BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – The last Democrat to receive his party’s presidential nomination before the Clintons rose to become a national political force, Michael Dukakis shared some perspective Thursday on November’s contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
“People say to me, ‘Have you ever seen anything like Trump?'” Dukakis told delegates from Massachusetts and Washington at a breakfast event Thursday, the last day of the Democratic National Convention. “Let me tell you about Joe McCarthy, who was riding high in the 1950s.”
The Wisconsin Republican senator’s pursuit of Communists within American society in the early years of the Cold War gave him notoriety that lasted well after his death in 1957.
Well before Dukakis ran for state representative in Massachusetts, he became politically involved while attending Swarthmore College, just outside of Philadelphia, where Dukakis said city politics were controlled at the time by a “Republican machine.”
Democrats from around the nation have spent the week meeting in Philadelphia to nominate Clinton for the presidency and organize ahead of the fall elections.
Dukakis was drafted into the U.S. Army after his studies, entering the service after a truce in the North Korean War – a conflict that has yet to be fully resolved.
At Fort Dix in New Jersey, Dukakis said, he faced detailed questions about his chairmanship of Students for Democratic Action.
“My interviewer had a file – on me! With every single political activity that I had ever engaged in at Swarthmore College,” Dukakis told the room. He said, “The FBI had a tap on the Swarthmore switchboard” and recorded every phone conversation that went through it.
Congress has since enacted some reforms against spying on Americans’ political activities.
The former governor’s implication was that Trump is not unique in American history. Trump has castigated and mocked his political opponents, while amassing a large and determined group of people supporting his presidential campaign.
“It’s not that that makes me feel good about Trump – I mean the guy’s a screwball,” Dukakis said.
Trump has argued President Barack Obama and Clinton suffer from weakness that spurs international rivals to act against the country. The New York City developer, a ubiquitous presence on television, has also knocked Clinton for her avoidance of press conferences.
Dukakis said hard work would be required from Democrats to defeat Trump in November.
“Every state is in play. Both ways,” Dukakis said. Crediting Bay State activists with electing Elizabeth Warren to the U.S. Senate in 2012, the Brookline Democrat said, “You did that. Twenty-five thousand people out in the street in those precincts, knocking on doors, and that is what we’ve got to do in every state in the country.”
Kitty Dukakis, whose struggles with substance abuse became a campaign issue in 1988, told the crowd her husband had been “a real partner” and was “there with me from the beginning” when she underwent treatment for depression.
“For that I will always be grateful,” she said.
Bill Clinton won the presidency four years after Dukakis’s defeat, helping launch his wife’s political career, which has included time as the U.S. senator for New York, the U.S. secretary of state and the first woman ever nominated for president by a major political party.
Copyright 2016 State House News Service