Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, under mounting criticism at home because of a state budget crisis, admitted Saturday to mistakes in his 1988 presidential campaign and blasted the Bush administration for its record on the environment and the federal debt.
Dukakis used a friendly audience of 4,000 Massachusetts Democrats meeting in Boston for their annual convention to recall New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's admission that "when I make a mistake, it's a beaut.""Well, I made some beauts in the course of the campaign," Dukakis said in his most extensive discussion of the campaign in which he was roundly criticized for not responding to President Bush's barrage of attacks over the Pledge of Allegiance, Boston Harbor pollution and prison furloughs.
"What I regret most of all is that George Bush didn't only succeed in painting a distorted picture of Mike Dukakis and what I stood for, he also managed to put all of you down in the process," Dukakis told cheering Democrats.
"He questioned your patriotism and common sense. He put down this great commonwealth and its people. I let him get away with that and I shouldn't have," the governor said.
The often dour Dukakis, who returned to his desk the day after his Nov. 8 loss and repeatedly shrugged off questioners, finally admitted "these have been difficult months, some of the most difficult I've ever encountered."
Dukakis, who won re-election to his governor's job with a near-record 69 percent plurality in 1986, has seen a complete turnaround, with public opinion polls showing his popularity hovering in the high teens. He already has announced he will not seek a fourth term in 1990.
The plunge was accelerated by a public belief that Dukakis underestimated the depth of the state's fiscal problems - which include a $300 million fiscal 1989 budget deficit and general agreement over the need for new taxes - because of his presidential ambitions.