DOLE THE CONCILIATOR
AUGUST 14, 1996
Three senior Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Tent Lott and Reagan Chief of Staff Howard Baker, talk about Bob Dole's history as a consensus builder.
June 11: Senators Cohen (R-ME) and Bradley (D-NJ) look back on the Congressional legacy of Bob Dole.
Apr. 14: Bob Dole talks at length with Jim Lehrer about his Primary nomination victory and his plans for the election.
Complete NewsHour coverage of the 1996 Primary and Election campaigns.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: All right. We have with us Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott from Mississippi, Howard Baker, former Senate Majority Leader, and who also served as the White House Chief of Staff under President Reagan, and Maine's Senator Olympia Snowe. Thank you all for joining us. We've been hearing some things about how the public sees Bob Dole. Why don't you tell us--I mean, 35 years into Bob Dole's political life, he remains an enigma. How would you define him and place him on the political spectrum?
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE, Maine: Well, I see him as one who is a consensus builder, a conciliator, a person who wants to unify this country, having worked in the United States Senate, certainly appreciated his skills. He tries to bring people together, irrespective of the differing views. He wants to work out solutions. He's personable. He has a sense of humor, so I think that those characteristics will emerge in this campaign.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Senator, where would you place him on the political spectrum?
SEN. TRENT LOTT, Senate Majority Leader: Well, I think he's moderate to conservative, but as Howard Baker will tell you, when you get to be Majority Leader, you can't just worry about where your positioning is. You have to try to find a way to move legislation. And sometime you find yourself arguing with your own people, look, okay, you're here, you're here now, how can we get together? How do you get to yes? And that's what Bob Dole did so magnificently as Majority Leader, the longest Minority and Majority Leader I guess in the history of the Senate, and he, and as Olympia said, he was a tremendous consensus builder and finder of a way to move important legislation.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Sen. Baker, you heard moderate to conservative from Sen. Lott, but tonight on the NewsHour, Pat Buchanan said that most of his views were consistent--most of Sen. Dole's views were consistent with his, and he cited specifically affirmative action and the platform position on illegal immigration. And as you all know, Pat Buchanan is on the farthest extreme of the right wing of the party. How does that set with you?
HOWARD BAKER, Former Senate Majority Leader: Well, I think that's the very point that Trent Lott made, though. Bob Dole is skillful. He is adroit at bringing people together. He did it in the Senate. He'll do it in this campaign. I don't know whether you classify Bob as very conservative or moderately conservative, and I don't think it really matters. I think he's a strong political personality who's fully capable of leading this country in a dynamic and certain way. And I think that's what people look for in a President.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But, you know, some of the things that, for example, President Clinton has been criticized for, you know, not sticking to one position, doing a lot of flip-flops, now you've described it when it applies to Sen. Dole as being able to conciliate and compromise and so on, but there have been criticisms that he's really all over the lot on a lot of things.
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE: Well, I haven't seen that. In fact, I think he's tried to work very hard to build a very important agenda for the future of this country. I think there's a big difference.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, let's take affirmative action, for example. I mean, years ago, he was a big supporter of affirmative action and civil rights legislation and the Voting Rights Act. He's changed on that. On abortion, as you know very well, he wanted tolerance language in the, in the platform. And when pressed to have it excluded, he gave in, as some would see it. Now, do you see it that way?
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE: Well, no, I don't, because I think--I mean, over the course of the 35-year career, obviously, someone's going to modify their position, for example, on affirmative action, you might say that it needs reform. And many people wouldn't argue with that, you know, not necessarily even eliminating the affirmative action program. The difference between Sen. Dole and President Clinton is the fact that President Clinton has really retreated on many of the promises he made to the American people when he was campaigning for the presidency, and he hasn't honored those commitments during his presidency. Whereas, Sen. Dole wants to bridge the gaps. He tried to work to build for the passage of legislation so that it could become a reality.
SEN. TRENT LOTT: Let me build on that.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Sure.
SEN. TRENT LOTT: There is a consistent pattern on the big issues throughout his career. Bob Dole has always felt the fiscal responsibility, living within your means, a balanced budget was important, having a strong foreign program is important, that the tax burden in many instances has gotten too great on the people of this country. But he also has taken very courageous stands on a variety of other issues that you can't label philosophically--foreign policy, congressional reform, civil rights. Bob Dole--I've been very close to him for the last 18 months--this guy really loves this country, and he has served his country, and what he does is he takes every issue on its merits, and that's the important thing.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Senator, do you see Bob Dole as an ideologue, a pragmatist, a visionary, because as Sen. Snowe said, he has changed positions. Now she has a rationale for that. But does he change positions because of pragmatic politics, because ideologically it fits into the mood of the moment or--I mean, how do you--
SEN. TRENT LOTT: I don't think for a moment he responds to the mood of the moment. I don't think he's a pollster, I don't think he responds quickly to polls. I think there are only three things that a successful President of the United States must do. The first is you got to know who he is, he's got to know what he believes, and he's got to know where he wants to take the country. And his--the gross total of Bob Dole's experience, I think, and his personality and his character uniquely qualify him to give an image to the country and a program to the country that will inspire confidence that he can be a strong leader. You know, the country is not going to decide this on the basis of one vote or the other. They're going to decide on the basis of whether or not this is the best man to lead the country. And I think Bob Dole's warmth, his career, his views on the cardinal issues of this day will be more appealing and more attractive than President Clinton's will be.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: How do you think, you know, the qualities that you described as being important to his legislative successes, how do you see those being transferred to the presidency? Because you've described the necessity for compromise and conciliation, but is that the best quality in a presidential leader, or how do you see that in Bob Dole being transferred?
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE: As I see it, it's very important. Actually, President Clinton's the first President that I've worked with who has been unwilling to work with members of Congress, members of the leadership. The fact is I've been struck by that. There have been many times over the last few years in the course of this administration, that he remembers the Congress, Republicans who have made overtures in the administration, different issues to work them, and been unwilling to do so, and therein lies the difference. Sen. Dole will work on both sides of the aisle in Congress to work something out. He wants to work out solutions to the problems facing this country. That will be his overriding purpose and agenda.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Briefly, how do you see those transferring, those qualities?
SEN. TRENT LOTT: Well, Olympia is absolutely right. You know, the President is not the single government branch. It's just one of 'em. He has to work with us. But here's the other thing--
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Very briefly.
SEN. TRENT LOTT: When Bob Dole gets in this new position, he will exert strong leadership, and he will have to work with the Congress, but he will lead the way. He will be a visionary.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Thank you all.