Guest post: If you’re going to get in the game

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on That’s showbiz.

Maroon @2: “And then four years later, Lester Holt sandbagged Dukakis by asking him if he would support the death penalty if someone raped his wife.”

It was Bernard Shaw, by the way.

It was perhaps in poor taste, but it was the easiest question in the world to answer politically. Dukakis could have said something like this:

“[optional: Bernard, that’s a disgusting and offensive question.] Would I support the death penalty for my wife’s killer? I’d want to do it myself with my own bare hands, slowly and painfully. I would be blinded by my rage and grief, and not interested in hearing any reasons why his life should be spared. And that’s exactly why we don’t let victims’ families sit as judge, jury, and executioner. We have a system of justice where impartial judges and jurors decide on guilt and punishment, and that’s as it should be. So would I want bloody vengeance for my wife? Yes, absolutely. But what I want most of all is to live in a country where justice is done. [optional puffery about how wonderful American justice is, even though it isn’t really true, but this is 1988]”

Rightly or wrongly, many Americans want to believe that their President has emotions, is a fighter, etc. (It’s why some people like Trump.)

Dukakis’s problem wasn’t that he was asked an unfair question, or that opposition to the death penalty was inherently unspinnable. It was that he gave a bland, unemotional answer to a question that should have provoked a reaction. Dukakis had already built up an image as a somewhat robotic technocrat — if he had showed some anger and feeling in his response, nobody was going to paint him as unhinged, it would have rounded him out as a human being. Hell, he could have just ripped Shaw a new orifice and that would have been a much better answer.

Dukakis was a politician. He had no excuse for botching that. One of the frustrating things about Democrats is that so many of them just plain suck at politics, and then complain that voters and the media focus on the wrong things. Well, yeah, of course they do. Voters are mostly idiots. I learned that in 8th grade student council elections, and have found no reason to change that opinion since. It’s one of the many reasons I’m not in politics. But if you’re going to get in the game, for fuck’s sakes, play to win, don’t complain about the rules of the game.

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