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Bush-Dukakis; Truman-Dewey

July 06, 1988

Peggy Noonan's premise in "Bush to Beat Dukakis as Truman Beat Dewey," (Opinion, June 26), wilts in the glare of reality.

First, she likens the two presidential contenders of 40 years ago to today's two prime choices. Her view ignores the fact that the times and temperament in our country back then were poles apart from what they are now.

More importantly, Noonan's flimsy built-by-association fantasy disregards the character differentials that make this foursome separate and unequal individuals.

If she were a student of character instead of a sometimes speech writer for the vice president, Noonan would see that any resemblance between her subjects, living or dead, is purely coincidental and fictitious.

Suggest as she might, there's just no way the prissy "Have a nice day" (Vice President George) Bush will ever measure up to the man that the spunky "Give 'em hell, Harry!" Truman was. Truman was a blunt exclamation mark; Bush is a blunted (to quote Noonan) "comma in an easy chair." Truman was man enough to accept the buck that went with his office; Bush timorously tiptoes away from problems in his path.

And to depict Michael Dukakis as a facsimile of Thomas Dewey is a skewed simile at best. Dewey, described as "the boy orator of platitudes," and belittled as "the little man on top of a wedding cake" lacked the stature, status and stamina needed to beat a pragmatic pol like Truman.

Dukakis' impressive background and vision make him a man whose time, after eight years with an affable actor in the White House, has come.

And come November, the contrast between the well-honed intellect of Dukakis and a fumbling Bush will be strong enough for the voters to retire the vice president to his Kennebunkport, Me., estate for good--in spite of Noonan's partisan prophesy.


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