Sunday, February 7, 2010


David Brooks / Union-Tribune

Michael Dukakis (left), former Massachusetts governor and one-time presidential candidate, and Padres owner Jeff Moorad shared a chuckle after Dukakis’ speech to the City Club of San Diego yesterday at La Jolla Country Day School.

LA JOLLA — Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis yesterday lamented that complacent Democrats in his state fumbled away the late Edward Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat in an election that now imperils the drive to overhaul the nation’s health care system.

“You can never take an election for granted, folks, and I think a lot of us were taking (Democrat) Martha Coakley’s election for granted,” Dukakis said in a speech to the City Club of San Diego at La Jolla Country Day School.

Dukakis, the unsuccessful 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, compared the recent Massachusetts special election to his defeat in 1978 that interrupted his three terms as governor — an election in which he acknowledged he was similarly asleep at the switch.

“It’s a carbon copy of what happened with me and (Edward) King in ’78,” he said. “It’s so close it’s eerie.”

Dukakis, who now teaches public policy at UCLA and Northeastern University, has become an outspoken critic of the Senate filibuster procedure that, with Republican Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts, leaves Democrats one vote shy of the 60 votes that are required to cut off debate and move the health care bill forward.

“Because of what happened in Massachusetts, 41 people can stop 59 people from acting,” he said.

Brown was swept into office after promising to supply the critical vote to derail President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

Dukakis contended it is voter revulsion against the public deal-making necessitated by the filibuster rule that is the major factor behind mounting opposition to the health care legislation.

“They didn’t exactly cover themselves with glory, and I think a lot of the public anger comes from abusing the process,” he said.

Dukakis noted the same dynamic is at work in California, which faces chronic budget deficits but is deadlocked year after year because it takes a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to adopt a budget.

“One more than one-third can hold that place up for weeks and months,” he said. “If that isn’t changed, you’re never going to get out of this mess.”