Click here to go to our home page!
WWW  Super70s Awesome80s
FORUMS | Culture | Movies | Music | News | Sports | Sci/Tech | Timeline | TV


Michael Dukakis: The Awesome80s Interview

By Patrick Mondout

On January 18, 2001, we conducted an email interview with former Democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. We discussed his run for the presidency (including the "Willie Horton" ads), his wife Kitty, the Clinton legacy, universal health care, campaign finance reform and his vision our future.


Awesome80s: Thank you, Governor Dukakis, for taking the time to “speak” with us today. Many of our readers will want to know what you have been up to since the '88 campaign. Can you tell us a little bit about what have been working on?

Michael Dukakis: I finished up my third and last term as governor in 1990. Since then I have been teaching at Northeastern University in Boston and, for the past five years, during the winter quarter here at UCLA. I teach public policy, state and local government, health policy and politics, and public management.

Awesome80s: Is there any chance we’ll see you become an ambassador, a cabinet member, or even a candidate for office again or is that all behind you now?

Michael Dukakis: I won’t be running for elective office again, but I am deeply involved in the effort to give this country a first rate, national rail passenger system. Since June of 1998 I have been the vice-chairman of the new Amtrak board. It is a fine group of people, and we have a very effective new management team. But we need a Congressional commitment to a modest but consistent amount of capital investment which can make it possible for us to do across the country what we have now begun to do between Boston and Washington—frequent, comfortable, and very fast high speed trains.

Awesome80s: Your wife Kitty recently said, "I’m grateful my husband wasn’t elected President. If he had been, I wouldn’t have been able to get the help I did." I think anyone reading this, particularly anyone who read her moving memoir “Now You Know,” would like to know how she is doing. How are Kitty and your children?

Michael Dukakis: Kitty is doing fine. She went back to school in the early 1990s to get a masters degree in social work and has been working with refugees and immigrants ever since. She continues as a member of the U.S. Holocaust Commission and will be co-teaching a course in 20th Century Genocide at Loyola Marymount University here in Los Angeles this winter. Our children are doing very well also. We now have three grandchildren, and since our kids all live in the West—Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles—our three months out here give us a real opportunity to spend time with them.


 Kitty Dukakis publisher her memoir in August 1990.



Awesome80s: We're happy to hear that all is well and wish Kitty the best. You married her in the year President Kennedy was assassinated. The Kennedy family dominated the politics of your state for decades. Do you remember where you were when you first heard about the tragedy and would you describe for us your initial reaction?

Michael Dukakis: I was just returning to my downtown Boston law office from lunch when I first heard that Jack Kennedy had been shot. I was stunned, and the weekend that followed was a nightmare for all of us.

Awesome80s: As the Governor of Massachusetts, you must have worked closely with and perhaps occasionally against members of the Kennedy dynasty. How was your relationship with Senator Kennedy?

Michael Dukakis: Ted Kennedy has been a great senator and a good colleague and friend. He endorsed me in 1982 under very difficult circumstances and again when I ran for the Presidency.

Awesome80s: Leaders in both parties, including Senator Kennedy, say the campaign finance laws are in need of reform. It seems, however, the kind of reforms being discussed might require a constitutional amendment as the "free speech" aspects of such legislation would likely be a lightning rod for the Supreme Court as it is currently staffed. What is the motivation for the very politicians who benefit so greatly from the current system to propose real reform capable of surviving close scrutiny from Scalia & company? Do you realistically see the system reforming itself?

Michael Dukakis: There is nothing unconstitutional about the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. I think we are closer this year than we have ever been to getting it through Congress. That will present the new President with a very serious problem, since he is opposed to much of it, and a veto would be politically disastrous.

Awesome80s: You are a long-time supporter of universal health care. Given the willingness of the health-care industry to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat legislation that would make this a reality, what is your legislative strategy for achieving your goals?

Michael Dukakis: There is no reason why we can’t have universal or near universal health insurance in this country. The state of Wisconsin under Governor Tommy Thompson is in the process of doing precisely that, and I have high hopes that with Governor Thompson as secretary of health and human services, we may be able to develop a bipartisan version of the BadgerCare program which he is implementing in Wisconsin.

Awesome80s: Referring to a campaign finance reform referendum in Wisconsin, Governor Thompson recently said "I think we need it, and I think the vote in the referendum indicates the people would like to see us do it.'' We often hear politicians complain that they deeply dislike raising the money necessary to run for office. More and more of their time is spent raising money as the 2000 New York senate race between Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio, which cost an estimated $50M, shows. How do you feel about political fundraising?

Michael Dukakis: I found fund raising to be an essential and usually enjoyable part of campaigning. I guess I am in a minority of politicians on the subject, but I always attempted to raise my own funds from a broad base of relatively small donors, and it seemed to work. Furthermore, those folks became the backbone of a very formidable grass roots campaign organization. Fund raising, done right, can be fun and enjoyable.

Awesome80s: You are the first politician I have ever heard say that you enjoy fundraising! How about campaigning? Very few people have experienced what it is like to campaign as a major-party candidate for president. It has been described as alternately exhilarating and exhausting. What was it like for you?

Michael Dukakis: My one complaint about campaigning, especially for the presidency, is that it is too long. Two years of virtually nonstop campaigning tends to leave the public bored, and it gets awfully boring for the candidates to have to say the same thing day after day after day.

Awesome80s: Like Bill Clinton, you became a Governor in the mid-seventies only to lose re-election and then win it back in 1982. Bill Clinton later gave a rather boring nomination speech for you at the '88 Democratic Convention in Atlanta. You actually received a higher percentage of the popular vote in '88 than he did in '92 (46% vs. 43%). Hindsight is 20/20, but have you ever speculated that if you had skipped 1988 and focused instead on a run in 1992, that you would have been in the White House instead of Bill Clinton?

Michael Dukakis: There is no question that 1992 was a more promising year for the Democratic nominee for president that 1988. Nevertheless, 1988 was winnable. Unfortunately, I made a serious mistake in attempting to ignore the Bush attack campaign. It’s clear from what happened to me that you simply can’t do that. You have to have a first rate, well thought out strategy for dealing with the other guy’s attacks, and no Democrat will make that mistake again after 1988.

(Click here for part 2 of our interview)




Michael S. Dukakis was the Governor of Massachusetts between 1975-79 and 1983-1991. He was the Democratic Party candidate for president in 1988 and is now a Visiting Professor at the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research.

Photo courtesy of Northeastern University

Find Michael Dukakis items on eBay!
Find Michael Dukakis books on eBay!

Register on eBay for free today and start buying & selling with millions each week!

FORUMS | Culture | Movies | Music | News | Sports | Sci/Tech | Timeline | TV

Copyright 1994-2017, All Rights Reserved.
Use of this site is subject to our Terms of Service.
Privacy Statement