Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Dukakis Moment

Next up, presidential debates. The list of moderators is out, but I don't see any certified hardball pitchers among them. Too bad, because this election could use a Bernie Shaw. I suspect most potential voters know what they think about Bush, personally. And we have his record in the White House. We need to see more of Kerry when he's not in control of the situation. As much as I hate to say it, we need a Kitty Dukakis moment.

Remember? In the 1988 U.S. presidential campaign, in the second debate between George Bush and Michael Dukakis. Right off the bat, Bernard Shaw hit the Democrat with a brick:

"You have two minutes to respond. Governor, if Kitty Dukakis [his wife] were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?"

Dukakis said, "No, I don't, Bernard." And he went on to generalize about deterrence and the crime rate in Massachusetts and his proposal to call a "hemispheric summit" to fight drugs.

One commentator summed up the result like this: "The Duke was, by then, already dead meat, but his staggeringly robotic answer was the rhetorical equivalent of stuffing himself headfirst into a sausage grinder."

Dukakis made as much sense as any presidential candidate does in a debate. But something was missing. And that absence was actually horrifying.

I kept waiting for him to say, "you know, I would really, really want to see that rapist put off the planet, castrated with a plastic fork, whatever. And I'd do it with my bare hands; but as an adult and the leader of a nation, I would have to bring my intelligence and self-control to the decision and put my raw emotional reaction in the back seat, and god-damn you, Bernie, what kind of cruel pig-fucker asks a question like that?" Dukakis was already so far back in the polls; getting bleeped on live TV might have actually helped.

What would Kerry do?