Dear Mr. Walker and Ms. Vennochi,
I’m an oft-frequent reader of your Boston Globe columns.
And i enjoyed your columns about George Herbert Walker Bush. They were done well.
You did a fair job of capturing the twin facets of this man, the President. After all, don’t we all have a combination of ‘ying’ and ‘yang’ in our personalities?
However, in order to put your comment about Lee Atwater, the infamous Willie Horton Ad, and the 1988 U.S. Presidential Campaign, into an alternate perspective, I felt compelled to express the following.
Those who came of age in the New Century, may not be fully aware of the ethos of the country back at the close of the last one.
In the Mid to the Late Eighties, the era of big puffy hair, shoulder pads, corporate greed, and actor Michael Douglas, one of the prominent markers that defined American cities was the rampant crime that pervaded it.
And New York City was the Proving Grounds for the scene.
Scrape the memory just on the surface, and who can forget?
-what came to be known as the case of the Central Park Jogger, a trader at Salomon Brothers (remember that name?), who was raped by hoodlums and left for dead in Manhattan’s Central Park,
–Bernard Getz, a diminutively built man, who was terrorized and bullied continually and daily on the NYC subway on his commute to work, and who ultimately exercised his Second Amendment rights to render Vigilante Justice on the perpetrators,
-the Mormon teenager from Utah, the only son of his parents, who was shot and killed on his family’s first visit to the not-so-glittering-anymore city,
-the image of Mayor Koch visiting the lad in the hospital, and the boy’s sister who was a teenager herself, screaming at the esteemed Mayor and demanding him to leave the room.
If anyone cares to tear below the surface, this ‘Bright City with the Big Lights’ was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1975, and President Gerald Ford had to cajole Congress to bail it out with huge taxpayer dollars, thereby sealing his fate of not getting a chance at re-election.
Anecdotally, comes to mind a relative, who’d enlist in one of the many City Colleges (CUNY) for one course, barely make it to one or two classes, withdraw, and get a free pass on the subway for the whole semester using the student ID.
How great is that? God Bless America! Nobody will accuse us Indians of not being savvy.
Then, one fine New York morning, The Wall Street Journal ran a story on its front page, of how baggage handlers at the JFK, were brazenly looting passengers’ luggage on its way to the belly of the awaiting jetliner, in broad daylight, right on the tarmac, and right under the noses of the flight crew.
If anyone bothered to take on the futile task of pressing charges, which in and of itself would take a full day, the thieves would get off with a hearing, and a second chance, a third chance, and so on, to endless chances. Not even a slap on the wrist.
We’re also in the know of four separate cases of friends and families, getting the entire contents of their car trunks pilfered out from parked spaces, all in NY,
NY, under the ‘bleeding’ guardianship of Ed Koch, Mario Cuomo, (and David Dinkins, who will forever be known for sanctioning NYPD to ‘stand idly by’, as some Hasidic Jews were rampaged in the Crown Heights district of Brooklyn, I’ll never know why liberals are so anti-Semitic), had fallen into utter disrepair and downright decay.
Times square was a place where one didn’t dare be caught dead or alive.
It all came to a head, and the downward spiral culminated around the stretch, when one fine week, Time Magazine published their Cover Story, with the glaring and catchy title, ‘The Rotten Apple’.
The Big Apple, no longer.
It was into this disarrayed and malfeasant national context that Michael Dukakis , the then-Governor of the Bay State, launched his candidacy, banking on his extreme liberal positions, that had worked in Massachusetts (remember we used to be called Taxachusetts?), as he was of the strong conviction (bless his heart), that violent criminals should get Second Chances. And that, with ‘love and acceptance’, they could be rehabilitated.
During one of those ubiquitous debates with HW, even to a hypothetical and mostly egregious question as to what he would do, if his wife Kitty Dukakis were to be raped and murdered, there was only one response any man, other than Jesus, would offer.
Instead, to the horror of his aides and supporters, Dukakis demurred something about drug rehabilitation of deranged offenders.
The fact, that moderator Bernard Shaw would even ask this most outrageous question, shows how the country perceived candidate Dukakis.
And Kitty was sitting right there in the audience, mind you.
Just to keep straight records, I was one of the bleeding Dems during the said times, and even all through the Nineties, right up until September of 2001.
Which is another story. And I’m sure you don’t care.
Our daughter Mekhala and I were on an Air Canada jet out of Logan, making the start of our way to India, (the rest of the family would join a week later), to be a big part of my favourite brother’s wedding, when at 8.00pm Eastern, just as MA and other East Coast polls closed, the captain cracked on the intercom and made the announcement that the election was called for HW.
This was before Networks ceased the practice of calling elections before polls closed on the West Coast, (where the sun really sets).
I was disappointed. But the Duke really had no chance. He had been lagging in the polls for a very long time.
So The Ad didn’t define Dukakis, as much as Dukakis defined the Ad.
So with that said, the Willie Horton Ad was fitting for the time.
It was into this lethal mix Rudy Giuliani and his Law And Order message made their appearances, to a very liberal populace along the Hudson.
The year was 1992. The time was ripe. New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly for this big mouth Conservative.
To make this very long story not really short, Rudy cleaned it up, and the city was glistening again by September of 2001.
good Sunday night…