The first time I interviewed Michael Dukakis was on the afternoon before Election Day 2000. I was a senior in college and, almost on a lark, had dialed his office number at Northeastern University in Boston, figuring I’d put in a request with his secretary and never hear back. Needless to say, I was startled by the voice that answered my call. “Dukakis here.”
|Governor Michael Dukakis, 1986|
My hope had been to get him to engage in some spontaneous personal reflecting on the experience of running for president. If you’ve read Cramer’s book, you probably know how this worked out. Dukakis had long before done his thinking about the 1988 race and had a familiar, thoroughly non-introspective answer ready for everything I asked. He’d give his stock reply, then segue to the present tense, which meant the Bush-Gore race. Occasionally, a student would pop in to ask about course selection or internships, and he’d efficiently oblige. The phone rang every few minutes, and his conversations were brisk and business-like – except one, where his mood suddenly turned affectionate and playful. Kitty, obviously.
Listening as he talked to his wife that day was (and, 12 years and six subsequent interviews with him later, still is) my one glimpse of the other Mike Dukakis – the one who we meet in Chapter 11 chasing his cousin Tiki around with a severed fish’s head. When he hung up with Kitty, he didn’t miss a beat and went right back to talking Bush, Gore and national healthcare. Like Cramer writes, with Dukakis, “there are only two types of people. There is family, and there is everyone else.”
"He lived in the state like a working man lived." Dukakis, riding the T, p. 185. #wit2012
— What It Takes 2012 (@WhatItTakes2012) July 7, 2012
I am always intrigued by how Cramer introduces us to candidates. Bush at the Astrodome, Dole schlepping around. Here we meet Michael Dukakis, at ease, being playful and boyish, as Steve writes above. Though we do get a good picture of his stiffness, his dislike for "Sasso-grease" on the wheels of state government, and even his top aide's effort to rebrand him as "Mike" (see the campaign commercial at left) when he preferred "Michael."
But the personal does matter. How the candidates coped with adversity in their lives -- and this is one of the more controversial aspects of this book -- provides insight to how they will operate their campaigns. Experiences with three family members are explored in this selection. Hart's son, angry and demurring. Dukakis' brother, the original Duke, bitter and depressed. And Bush's daughter, taken at such an early age.
Word of the Week
diddybop ('didi-bop') - noun
an overly eager member of the news media exiting a campaign plane