Defending Dukakis

Man, Michael Dukakis is self-flagellating:

“If I had beaten the old man you’d of never heard of the kid and you wouldn’t be in this mess. So it’s all my fault and I feel that very, very strongly.”

I’ve actually come around to the view that George H.W. Bush was the preferable candidate in 1988, not because his campaign tactics weren’t horrendous (they were) but because the fall of the Soviet Union necessitates insanely skillful management by the United States, management which Bush and James Baker were quite adept at providing. For all I know Dukakis would have handled German re-unification just as well, but I somehow doubt it. In any case, no one knew on November 8, 1988 that the Berlin Wall was going to fall a year later and the entire Eastern bloc would crumble with it. Knowing what people knew then, I definitely would have voted for Dukakis/Bentsen.

But the larger point here is that while Dukakis’ defeat might have prevented Bush’s victory in 2000 (though it’s not like major national politicians who fell short of the presidency haven’t had sons who have gone onto greater success), there are a million other factors that would have prevented it as well. If Ann Richards had won in 1994, Bush wouldn’t have run in 2000. If Lawton Chiles had lost to Jeb Bush in 1994, Jeb could have been the nominee come 2000. And, of course, if a couple thousand Nader voters in New Hampshire, or Florida, or a million other swing states had done the right thing; if Gore had secured Florida by picking Bob Graham as his running-mate; if someone other than Bob Shrum were running the Gore campaign; and on and on, Gore would have won the 2000 race and none of the resulting chaos would have occurred.

So even if Dukakis has his counterfactual right, and I’m not sure he does, he at the very most shares responsibility with a whole lot of other people. He shouldn’t have to live with this level of guilt.

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