Although terrorism was not one of the primary issues of the 1988 contest between republican George H.W. Bush and democrat Michael Dukakis, it did come up. Dukakis repeatedly questioned Bush’s role, while vice president under Reagan, in the illegal sale of arms to state sponsor Iran. And, as has been conventional for Democrats, he attempted to establish his security credentials by promising to act forcefully when international terrorism threatened Americans.
In the first debate between the two candidates, Dukakis raised both issues together when asked about how he would resolve the issue of the nine Americans who had been held hostage in Lebanon since 1985.Dukakis replied, “…if there’s one thing we … understand it is that you cannot make concessions to terrorists, ever, ever. Because if you do, it’s an open invitation to other terrorists to take hostages and to blackmail us. And that’s the tragedy of the Iran/Contra scandal.”
Bush responded that his opponent was, essentially, hypocritical because he had not supported Reagan’s 1986 strike on Libya in response to its support of actions by the Abu Nidal group, and others.