Washington — The Dukakis campaign has been outmaneuvered by savvy Republican political operators. That's the opinion of veteran Democratic leader Robert Strauss.
He blames inexperience in the campaign team of Michael Dukakis along with a placid press corps that has let the political handlers of Vice-President George Bush control coverage of the presidential race.
``The Republicans seem to have had the ability since 1980 to press a button and bring out the old pros who are good, who know what they are doing,'' Mr. Strauss says.
``The Democrats press the button and we reinvent the wheel,'' he adds.
Strauss, a former chairman of the Democratic Party, says that James Baker III, the Bush campaign chairman and a former Treasury secretary, may be ``light years'' ahead of the Democratic Party and the press when it comes to presidential politics. ``He just may be in a different class than the rest of us,'' Strauss says. ``He has outsmarted the Democrats and he has manipulated the press beautifully.''
This backhanded compliment to Mr. Baker echoes an admission by many Democrats that the Republicans have dominated the news and that Bush has set much of the agenda of the campaign.
Strauss and other Democratic leaders place part of the blame on themselves and part of it on an all too gullible press corps. ``We are voting on media consultants and political operators,'' Strauss complains.
Strauss was asked in a breakfast meeting with reporters what Governor Dukakis needs to do. ``He had to improve, and has, the message that he gets out,'' he replied. ``He [also] has to demand ... that the press do their jobs. ... Dukakis has a responsibility to win, but you have the responsibility to get the truth out and you haven't done it.''