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Dukakis Dismisses Last-Minute Controversies as ‘Stuff of Politics’

July 18, 1988

ATLANTA (AP) _ Democratic presidential nominee-in-waiting Michael Dukakis, declaring that ″for the last 17 months I’ve had Georgia on my mind,″ arrived with his running mate on Sunday after dismissing last-minute convention controversies simply as ″the stuff of politics.″

His first public appearance in the convention city was at a party across the street from the hall where he will become his party’s presidential nominee.

″We’re going to come out of this convention a unified party, an inspired party,″ he said.

″We’re going to need your help, we’re going to need Jesse,″ he added in a pointed reference to Jesse Jackson, who, so far, has withheld an endorsement of Dukakis and his designated running mate, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen.

Dukakis canceled appearances scheduled for Monday morning and the expectation was he would be meeting with Jackson in an effort to resolve their differences.

″We have come a long, long way together,″ said Dukakis. ″And now we’re in the final stretch.″

When he arrived at the Atlanta airport, the Massachusetts governor predicted ″a good convention and a strong and unified party.″

″We’re delighted to be here,″ Dukakis said as he and Bentsen and their families flew in on a charter flight from Boston, via Washington, on Presidential Airways.

″We hope and expect to launch a winning campaign,″ said the man who will lead the Democrats against George Bush in the fall. Bentsen was predicting as much, saying that the Democrats had more unity now than any time in the past 20 years and adding, ″The tide is really moving with us.″

The Dukakis plane stopped in Washington just long enough for the Texas senator and his wife B.A. to board the plane. Dukakis has chosen Bentsen as his running mate and he introduced the silver-haired politician as the ″next president of the United States,″ before quickly correcting himself to say ″vice president.″

On the eve of the opening of the Democratic National Convention, Dukakis expressed confidence that Jackson will be a member of his team but emphasized that it will have only one quarterback - the presidential nominee.

″You can’t have two quarterbacks,″ he told a Boston news conference before leaving for Atlanta.

He rejected the idea that he was angered or frustrated by Jackson’s reaction to the selection of Bentsen. Jackson had openly sought the vice presidential nomination.

″This is the stuff of politics,″ he said.

″I’m on my way to a convention where, if everything goes well, I’m going to be the Democratic presidential nominee. That’s never happened to me before.

″I’m looking forward to the week.″

Dukakis said he and Jackson talked by telephone Sunday morning, but he refused to discuss the conversation or speculate on when they would sit down together in Atlanta.

″We know each other, we like each other, we respect each other,″ Dukakis said of his relationship with Jackson.

″No Democratic convention would be a Democratic convention without a little controversy,″ he said, trying to minimize the prospects for disruption by the Jackson forces.

The Massachusetts governor said he still has no idea whether Jackson will challenge his choice of Bentsen.

″I would hope it wouldn’t be,″ he replied when asked if Jackson’s name would be offered to the convention as an alternative to Bentsen.

Jackson so far has refused to rule out such a possibility.

″He’s a member of the team,″ Dukakis said of Jackson ″and a good Democrat besides. An important member of the team.″

But, he said, ″Every team has to have a quarterback. That’s the nominee.″

As for a meeting with Jackson in Atlanta, Dukakis would only say, ″We meet when we decide to meet.″

″We’ve had a remarkably good relationship,″ he said. ″This has been as quiet and as happy a Democratic race as any I can remember.″

He said Jackson’s involvement ″as an active campaigner would be a tremendous asset.″

Dukakis also completed action on state budget matters, including using his line item veto to delete $138 million in spending.

The action enabled the governor to head for Atlanta with his state budget in balance.

In the evening, Dukakis, Bentsen and their families celebrated their first night in Atlanta at a dinner hosted by a cousin of Dukakis, local restaurateur Pano Karatassos.

Karatassos is a second cousin of Dukakis, said Elaine LaMontagne, a spokeswoman for the restaurant, 103 West. Their grandmothers were first cousins, she said.