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Dukakis in Tank

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***Photographer

In 1988 Presidential Election, the Democratic party nominee was Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, who charmed his party with the “Massachusetts Miracle”, the transformation of his state into an economic engine. However, this magic didn’t work with the general public, which saw him as ignorant and weak on military matters. He was running against Vice President George H.W. Bush.

Dukakis proposed cutting the budget for the controversial “Star Wars” SDI program, but to counter this perceived softness on national security, he decided to pose for a photo-op that scuttled his entire campaign. In 1986, the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, had been photographed in a Challenger tank while wearing a scarf–an image that presumably reelected her. So outside a General Dynamics plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan he rode in an M1 Abrams tank in front of reporters.

The move ended up being a massive public relations blunder, with many mocking Dukakis’s dopey appearance as he stuck his smiling, helmeted head out one of the tank’s hatches to wave to the crowd. Compared with the dashing WWII pilot Bush, the little Dukakis came off a clown. Although he served in the United States Army, Dukakis was widely mocked for what was perceived as martial posturing. Footage was even used in the Bush campaign ad as evidence that Dukakis would not make a good commander-in-chief, and “Dukakis in the tank”–or the “Snoopy Incident” (because of a Snoopy style helmet)–remains shorthand for backfired public relations outings.

Then came the story of Willie Horton, a Massachusetts prisoner who killed a woman while on furlough. On the election day, Dukakis lost the election, carrying only 10 states and the District of Columbia.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

July 18, 2009 at 4:50 am

Posted in Politics, War

Tagged with ,

10 Responses

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  1. [...] that we return to the dictionary as a source of authority and clarity is about as persuasive as Dukakis in a tank.  So here’s the deal, Ralph: I promise to vote for you when you run in 2012 (or 2016, since [...]

  2. [...] are clearly not needed. This is along the same lines as Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis in a military helmet during the 1988 US Presidential [...]

  3. [...] favorites include: Gov. Dewey’s maniacal grin with people dressed as cavemen, Dukakis in tank, Bush v. Scanner, Kerry at NASA, Palin at Turkey [...]

  4. [...] George H. W. Bush’s amazed reaction to seeing a supermarket scanner or Michael Dukakis’s appearance riding in a tank. Ask students to come up with brief titles or tag lines that might emerge after a candidate makes a [...]

  5. [...] as a “flip-flopper,” George H. W. Bush’s amazed greeting to saying a supermarket scanner or Michael Dukakis’s coming roving in a tank. Ask students to come adult with brief titles or tab lines that cunning emerge after a claimant [...]

  6. [...] as a “flip-flopper,” George H. W. Bush’s amazed greeting to saying a supermarket scanner or Michael Dukakis’s coming roving in a tank. Ask students to come adult with brief titles or tab lines that cunning emerge after a claimant [...]

  7. [...] that. Somebody else made that happen,” Mr. Sajak observed: It’s as if President Obama seared in his memory, looked at his watch, misspelled ” pardoned Richard Nixon all in the same day. It’s fun [...]

  8. [...] was a day that will very likely go down in presidential campaign history along with the day Mike Dukakis posed for photos wearing a silly-looking helmet and riding in a tank. In a series of surreptitiously recorded videos/audios, we heard the real Mitt Romney–a man [...]

    Tuesday Reads « Sky Dancing

    September 18, 2012 at 12:21 pm

  9. [...] the closest Ryan ever came to a tank, but it could qualify him for the Michael Dukakis citation for ludicrous campaigning, recalling the photo of the 1988 Democratic candidate in a Snoopy helmet [...]

  10. [...] M-1 (The Editor’s) – Trust us it looked much worse in [...]


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