On Sept. 1, 1988, George Bush staged a naval assault on the stalled presidential campaign of his Democratic rival, Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis. Steaming across Boston Harbor with cameras rolling, Bush tried to shore up his standing as an environmentalist by scolding Dukakis for not having taken steps earlier to clean up the filthy harbor.

"My opponent's solution -- delay, fight, anything but clean up," Bush said. "Well, I don't call that leadership and I certainly don't even call that competence."

But over the next two years, Bush allocated no federal dollars to the cleanup and failed to spend the $100 million authorized by Congress in the Clean Water Act. Faced with a $6 billion bill for new storm drains, sewers and treatment plants, Massachusetts officials were left grasping for aid.

It looks as if they will get it. In his fiscal 1992 budget, presented to Congress last week, Bush decided to propose the $100 million for Boston Harbor.

What happened?

Cynics point out that the only difference is that Dukakis has been succeeded in office by a Republican governor, William Weld.

Asked by the Boston Globe about the politics behind the Bush administration's change of heart, Weld responded: "Who could reject what the gods might bring?"