I having been watching George Bush's lips lately - Michael Dukakis,' too - and I don't like what I see.
Bush has conducted a campaign that is as vile as it is vacuous, while Dukakis has run one totally lacking in spunk, to say nothing of intellectual content. It has been a dispiriting time for those of us who live in hopes of good government breaking out.Which is not to say the campaigns have been equally ineffective, not at all. Vice President Bush has been kicking Governor Dukakis' head in. From a political technician's point of view, it has been an exemplary effort.
Bush has been able to call into question his opponent's sanity, his patriotism, his competence and his manhood, all the while seeming presidential.
He has managed it by letting "surrogates" like the Lyndon Larouche cult, the unctuous Orrin Hatch, the bottom-dwelling Steven Symms, and the ever-popular anonymous source do his dirty work for him.
It's been a masterful performance. In the South, the vice president is Attila the Preppy, talking of pork rinds and gun racks and the execution of drug lords; in the effete East, he is Gentle George, presenting his vision of a kinder America.
Dukakis, in the meantime, has spent his time denying - denying that he's against motherhood, church and home, denying that he intends to tax us gray, denying that he plays in a punk rock band on weekends. Oh, occasionally he goes on the attack. The other day he accused the vice president of being soft on remedial math.
Vice President Bush ventured into the unfamiliar territory of issues last week. Like Clark Kent ducking into a telephone booth and emerging as Superman, Mr. Bush went to Michigan and came out wearing his environmental suit.
"I am an environmentalist," he said, promising to save the wetlands, end ocean dumping, limit offshore oil drilling, and call an international conference on global warming and ozone depletion.
Never mind that, having promised not to raise taxes or cut defense or precious little of anything else, he has no way of paying for a cleaner environment; a candidate was finally talking about a real issue and the words sounded good.
Dukakis responded by saying that it wasn't his fault that Boston Bay is a cesspool.
I am often accused of being a liberal; I plead guilty. I am also accused of being a Democrat; that I deny.
But if Dukakis is going to have the liberal flag thrust upon him, I want him to do a better job of carrying it.
I don't want him to run from his veto of the Pledge of Allegiance bill in Massachusetts, his furloughing of prisoners, his support of gun control, his opposition to the death penalty, or his membership in the American Civil Liberties Union. I want him to defend them intelligently, passionately.
Bush is campaigning with assurance and every day looks more a president. Dukakis, in his campaign appearances, looks like a mortician delivering a bill.