|DOLE ON THE TRAIL|
October 18, 1999
Following a report on Elizabeth Dole campaign in Iowa, Margaret Warner talks with Washington Post reporter David Von Drehle on Dole's run for the presidency.
MARGARET WARNER: Iowa holds the nation's first presidential nominating caucuses next year, and it's drawing plenty of candidates now. Republican contender Elizabeth Dole returned late last week, her 13th visit this year. On Thursday morning, she was in Council Bluffs to speak at Iowa Western Community College.
ELIZABETH DOLE: I really appreciate the fact that we have so many young people involved in this campaign, and that's what makes it very worthwhile to me. That's what helps to drive me, because I'm inspired when I see this.
MARGARET WARNER: Dole criticized the Clinton administration for overemphasizing the economy at the expense of values.
ELIZABETH DOLE: I think that people yearn for leaders who will call America to her better nature, who will use that bully pulpit. You need to use the bully pulpit to promote what is right and as a nation to provide the leadership to change what is wrong.
MARGARET WARNER: She spoke about education and drugs and cutting government waste, and she spent a lot of time stressing her past experience in a string of appointive jobs, including two stints in the cabinet.
ELIZABETH DOLE: This is the job of a C.E.O., Serving as President of the United States. And I'm happy to say that most of my 30 years of experience in service to the public has been in chief executive officer positions. Let's take the Department of Transportation. We had 100,000 employees there, and you're overseeing material resources like shipbuilding, air traffic control, highway construction. And my record is full of examples of seeing my initiatives through to completion in every job that I've held.
MARGARET WARNER: After Dole's 30-minute speech, one woman asked her how she'd cut unnecessary defense spending.
ELIZABETH DOLE: I will go after waste anywhere that it exists. Believe me. That's a promise. Thank you.
MARGARET WARNER: She didn't give any examples, however, ending this way.
ELIZABETH DOLE: As I say, in every job I've ever had, I've set eight or ten goals, and I go after it with the best team of people that I could put together, and we work with the Congress to get it done, and we get it done.
MARGARET WARNER: The next stop was a high school farther South, in Shenandoah. There, as before, a major focus of Dole's speech was education.
ELIZABETH DOLE: We used to have the best school system in the world. Now one in four high school seniors is considered functionally illiterate in this great country.
MARGARET WARNER: Her prescription? The three R's: Return control to states and local school districts, reinforce parents' roles, and restore discipline.
ELIZABETH DOLE: Let's check backpacks and lockers and have drug testing, if that's a parent-approved initiative and the school district wants to do it. But we must return discipline and certainly respect for our teachers.
MARGARET WARNER: At the end of her remarks, she spoke about the importance of women in her campaign and fund-raising.
ELIZABETH DOLE: I'm happy to say that in my campaign, it's 50 percent giving by women, and I think that's getting our women more involved in this process as well.
MARGARET WARNER: The first question came from a veteran.
VETERAN: What will you do in the way of expanding the VA funding and also long-term health care for the veterans?
ELIZABETH DOLE: Obviously I am a strong supporter of our veterans. My husband served in World War II in Italy, spent three years in a hospital following World War II has a disability because of that period of time. It's incredible what these men and women have done for our country and for each one of us, and they deserve our full support for their benefits. Don't you agree?
PERSON IN AUDIENCE: If you were to become President, what would your husband's title be?
ELIZABETH DOLE: What should we call bob dole? Any ideas? I welcome ideas. Is he the first man, the first gentleman, the first spouse? Being from the state of Kansas and having grown up with the details of agriculture in his head, I think he would be a great ag advisor, don't you?
MARGARET WARNER: Afterwards, some students sought pictures with Dole, but others asked some pointed questions.
WOMAN: What do you think of gay marriages?
ELIZABETH DOLE: I'm against gay marriages. I'm against discrimination, but not for gay marriages.
MARGARET WARNER: Another student challenged her call for tighter security measures at schools.
MAN: Don't you think some things violate students' rights?
ELIZABETH DOLE: No, not if the parents approve backpack searches and they approve locker searches, and the school district thinks it's important, I think it's okay, because we can't have guns in school. Does that make sense to you, bringing a gun to school?
MAN: Not to actually bring a gun to school.
ELIZABETH DOLE: That's a violation.
MARGARET WARNER: Dole returns to Iowa later this week for more campaigning.
She'll formally announce her candidacy on November 7 in Des Moines.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, David, you've spent a lot of time traveling with Elizabeth Dole. Was what we just showed, was that fairly typical of the way she's campaigning?
DAVID VON DREHLE: It was typical. You saw the huge crowds that she was drawing. People are very interested to see her. She's a sort of living legend figure. You saw they were respectful crowds. And you also got a sense for her manner, her walking around instead of speaking in front of a podium. That's all typical of her.
MARGARET WARNER: And how would you say she's trying to distinguish herself from this crowded Republican field? I mean is it on issues? Is it on philosophy? What is it?
DAVID VON DREHLE: It's on experience primarily. She is selling herself to her audiences as the person who knows where the levers of government are, how to pull them to get the results she wants. She talks about her experience, her mastery of the process. Of course the subtext under all of that is that she's the woman in the race, and she's the icon in the race. She talks about being on the list of the three most respected women in the world last year. And she talks about having the highest favorability rating, Republicans or Democrats.
MARGARET WARNER: How else does she play this issue of being a woman? For instance, is she addressing what one might call women issues whatever those are?
DAVID VON DREHLE: She's steering away from women's issues. When you follow her around, you get a sense almost that perhaps because she is a woman, that she feels she needs to show how tough she is. She's tough on drugs. She's tough on crime. She's tough on discipline problems in schools. She's tough on foreign policy. She wants a stronger defense. She wants a stronger defense. She wants a missile defense. She's tough on illegal aliens. And so it's all experienced toughness, no heart, no women's issues at all.
MARGARET WARNER: You said no heart. I mean, is there is much of, I don't though know, what George Bush Sr. used to call the vision thing?
DAVID VON DREHLE: I was really struck because at the end of the day of these town meetings like the ones we saw in the piece, she did an appearance at a banquet to honor women of achievement where she gave what's more traditionally an Elizabeth Dole speech. If you had her come address her group when she was at the Red Cross, for example, and it had a long passage of poetry of vision, what America used to be, what it could be again in the future. But the next morning we were back to town meetings. We didn't hear a word of that.
MARGARET WARNER: And how do the audiences, these big crowds she draws, how do they respond to her? I mean you've probably talked to them afterwards. Are they fired up, are they ready to join up?
DAVID VON DREHLE: People who are inclined to vote for her when they come out are not likely to hear anything to turn them off. But by the same token I didn't get the impression she was firing people up unless they were already deeply moved by the symbolism of the first woman. I mean at one event, some...hundreds of college kids waited all morning for her to get there. The event was half an hour late. They were still there. They were all keyed up. She came in and started talking about her experience as an FTC commissioner in the 70's. That's not the kind of thing that gets hearts racing.
MARGARET WARNER: So, what do advisors say...what is the game plan for breaking out of the pack and becoming the alternative to George W. Bush?
DAVID VON DREHLE: You know, I think more than maybe any other campaign, Elizabeth Dole was really surprised by the speed of this campaign season. She makes a point at most stops of saying that when she left the Red Cross, she had not been able to do any preparation. And so at the beginning of February, she was building a presidential campaign. She was caught really getting off to a slow start. That said, their plan, I think, is to do well in Iowa where she is very well known. Her husband is practically the third Senator for Iowa during his long career as an agriculture specialist, and then hope that a bounce out of Iowa would somehow get her some momentum.
MARGARET WARNER: Quickly before we go, her fund-raising has been somewhat disappointing. The new reports last Friday showed her fifth in the fund-raising race, even after her third place showing in the Iowa Straw Poll. How do her strategists explain that?
DAVID VON DREHLE: Well, they don't like to talk about it at all. But what they do say is that, yes, money's tight for everyone except for George Bush, but that Elizabeth Dole, because of her fame, can campaign cheaper than anyone else. She gets the crowds and the TV cameras on her name.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, David, thanks very much.
DAVID VON DREHLE: Thank you.
MARGARET WARNER: A reminder: you can get more information on this story on the "Washington Post" Web site, as well as ours.