The media are gushing and fawning over new poll numbers showing Barack Obama getting a bounce from the just ended Democratic National Convention putting him four points ahead of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Before they get too cocky, they might want to recall that after his convention ended in 1988, Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis led George H.W. Bush by seventeen points.
Billed as a roundtable, it played more like a group therapy session for distraught Dems on the verge. Obama's polls dropping. An inchoate sense this might all be slipping away. Chris Matthews and his guests for the show-ending "Politics Fix" on this evening's Hardball were united in bemoaning Barack's plight. The host himself was the ultimate downer, analogizing Obama's campaign to that of . . . Michael Dukakis.
Matthews fellow sufferers were Jeff Johnson, host of The Truth on BET, and Salon.com editor Joan Walsh.
Over a drawing of Michael Dukakis waving in front of Air Force One, the cover story for last Sunday's Boston Globe Magazine posed the question very few have ever wanted answered, but if such people exist they most likely live within the Globe's home delivery area: “What If? Twenty years later, imagining there was a President Dukakis.” While certainly hagiographic, staff magazine writer Charles P. Pierce avoided the ludicrous level of veneration he espoused in a 2003 profile of Senator Ted Kennedy:
If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.
The August 3 piece imagined a tour of the new Michael Dukakis Presidential Museum and Library in Lowell, Mass. which highlights how the former Massachusetts Governor slam-dunked Bernard Shaw's murder of Kitty Dukakis question, “deftly saved” himself from the tank ride embarrassment “by quipping, 'I looked silly in a tank for 15 minutes. George Bush has been in the tank for 30 years,'” applied his diplomatic skills to prevent Saddam Hussein from invading Iraq and thus avoided the Gulf War, and “the success of his diplomatic efforts in the Middle East gave him the political capital to spend on reforming the nation's passenger-rail system” and so “the third floor of the museum is built around a central hall celebrating what Dukakis had come to call 'The Steel Interstate.'”
Although the term isn't used, it's clear that the Obama campaign sees itself and their candidate as victims of a vast conspiracy of right-wingers.
Going all the way back to the 1988 presidential election, Obama's "Fight the Smears" chart (featuring the campaign's new sort-of "presidential seal," replacing the one that was "dropped," at the top left) purports to tell us "Who's Behind These Lies."
If the page's historical starting points are any indication, to paraphrase Jerry Lee Lewis, there may not be "a whole lotta smearin' goin' on" among the current "smearing" parties it identifies:
Of all the people to call for a "truce" on excessive partisanship . . .
Interviewing Scott McClellan tonight, Keith Olbermann sanctimoniously suggested that a "truce" on rough political tactics "would be nice." But speaking with John Dean just minutes later, the Countdown host—he who has repeatedly called President Bush a liar and a fascist—reverted to form and regretted that it might be too late to impeach him.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN: [The 1988] election was very much a turning-point election. I think that George Bush, George Bush 41, George Herbert Walker Bush, is a decent individual, and a man who really believes in civility, but he, his advisors around him, knew the only way they could win was to bring down his opponent and go fully negative, and paint Michael Dukakis completely to the left. A guy who had painted himself—who had a record of trying to work to the center in a lot of ways [Ed: ?].
And, um, that legacy continues to this day, and Senator McCain says that he's going to speak out against that and not let that happen. I think that would be good for the country if that is the case. But there are certainly plenty of groups on the Republican side that are going to go forward with that kind of strategy. [Unlike groups on the Dem side. You know, like the kind-and-gentle one that ran the dragging-murder ad against W in 2000.]
The liberal media just can't get over the way Democrat Michael Dukakis lost to George H. W. Bush. The Times proved it in Sunday's Page One "Political Memo," an analysis by Robin Toner, "In '88, a Lesson on Using Symbols as Bludgeons."
Toner portrayed Democrats as victims of Republicans challenging their patriotism (without showing any actual examples of such) from Dukakis in 1988 to Obama now. In '88 the unfair attack aimed at Dukakis's position on the Pledge of Allegiance in schools; in 2008, the target is Obama's flag pin.
Sometimes, as Senator Barack Obama seemed to argue earlier this year, a flag pin is just a flag pin.
But it can never be that simple for anyone with direct experience of the 1988 presidential campaign. That year, the Republicans used the symbols of nationhood (notably, whether schoolchildren should be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance) to bludgeon the Democrats, challenge their patriotism and utterly redefine their nominee, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts.
In an issue dominated by rehashing early and modern American campaign history, U.S. News & World Report’s January 28/February 4 issue devoted sympathetic pages to the losing campaigns of two Massachusetts liberals, John Kerry and Michael Dukakis. The cover promised stories on "The Dirtiest Campaigns Ever," and inside the "Down & Dirty" section included reporter Danielle Knight’s story charging the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth made allegations about Kerry’s medals had "little or no merit," according to...The New York Times. In an interview with reporter Bret Schulte, Dukakis claimed that it’s all his fault we’re under the worst administration he’s ever lived under, since he failed to beat "old man" Bush in 1988, but he claimed he was the victim of negative ads that he said he failed to rebut.