little defense or foreign policy background(Dukakis did serve in the Army from 1955-57). In order to bolster his defense “bona fides” he took part in a photo op riding in an Army M-1 Abrams Tank. The result was this infamous photo.
Dukakis was mercilessly mocked for the photo. The Bush campaign ran ads of the photo to make the point that Dukakis was not fit to be Commander-in-Chief. Many people credit this for shifting the tide in the election from favoring him to favoring Bush (I think Willie Horton might have had more to do with it). It bacame the prime example of a PR stunt backfiring.
Here’s why I think he got a raw deal. He looked goofy. Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Everyone in a tank helmet looks goofy. I do. Oh, Lord, don’t I know I look goofy. The thing is, the helmet wasn’t designed as a fashion accessory, it was made to keep you from cracking your skull open when the tank bounces around.
We’ve seen several cases where politicians since then have been mocked for wearing helmet, to include John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Obama with the bike helmet (I’ll admit, I love Slu’s P-Shops of the bike helmet). George W. Bush has been mocked for being photographed in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier (if he hadn’t taken the helmet off before photos, he would have been screwed).
I’m glad Dukakis lost the election, I just feel bad that he had to take that cheap shot.