Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The view from Massachusetts: An interview with Michael Dukakis

By Edward Copeland

(Ed. note: I would like to thank Governor Dukakis for graciously agreeing to have this post, much of it taken from a recent interview conducted by our co-blogger Edward, published at The Reaction. -- MJWS)

Working on a tribute to the groundbreaking TV series St. Elsewhere on its 30th anniversary (Part I posts on Press Play at the Indiewire website Friday), I had the opportunity to speak with one of the Boston-set series' many guest stars.

In this case, my interview subject had a lot in common with one of the candidates in this year's presidential election. He served as governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and also earned his party's nomination for president, although Michael Dukakis' party was and remains the Democratic Party.

The former governor graciously agreed to talk with me about the TV show, though other subjects came up as well. I told Gov. Dukakis that when I was in college I was a volunteer for his presidential campaign in his Oklahoma City office. "Bless you. Bless you. Sorry I didn't do better. I feel like I owe you an apology," he replied. I assured him that no Democratic presidential candidate has done well in Oklahoma since LBJ. "Democrats ought to be working those states a lot harder than we are because they're voting against their own interests," he said. Given that Dukakis' cameo on the 1980s medical series provided the impetus for the conversation, health care naturally came up:

The emergency room has become the primary physician for millions of Americans at unbelievable costs. One thing the Affordable Care Act would do, among other things, is stop that. We had an ER situation here in Massachusetts before we passed our health care bill, even though we had substantially fewer uninsured people. At first, there was no change, but now we're seeing a very significant decline in ER visits for people other than emergencies and it's got everything to do with the fact that everybody now has reasonably comprehensive health insurance.

Of course, the governor who enacted the Massachusetts plan, though he does his best to deny it now, was none other than Mitt Romney:

One of the mysteries to me about this presidential race is what Romney is doing on health care. It's crazy. He was eloquent on the subject of the individual mandate, eloquent. He talked about it. "No free riders. Everybody's got to be part of this thing. It's gonna work. Everyone's gonna be a part of it."

Then again, Romney's opinions remind me of the old joke about my home state's weather – if you don't like the weather in Oklahoma, just wait a few minutes:

Barney Frank says there are two Romneys running in this race. There is Mitt Romney and there is Myth Romney. When he suddenly started taking credit for Massachusetts having the best education system in the country, all of us fell off our chairs. That guy did nothing for public education. In fact, he tried to slash education budgets. It was news to us that he was even interested.

My interview with Gov. Dukakis took place last week, but Romney touted his record on education while governor again during Monday night's final debate with President Obama. The Republican nominee, despite the evening's designated topic being foreign policy, also pledged again to work wonders with job creation:

I keep telling the Obama people to get on this. His job creation record in Massachusetts was a disaster, you know. We were 47th out of 50 in job creation under Romney – fourth from the bottom. In fact, the number 47 seems to be following him around. Only Michigan, Ohio and Louisiana after Katrina had a worse job creation record than we had under Romney. For the life of me, I don't understand why Obama and Biden don't talk about that all the time. If every person in America knew that job record, the race would be over. I'm just baffled at why they're not using it.

While Romney trails Obama badly in Massachusetts polls, Dukakis discounts the idea that stems from his home state tending to always vote for the Democratic candidate:

There's a reason he's 25 points behind Obama in Massachusetts, I can tell you that. It's not that we're a down-the-line Democratic state. We voted for Reagan twice. We voted for three Republican governors after I left office. We voted for Scott Brown. This is not a deep blue state or whatever they want to call us. Romney is as unpopular as any political figure in the state these days.

Gov. Dukakis also added another nugget of information about Romney's time as governor that I hadn't read or heard before.

In point of fact, he was an absentee governor for much of the time. He was out of the office for 420 days or something.

Here's hoping that the one-time absentee GOP governor shall be absent from the national scene in a little less than two weeks.

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