Behind every successful man there's a woman. That old saw certainly applies to Massachusetts Governor and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. Kitty Dukakis has always been there with support and encouragement when needed. Although very much involved with professional and humanitarian endeavors, the Bay State's first lady has avoided controversy or anything that might be an embarrassment to her husband and his career. Unlike many other couples in the public spotlight, the Dukakises have kept whatever personal problems they might have to themselves.
But with her husband's presidential campaign fast taking shape, Mrs. Dukakis has gone public with what may have been the family's biggest challenge: her former dependence on prescribed diet pills.
She told a gathering on hand for the dedication of a drug rehabilitation center near here that for 26 years, before getting help at a Minnesota treatment center in 1982, she lived with that problem.
The governor, who makes it clear he supports his wife in her decision to reveal the matter, said the disclosure was not prompted by a concern that his wife's former problem might come out in the course of the campaign.
``This is something she wanted to do, something she had to do, when she felt good about it,'' the governor said, adding he is ``very proud of her.''
Those close to the Dukakis political camp say they doubt the disclosure will have a negative effect on the governor's presidential aspirations, including fund-raising efforts.
``The reaction we've been getting so far is very positive,'' says veteran political consultant Michael Goldman. He holds it will not be an issue any of the other candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination will touch.
He and other veteran political observers generally agree the timing for the disclosure ``was just right,'' coming at this stage in the campaign when Mr. Dukakis appears to be a front-runner.
The fact that Mrs. Dukakis has been free of the habit for five years should also help in laying the matter quietly to rest, Mr. Goldman adds.
Mrs. Dukakis has been active in her husband's campaign, including fund-raising pursuits. The governor raised more than $4.2 million during the three months ending June 30. That is more than any of the five other formally declared Democratic contenders.
Her disclosure is not expected to diminish her role in the campaign. Nor is there anything to suggest there are other Dukakis family secrets that might come to light.
Throughout his elective career the governor has made a point of setting aside at least one day a week for quiet time with his wife and family.
Another high Dukakis priority has been making it home to dinner most evenings, even when his schedule included evening meetings.
Much of this is now impossible while on the political hustings in distant states, and he and his wife are sometimes off in opposite directions.
Mrs. Dukakis's travels have taken her overseas several times during her husband's governorship and include efforts to aid refugees from Camboidia and other countries.
Mrs. Dukakis is the daughter of Harry Ellis Dickson, recently retired assistant conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra.