BOSTON, MA – Former Massachusetts and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis spoke with The National Herald regarding comments about him written in Destiny and Power, a new biography about former President George H.W. Bush, by former Newsweek editor Jon Meacham (Random House, 2015).
Meacham writes that during the 1988 presidential election, when Bush was the incumbent vice president at the time, and the 1988 Republican nominee, Bush wrote in his diary that Dukakis looked like “a little midget nerd” as he came out of a coal mine (Dukakis had visited a coal mine in Cedar Grove, WV on May 5, 1988, wearing a hard hat and overalls).
“That was way back in 1988,” Dukakis told TNH about the comment. “Look, he’s an old man and I don’t want to engage in any discussion with him. He won, I lost. That’s it.”
As to whether Dukakis found the remark unbecoming, Dukakis persisted that he didn’t want to comment. “People called me and they wanted me to review the book, and I said I would pass.”
The biggest headlines about Bush’s book thus far have been negative remarks he made about Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who served as vice president and secretary of defense in the presidency of Bush’s son, George W. He referred to both as having “iron-a**” personas that gave a harmful, swaggering image to the younger Bush’s presidency.
“I don’t know what that is going to do to his son’s campaign (referring to Jeb Bush, who is running for president in 2016),” Dukakis said. “Obviously, that’s not going well.”
HILLARY, NOT GOP
Further turning to the 2016 election, Dukakis said “Kitty (his wife) and I are supporting Hillary (Clinton). We like her, we are for her, and we are going to do anything we can to get her elected.
“I listen to the Republicans and I am wondering: are they in the real world? What are they talking about? I hear nothing about the values and concerns that I think most Americans care about. It’s all about tax cuts for the wealthy. That seems to be their platform.
“I think they are out of touch, Dukakis said about the Republicans. “I am not minimizing these elections. I think it is going to be a very tough fight. Billions of dollars will be spent.”
STOP POLICING THE WORLD
“I think all of the candidates, including the Democratic candidates have to do some serious rethinking on the foreign policy side of things,” Dukakis says. “All of them. When it comes to foreign policy, the Republicans are crazy, and even the Democrats. This Syrian intervention, what is it all about? Why was essential that we intervened in Syria and created what is now a humanitarian catastrophe; 300,000 people are dead, 11 million people displaced, half a million showing up on my dad’s home island, Lesbos. This is terrible. Who was thinking about all of this when we decided to intervene?”
So, who is responsible for the mess in Syria? “It is a combination of folks,” Dukakis says. “Although I have enormous respect for the president – he has done a great job in the very difficult circumstances – in this case it was just a very serious mistake and it was a serious mistake on the part of a lot of people. When are we going to learn from our experiences? How many times are we going to get involved in these situations before we conclude that America cannot be the world’s policeman?”
What now? “Well, if you get rid of (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad, who is going to succeed him? Are people thinking about this?”
“I think a lot of people are unhappy,” Dukakis begins, in explaining the meteoric rise to frontrunner status of billionaire businessman/entertainer Donald Trump since announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in early June.
“A study was just released about middle class white Americans, especially in the South shows they are not only unhappy, but that the suicide rate is up and life expectancy is declining. That tells you something.
“You have significant numbers of Americans who are very unhappy and who will respond to something like what Trump is talking about. Will he last? It is doubtful. A lot of people in country are not happy with their situation with the current state of affairs, and so forth.
“The other thing that Trump has going for him is that he is financially independent and
Is not tied to wealthy donors, and so occasionally he can say things like ‘we are going to tax the rich,’ which the other candidates won’t do. His stance on immigration is maddening, especially at a time when net illegal immigration in the United States is zero. “
GREECE AND THE EU
Dukakis credits President Obama for working with his entire Cabinet to identify programs that currently exist that can be helpful to Greece, “and I hope we are going to have a program. Obama is working very hard to get Greece some debt relief as well.”
As for the EU, “I think it will hold together, but the pressure in absorbing these refugees is huge – and all of it was totally unnecessary. It was terrible mistake.”