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Tanks for the Memories

A look back on the Dukakis debacle.

3:34 PM, Nov 18, 2013 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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Over at Politico, Josh King reflects on the disastrous Michael Dukakis presidential campaign—specifically the moment the Massachusetts governor donned a helmet and rode around in an M1A1 Abrams, trying to resemble a muscular commander in chief. Except he didn't.

"Why had an event that everyone now agrees was such a terrible idea ever happened in the first place?" asks the author, who served on the campaign.

King goes on,

The truth is, many of Dukakis’s advisers did try to forestall the tank ride even while others were convinced the photo op was essential. They argued with each other over it, sent warnings back to headquarters, huddled in anxious meetings and even dispatched an expert fixer, all to no avail. That some tried to stop it but couldn’t is, in its own way, a very human story about simple inertia, the difficulty of changing course once a plan is set in motion. But it’s a story about accountability, too—a failure of leadership that led a candidate who was busy proclaiming his technocratic “competence” to run a myopic and incompetent campaign.

Accompanying the essay is a short video featuring Matt Bennett, who was partly responsible for "one of the worst campaign backfires in history." He was 23 at the time, a political novice, and the laughs from the press pool still haunt him. One problem was Dukakis's diminutive stature, lampooned on Saturday Night Live. And another was a violation of a very basic rule: Never allow your candidate to put anything on his head.

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