Michael Dukakis isn’t telegenic; beetle-browed, diminutive, an expression that tends toward disdainful. Running for president and looking to butch-up his image as a liberal pacifist (that now quaint creature) he infamously donned a tanker’s helmet and went for a ride.
The video became footage for Bush television spots, and even his disappointed supporters questioned both the propriety and wisdom of the stunt. The campaign was hapless: to appear more manly he had cribbed from a woman. “Competence over ideology” was a failed Dukakis slogan. He promised higher taxes and lower military spending, unabashed liberalism (and, convention regarding the Willie Horton ad notwithstanding, a liberal penology that has long since been quietly discredited and abandoned). The Soviet Union was seen as a military and economic threat, three years before it would dissolve in ignominy. This gross misconception was a result of both guile and ineptitude on the part of our leaders.
We averted Dukakis’ tax hikes and Red Dawn paratroopers (and perhaps a furloughed rape-killer or two) by sending him back to Massachusetts and moving G.H.W.B. down the hall. He then gave us tax hikes, the First Gulf War (shucking off his own “wimp” image with evident relief), the subsequent stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia, Iraq sanctions, and their culmination in 9/11–with the callow younger Bush and the seasoned Dick Cheney in the White House.
Sarah Palin is telegenic–and she clearly requites the camera’s love a thousand-fold. We don’t care; such behavior is no longer unseemly. Far more important than her potential to be the first female president is her potential to be the first reality-show subject to become president. At this point it must be conceded she’s underestimated. Sarah knows something we don’t. Competence and ideology are what the help does. And she appears to be shameless. I wish it were a movie. Then I could laugh:
On the windshield of Palin’s bike: a likeness of President George W. Bush. Next to it, the words “Miss Me?” And on her hand, the words “justice rolls” were written in smeared ink.
It was an apparent reference to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which is quoted on Palin’s website: “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”*
*Update: I’m aware convention holds that the concept of justice sprang whole from MLK’s brow on the mall that day, but the quote is originally from Amos 5:24 . Someone tell Sarah.