ATHENS – Former U.S. Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis told a business economic forum on Sept. 1 that creditor-demanded austerity isn’t working for Greece and that the United States should push the lenders and European Union to back off.
Dukakis, a former Massachusetts Governor who parlayed his success there into a 1988 Presidential run as a Democrat where he was beaten by George Bush, also said that Greece needs leaders with integrity if governments want people to pay their taxes in a country with a reputation for dodging them.
He also took shots at Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, indirectly at President Barack Obama and praised Greece for trying to deal with 60,000 refugees he said were pushed out of their countries, especially Syria, by failed American foreign policies.
“I know you’ve been through a very rough period,” he said while speaking at the Grande Bretagne Hotel to an audience that included leaders from Greece’s ruling Radical Left SYRIZA and the major opposition New Democracy Conservatives.
“I hope we in the Greek-American community can convince Europe a steady diet of austerity isn’t going to work,” he said in a slap at the demands from lenders who forced a succession of governments to administer big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings which have failed to slow the country’s economic slide.
“We want to announce to the White House to stand behind economic policies that will help Greece,” he said, without elaborating what they should be.
As for this’ year’s Presidential contest between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, two candidates viewed with unease by the American electorate, Dukakis said, “I think Hillary is going to win,” but said she needs an intensive grass roots campaign to get out undecideds and people who don’t think she’s trustworthy.
“Trump is a strange guy, we’ve never had a candidate like this,” he said. The Republican had been lambasting Clinton as “Crooked Hillary,” and Dukakis, who said he made a “terrible mistake” by not responding to negative attacks from Bush, advised her to snap back.
“It’s pretty obvious from what happened to me. If the other guy is going to attack you, you can’t sit there and do nothing,” he said.
He said the best advice he could give politicians and governments was that, “Integrity comes first. You can’t expect people to support you if you don’t have high standards,” he said, noting Greece’s abysmal record on corruption and tax evasion.
He compared America’s invasion of Iraq under Bush’s son, former President George W. Bush to the ongoing conflict in Syria under Obama.
“Apart from the insanity of invading Iraq, our Syrian policy is in pieces,” saying America’s waffling policy had helped create “a terrible catastrophe,” sparing no one in his frank assessment.