"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." — Franklin D. Roosevelt
"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." — John F. Kennedy
"I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." — John F. Kerry
As top-of-the-line phrasemakers go, John Kerry isn't — as he proved yet again in his latest attempt to explain his various Senate votes on the war against Iraq. Add a little salt, and what you've got there is a perfect pretzel.
So does that mean that Kerry's rhetorical curlicue will drop directly into history's dustbin, never again to be remembered the way his Democratic forebears' greatest utterances have been remembered for generations?
You're joking, right?
There's no way in the world that Kerry's words will disappear, not until the videotape itself has turned to dust — and by then they'll have made enough copies, in every conceivable format from memory stick to eight-track, to allow them to play it nonstop for the rest of time. Or at least until Nov. 2.
I say "they." I mean the Republicans. I mean the Bush White House. They know a good thing when they see it, which is why you yourself can expect to see that one brief shining Kerry moment roughly 16 quadrillion times between now and Election Day. Which is why the Democrats may have to unleash their own ultimate weapon to stem the tide.
I'm talking, of course, about Michael Dukakis.
You heard me: Michael Dukakis, the man who played a human piata back in 1988 while Republicans slashed his double-digit lead over the first George Bush down to absolutely nothing in practically no time. Michael Dukakis, whose very name still makes Democrats squirm — and Republicans salivate.
John Kerry was, you'll recall, Michael Dukakis' lieutenant governor in Massachusetts, which guaranteed that the current crop of Republicans would try to paint Kerry as a Dukakis clone, not to mention that worst of all breeds, the "Massachusetts liberal." (Of course, had Kerry not been Dukakis' lieutenant governor, the Republicans would still have painted him as a Dukakis clone and a "Massachusetts liberal." For that matter, had Kerry been a bank vice president from Oklahoma, the Republicans would still have painted him as a Dukakis clone and a "Massachusetts liberal," just to keep in practice.)
Anyway, there's been no doubt that we'd be seeing more of Michael Dukakis in the next seven months than we've seen of him in the past 16 years. Unless, somehow, the Democrats found some way to neutralize him — or better yet, to turn his vote-collecting and people-connecting skills, such as they are, to their own advantage.
But how? The very question I've been pondering, and then it came to me: The Kerry camp needs a Dukakis endorsement. Of George Bush.
You heard me: Michael Dukakis, loyal Democrat but eager to do what he can to get a fellow Democrat elected president, plays the good soldier and comes out for George Bush — right now, while Kerry is being pummeled on his national-security credentials.
Dukakis has played the good soldier once before, you know, a little photo-op that still shows up on videotape every now and again, too. (Think "tank." Think "helmet." Think "wardrobe malfunction.") But that's precisely why Dukakis is the ideal person to make an endorsement — at least the kind of endorsement I have in mind.
"In George W. Bush," Dukakis can say, "I see a fellow member of the Costume Combateers. A man who won't hesitate to dress up like a warrior when the cameras are rolling. In wearing that flight suit on that aircraft carrier last year, George Bush demonstrated the very same kind of commitment, courage and military bearing I once offered the American people — plus he has a much better tailor."
What are the Democrats waiting for?
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. Visit his Web site at www.yesrick.com