Michael Dukakis tank photograph

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This publicity image of Michael Dukakis was taken to combat criticisms that he would be soft on issues of defense, but it backfired and seriously damaged his presidential campaign when many found it silly and unsubtle.

On September 13, 1988, Democratic US presidential candidate Dukakis visited the General Dynamics Land Systems plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan to take part in a photo op in an M1 Abrams tank. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher, had been photographed in a similar situation in 1986, riding in a Challenger tank while wearing a scarf.[1] Compared with Dukakis' result, Thatcher's picture was very successful and helped her reelection prospects.[2] Footage of Dukakis was used in television ads by the Bush campaign, as evidence that Dukakis would not make a good commander-in-chief, and "Dukakis in the tank" became shorthand for backfired public relations outings.[3] Although he had served in the United States Army, Dukakis was widely mocked by his opponents for what they characterized as martial posturing and a silly image.