As a relatively new press secretary for California Governor George Deukmejian in 1987, your author was more than a little surprised to learn that Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis was paying an unscheduled visit to his colleague and my boss, “The Iron Duke.”

Dukakis was standing before the governor’s office door in the cabinet room in the State Capitol in Sacramento. He was cordial and polite, and apologized for the unexpected visit. The 1980s were a different time, more to the point a better era.

The political media was tailing along with Governor Dukakis that particular Wednesday, May 20 as he was running for the 1988 Democratic nomination for president. Dukakis was certainly not looking for encouragement as George Deukmejian was a Reagan-Bush Republican. And yet, George Deukmejian made time for his National Governor’s Association colleague and friend, Michael Dukakis.

My boss was never enamored about “surprises,” but he gladly welcomed Dukakis. The two demonstrated to America then and now that civility can reign, even if he political differences run deep.

Years later, George Deukmejian and his wife, Gloria, were sitting on the beach in Hana, Maui about to enjoy a picnic lunch, when a voice cried out … “Duke!” It was the other Duke, Michael Dukakis and his wife Kitty. One can only imagine they had some great stories to tell that afternoon and got along swimmingly.

As we celebrate what would have been George Deukmejian’s 92nd. birthday tomorrow on D-Day (June 6), we need to contemplate that America in general and California in particular were very different places when the Duke was governor from 1983-1991.

Almost DailyBrett is proud to champion that Governor George Deukmejian (1928-2018) is the most popular chief executive in blue state California’s modern political history by more than a two-to-one margin (66 percent approval, 30 percent disapproval)

Better than The Gipper. Better than Jerry. Better than AH-Nold.

Loss of Civility

George Deukmejian privately lamented the loss of civility, even in tamer times … night-and-day different times.

He remembered his policy debates on the floor of the California State Senate as the Republican minority leader against George Moscone, the Democratic majority leader. And when the rhetorical exchange ended, the two Georges could be seen having a glass of wine. Seems quaint now. Actually it sounds better.

George Deukmejian was not one for rhetorical questions. Subsequently, his press secretary avoided them like the plague. And yet when Almost DailyBrett posed a rhetorical question on the 1982 campaign trail — ‘how many terms did he envision as governor?’ — He immediately responded,”two terms.” Even though California did not have term limits at the time, Deukmejian knew then and there … there would be no third term.

His reasoning. Like any governor, you want the people of California to ratify your administration and policy direction through re-election (e.g., 61-37 percent). If a governor runs for a third term, there is the problem of the tyranny of accumulated decisions and with each one the number of disappointed people inevitably grows.

Only one California Governor was elected a third term, Earl Warren (later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court). One other pursued a third term (e.g., Pat Brown) and he lost to a certain movie actor.

What was his name?

As Almost DailyBrett looks over the 2020 political minefield, there is no chivalry. George Patton and Erwin Rommel will not come down from their tanks, shake hands, and then engage in battle with the victor winning the war.

There is zero civility similar to Deukmejian-Dukakis, Deukmejian-Moscone and the more celebrated relationship between Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill.

Today the President of the United States refuses to shake the hand of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and she responds by tearing up his State of the Union speech. Their collective hatred went downhill from there.

Your author certainly will not scold anyone for thinking that today’s divisions and tribal hatreds are now a permanent fixture of our troubled society. After all, politics is indeed a contact sport.

There was a lot of heat in political kitchens (paraphrasing the famous Harry S. Truman quote) even in the 1980s, but there were also times of consideration, politeness, cordiality and celebrated instances when civility indeed did reign across the fruited plain.

Happy Birthday Iron Duke. We miss you. We will always love you.

Some day this author will hopefully join you for a glass of wine in heaven, and ponder the lessons of the 1980s.

https://www.ctpost.com/politics/article/Jerry-Brown-boasts-approval-ratings-higher-than-8355461.php

https://www.capradio.org/articles/2018/05/08/george-deukmejian-ex-governor-of-california-dies/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2020/02/20/tearing-up-the-speech-paying-the-pr-price/