President Donald Trump cracked a joke during his visit to an Ohio army tank plant on Wednesday, telling a crowd that he would have gotten into one of the tanks on showcase behind him if it wasn’t for former presidential contender Michael Dukakis.
“I want to get into them, but then I remember when a man named Dukakis got into a tank,” Trump said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “And I remember he tanked when he got into the tank. I’ve never saw anyone tank like that.”
What turned out to be one of the biggest political blunders in modern times sunk Dukakis, a Democrat serving as the governor of Massachusetts, in the 1988 presidential race against George H.W. Bush.
Throughout the campaign, Dukakis was criticized for being weak on defense and national security. Bush, on the other hand, was a World War II veteran who had also served as vice president and director of the CIA.
So, the Dukakis campaign made it a priority to focus on national security in an effort to beef up his credibility. The campaign went to a defense contracting facility in Michigan, where Dukakis climbed into one of the tanks.
That’s where he made a critical mistake. He put on a helmet.
Yep, one photo. That’s all it took to “tank” his campaign.
Trump, at the event in Ohio, said he probably wouldn’t have the same problem as Dukakis.
“I’m a little bigger than him. I think it probably work out OK,” the president said. “How would I look in a tank?”
The crowd cheered as Trump continued, “The helmet was bigger than he was. That was not good.”
Matt Bennett, who worked on Dukakis’ presidential campaign, told Politico in 2013 that the campaign worried about putting the candidate in a helmet in front of the news media. He said it would violate the “one cardinal rule”: Never put your candidate in any kind of hat or headgear.
“When the tank came out, there was just this kind of instant reaction and it wasn’t the reaction we were hoping for,” Bennett told the publication. “It was hilarity. They started laughing at him.”
Bennett said some members of the press were “laughing so hard they were kind of doubled over.”
“I knew we were in trouble,” Bennett said. “Didn’t know how much trouble but I knew we were in some trouble.”
The rule against wearing hats was the result of a host of candidates receiving criticism after donning headgear, including Calvin Coolidge for donning a Native American headdress that he was given at an event in 1927.
Read more at usatoday.com.