Eight Lessons for the Presidential Debates
What are the key dos and don'ts the candidates should remember when campaigning for the White House?
- By Kenneth C. Davis
- Smithsonian.com, October 03, 2012
Sometimes attacking the messenger when you don’t like the message is a good idea. But that is not what happened in the 1988 debate, when moderator Bernard Shaw asked what Governor Michael Dukakis would do if his wife were raped and murdered. Dukakis didn't attack the question as tasteless and inappropriate.
Instead, Dukakis, already fighting an uphill battle against George H.W. Bush, tepidly replied with a textbook-ish defense of the death penalty. In a campaign in which the governor had already been tagged as being "soft on crime," thanks to the infamous "Willie Horton" advertisement --a reference to a convicted murderer furloughed from a Massachusetts prison who went on to commit rape and assault-- this was most definitely the wrong answer.