FL: Phyllis Dole. You were describing that marriage and why it fell apart.
Well, Phyllis was, basically, she was going to marry a lawyer. Actually, she was
going to marry a young serviceman. She didn't know what he was going to be.
But he said he was maybe going to go to law school. But politics came in
second. I mean when Bob ran for the Kansas Legislature while he was still in
law school, I don't think he told Phyllis until he won. So, that wasn't their
partnership. I mean she was pretty good at politics I think, you know. She
liked people. She remembered them. But, a microphone, forget it. You know,
she was not ready for that.
And Bob, you know the way he worked at things, when he went into politics,
politics was life. So, ultimately, I mean he wasn't coming home. He was on a
plane. Nixon had made him Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Every day after working in the Senate he would get on a plane and fly west,
pick up a couple of time zones, to get to some Republican dinner somewhere.
Speak for the president.
And, I believe in the last year of their marriage I think she told me they had
dinner twice, three times, at home, you know, her and Robin, and Bob together.
So, not only were they not seeing one another but when Bob did come home there
wasn't much to say. I mean his life had grown so apart from theirs that there
wasn't anything between them anymore.
Still, she was shocked one night when he walked in and said, "I want out". "I
want out" that's all he said. And, he didn't say anything more. He didn't
move out. She got a lawyer. And, the next time he wanted to [talk] about it, which
might have been a couple weeks down the road, she said, "Well, you can talk to my
lawyer." And then he still didn't move out. He stayed there and he stayed
there and he stayed there. I don't know if whether it meant that he thought
they could talk about it or maybe put it back together. He didn't say. But
finally she called his driver and told him to put Bob's things in the garage.
And that was how he moved out.
FL: She was very guarded with me. The one expression of anger, of ice cold
anger, was the way he told her. I think this decision was his not hers.
I think that's true. I think, you know they weren't fighting. They just
weren't having very much to do with one another. But she would have gone on
with that, hoping I think that at some point their lives would rejoin. It was
his decision to bring up the idea of splitting. I don't know whether it was
really his decision to do it.
FL: Did he ever talk to you about it?
Only to say that they kind of, their lives had grown apart. I mean, he didn't
go through it, you know, blow by blow. But I did spend a good time with
Phyllis talking about it and she remembers it blow by blow.
FL: Don't you think for many people they could have gone on that way. He seemed
to be saying I want something more. Correct me if I'm wrong. He had a house
and everything in its place. He could have continued with that. Do you think
it was that at this point?
I think so. I think he wanted someone who could share his world with him. I
read that not from what he did with Phyllis but what he did after. You know I
think Elizabeth Dole is the wife of his adulthood, is the wife whom he chose
for the life he really had then. And he found in Elizabeth probably the one
woman in the United States who has a schedule just as public and just as
demanding as his. I mean these two, are pleased with themselves if they can
both get home on a Sunday so that they can have a day together, because they
both understand the demands of that kind of schedule and that kind of public
FL: Describe her to me. And the nature of her ambition, and their relationship,
and what draws them together, and the nature of that.
Well, Elizabeth's very determined, very organized. In some ways she's the
antithesis of Bob Dole because Dole likes to be making it up in real time.
Elizabeth would practice saying hello if she could, if she could find the time.
She will not get up and talk extemporaneously. She wants to have rehearsed it.
She wants to know exactly what she's going to say and if possible what you're
going to say. She's continuously after Bob to "Stay on the message. Say what
we talked about. Now don't go freelancing. Don't start making it up again."
And it horrifies her that he will just get up and talk.
But in some ways they are very much alike. They both are very outward
directed. They have horrific schedules, separately, respectively. Sometimes
they can't even get each other on the phone. They'll call each other's
schedulers.....to make sure . . . You know Bob is very sweet about this. You
know, he'll call Elizabeth's office and he'll ask is she getting time to have
her meal? You know. And, is she getting rest here? You know, and where's she
going to be next Saturday? I mean they really do try to take care of one
another given the bounds of their lives. I mean it's not like, uh, one would
think about a married way: you're trying to take care of someone by bringing
someone a cup of coffee in their living room chair. They're not in the living
room chair. They're in separate hotels on the other side of the country from
one another. But in that life they're trying to take care of each other.
FL: It's all speculation of course, but those two marriages, Hillary and Bill,
the partnerships. Do you wonder about the similarities and differences in
those partnerships. They're both described as partnerships.
I think anyone who runs for the presidency, any married person who runs for the
presidency, and if you'll notice they are all married, goes through with their
spouse something that nobody else in the whole country can understand. And
once you've been through that together, you have a kind of working partnership
that no other couple can have. It's more than running a business together or
something like that because with so much scrutiny upon you and everybody
outside you looking in, you're the only two people in that fishbowl. So the
reason that they use that word partnership is that they really do have to work
together in a way that nobody else has to. It's quite remarkable.
You know when I first came to Washington, when I first started doing research
about politics, I had a kind of a cynical, facile idea of what a Washington
marriage was. You know I've been told, as so many people have been told, what
a sham. You know. You're supposed to look good but actually all these guys
are screwing around. It's not true at all. These are working partnerships in
a way I've never seen anywhere else. And these people are bound together,
they're almost annealed by fire together.
FL: The Clintons and the Doles. Let's just talk about that.
I know that both the Clintons and the Doles have to have gone through this
together. And there is, there is nothing that can break that bond together
because there is no one on the planet who has been together in that way.
FL: I'm just going to dip back to what you said in your book. And I think it
is an interesting detail -- that Dole's father was an elder in a church and
he delivered those telegrams. Was that significant in any way? As an elder in
the church? . . . The father had this pastoral manner and also didn't display
any emotions. Is there anything there?
Doran Dole was an elder in the church and the pastor used to call on him to
visit the sick or the bereaved. You know Doran was very good in those moments.
Very good when really terrible things had gone down and Doran was a comforting
presence. And I think Bob has a little of that as well. You know he's never
better than when the whole world has just crumbled. You know times when people
are scared to talk to him because they've screwed up so badly, Dole will never
be nicer. He's got an instinct for helping the wounded, if you will.
FL: Let's talk a little about David Owen. Just tell us briefly about who David
was in relation to Bob Dole and very briefly what happened. And obviously
what's of concern to us in this act is the way in which he was peeled off
When Bob Dole ran for Senate in '68 he had a problem. He had covered as a
congressman half of the state of Kansas. But it was the wrong half. It was
the empty half. The population centers of Kansas are in the east: Kansas
City, Witchita, Lawrence. And Dole had especially a problem around Kansas City
and the Kansas City suburbs because that was territory, I mean he had no
relation to at all. I mean those people, they're very wealthy suburbs and
those people spend more time in Chicago then they ever do in Russell, Kansas.
So he had to get known. He had to make sense of that area. And he had to get
something going on the ground and he had to do it in a hurry. And the way he
did it was he found a guy by the name of Dave Owen.
Owen was a comer in Kansas politics. He later was Lieutenant Governor.
And quite a bright man. And he had that county wired. I think there are
twenty-five separate municipalities in that county and Dave Owen knew them all.
So Bob Dole and Dave got to be very close in that campaign. Dave just
basically turned over his whole organization to Dole. I once asked Dave why
did he do it? And he said something interesting to me. He said, "Bob Dole was
kick ass at take names, Bob Dole was a hero, I like that." So he took one look
at the guy and turned over his local organization to him. Well later they
became quite a working set of partners.
Dave was an investment guy and a businessman in a way that Dole never was.
Dole never did any private business. And Dave would do some private business
for the Doles, themselves. At one point, Dave was basically handed a shopping
bag by Elizabeth Dole, who had a ton of money, grew up quite comfortable in
North Carolina but had never really paid any attention to it. I think she'd
come right out of Harvard into the government. And like Bob Dole she'd never
paid any attention to private business at all. But unlike Dole, she actually
had something to pay attention to. So she asked Dave would he sort it out for
her and would he make sense of what she had, and I think it was to create a
And when she handed over this shopping bag to Dave and Dave was astounded and
appalled to see there were bearer bonds in there and stock certificates and
things worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Elizabeth Dole had it in a
shopping bag. So Owen put them together and, created a trust that conformed to
disclosure requirements of federal law. But for years thereafter, Dave Owen was
really the Doles', I guess you could call it investment advisor. And he was
also quite a political operator for them because he still had quite a few
connections in Kansas. And he had connections now all over the country in
moneyed circles. So I think he raised a ton of money for Bob Dole. And did
quite a bit of work for him. In '88 Dave started out, at the very top of the
organization on the fund-raising side. And so they were quite close.
But then this little train of papers in Kansas---Dole calls one of their
papers 'The Prairie Pravda' for they've always been after Dole and as a way of
getting to Dole--They started looking into Owen and his own finances and
launched an investigation that caused Dave an unending woe. I mean years of
investigations, and litigations and defense of his own reputation in the court
and in the papers in a way that basically ruined his life. In the middle of
this the national press picked up the story and tried to make Dave Owens
troubles into Bob Dole's troubles.
And Dole was absolutely ruthless about it. He cut Owen off without another
word. I don't think he ever talked to him again. I remember the day that it
happened. Dole was trying to make a point. He was in a coffee shop in New
Hampshire. I remember it very well. And after he had spoken the press just
completely surrounded Dole in a way I don't think he had seen since the bad old
days of Watergate and they were yelling questions, shouting at him, "Senator
and what did you do about this trust, and that investment, and did Dave Owen
intercede in small businesses in such and such case?", you know.
And that was I think the moment that broke it for Dole. He was not going to
get dragged down into that in the middle of a presidential campaign. He cut
off Owen. And you know it was Angela Herrin of The Wichita Eagle Beacon that asked him about it later. Dole was looking out the window of
his airplane and it was sunset and it was a red-orangish glow coming in the
window of the plane. And Angela asked Dole, she said, "Well, how do you feel
about this? How do you feel about Owen and this situation?" And Dole turned
around and said "Well how would you feel? How'd you feel if you'd got your
name into this?"
"Well, you know, do you have a problem?" Angela asked. "Bob Dole doesn't have
a problem. Maybe Dave Owen's got a problem." That was the end. That was the
last thing he said about it.
FL: How do you feel about that?
How do I feel about what? About Dole cutting Dave off? Well, I'm very
interested. I think that's very indicative. You know. I think that what Dole
did, cut Dave Owen out of the loop entirely and never have another thing to do
with him, is indicative of his determination. I mean, that is, that's
hardball, that's presidential politics. I've seen that happen in a lot of
instances. You know in a lot of campaigns. The ones who are gonna get there
are the ones who do what Dole did. Now that's a very harsh way to make a man
live. But, that happens to be what they do. You know I once had a guy named
Joe Trippy tell me, he said, "Joe Biden will never have that problem again
because he is going to cut it off. He is going to cut it out." Like a
melanoma or something. He was specifically talking about Pat Cadell. He said
that's what presidents do. And that's one of the ways we make them act.
When I named my book "What it Takes." That's one of the things it takes.
It takes away from you all tolerance of anything that is going to get in the
way. And I believe it's one of the things that the voters demand of these
guys. Certainly the press, but possibly the voters too. We want nothing to be
put ahead of this job. That's our bottom line demand. We're going to give it
to the guy who wants it enough to do what it takes.
FL: My own personal opinion is you absolve Dole of a lot of personal
responsibility by saying that the voters . . that's just my opinion.
I mean I come to this after six years of learning about this. That's
basically, I don't know if you got to the end of the book, but that's what the
epilogue is about.
FL: I read it all. And I know that's how you feel. It's just, I also like to
add, that when that race was over and he lost . .
He could have called the guy. Well it's interesting Dole said to me once, he
said "So how's Dave". And I said, "You know, well, he has his problems." I
forget what the situation was at the time. But I basically told him the
situation and what Dave was facing at the time. Dave ultimately had to go to
some federal pen. I think it was nine months or something like that. And
Dole said to me, "You know, I don't think he did anything all that bad." And I
probably should have said at that time "well why don't you call him and tell
him that?" But I didn't, I wasn't, you know I wasn't fast enough on the
trigger to engage him in the thing. But it was interesting to me that he
wanted me to know that he didn't think Dave Owen was so bad. I don't know
whether he wanted me to tell Dave that, or he just wanted me to know it, or
maybe he just wanted to say it to himself. But, it was obvious to me that it
was on his mind.
FL: It's probably speculative, but do you think he ever regrets him not
Probably. Yeah. But I think he wouldn't know how now. The other thing about
Dole, you may not want to ever use anything like this, he can't stand an
emotional confrontation. Cannot stand it. That's why he never fires anyone.
He can't stand a face to face emotional confrontation. You know when you look
at the way his marriage ended with Phyllis. Same way. You know. He didn't
ever talk about. So, I'm sure he wouldn't of known what to say to Dave if he
had wanted to call, which I'm sure he did.
Elizabeth on the other hand did call. Elizabeth has a kind of facility with
feeling and talking about feeling that Bob does not have. So Elizabeth talked
to Owen in the days after the campaign, I think, or maybe in the days when
Dave's troubles intensified.
FL: In your own conversations with David. What do you know about how he felt about Dole not calling?
Well, I think Owen, very clearly Owen felt betrayed. I mean he had been with
Dole for years and years. He had given Dole a raft of help. He had worked for
Dole for nothing for years. And, more of it was that he hadn't worked for him,
but that he believed in him, and believed in their friendship. I think if you
chocked Dave in up with truth serum in 1988, he probably would have told he
was the closest guy to Bob Dole at the time. And then to have the guy never
even call him again I think hit Dave very hard. But I mean that was certainly
not the only troubles Dave had. I mean his marriage was made shaky by this.
His family was terribly under the gun. Dave's own fortune was squandered in
legal defense fees, and lawyers, court costs. It was just, he was taken to the
cleaners. And only with a lot of difficulty has he managed to build a life
and the subject of debt and, relating that to the budget deficit...
Well, the budget deficit is not for Dole, you know, one of those issues he's
talking about 'cause that's what the polls say the issue ought to be this.
This is fundamental to him. . . You know when you grow up in Russell, Kansas,
in the middle of the dustbowl Depression days, literally you see people die
from debt. Bob Dole was a kid who saw people die from debt. There's a farmer
up near town near Russell, went to the bank. The bank turned him down. So he
herded all his cattle into a corner, of the corral, and shot them one by one
and then shot himself. That man died of debt. And nobody in Russell will tell
you any different. And, of course in a town the size of Russell, everybody
knows it. You know. There's no way not to know it. So'd the jerk in the drug
store, Bob Dole knew everything that went on. You know. One of his best
friend was Dean Krug. One of the Krug fellows in town lost his hope . . . hung
himself in the middle of the attic. They called Doc White, who rushed over
there. But all he could do was hold the guys legs while his daughters cut the
man down. You know. These are lessons that you never forget, that live with
Dole. And no matter what happens, I mean in the middle of the biggest Reagan
bubble, you know when they told Bob Dole that the debts were just going to grow
away? That doesn't wash with Dole. He knows what debt is.
FL: How about that day in a life? Can you give a day?
You know Dole keeps up a schedule that would kill most people. Just about
killed me. I remember the first day I saw him. It was a day in the Senate.
He went in in the morning. He took 'em onto the floor in the morning. They
had a budget crisis, you know they had to get a continuing resolution passed or
the government would run out of money and shut down. Nobody could seem to get
a continuing resolution out of the White House. And finally the White House
sent over a continuing resolution and it went through the House and they put on
something about hire back the air traffic controllers.
So that then the Bobster has to call the White House. He finds out Reagan's
going to veto that. He sends it back out to the House to get that reammended
out. Somebody else is suing, some judge who is impeached is suing [the] Senate,
so Dole has to find a lawyer. He has to get the Senate represented by a
lawyer. He has to get Bob Dole represented by a lawyer and conduct a trial in
secret session while this continuing resolution is going on. He's got
Hatfield's River Gorge bill. He's got Danforth's amendment to the second class
postage law. He's got about thirty or forty bills that he and Bob Byrd worked
out on consent calendars. He's got, you know, about twenty-six nominations
that he just gonna ram through because they're uncontested. He basically, he
kept them on the floor for thirteen hours straight. And then, when it's all
over, he bowls out of the Senate, full steam ahead. He's going back to the
office. He's got work to do.
FL: When you look over all those years in the Senate, and there are very few
bills with his name on them, the real accomplishment looking for Dole over that
whole long period is what?
Well, I think Dole's accomplishments are many. You know, you can't put your
finger on the bill that's, you know, the Bob Dole legacy because
there are so many. Basically all the farm legislation in this country he
wrote. All the tax legislation in this country he wrote. All the budget deals
that ever went out he did 'em. I'm talking about the last few years, you
know, the years in which he is the majority.
But, I think that the real accomplishment for Dole is that he kept that party
together when most people in Washington said they were totally out of it. I
mean totally out of it. In a sense you could say that he started that back in
the Ford Era. But I remember one time, I remember back when Clinton got
elected I mean the common wisdom in Washington was that the Reagan-Bush Era was
over. The Republicans were in disarray. They had no agenda, they had no
leaders. They had no nothing. You know? What did they have? They had Rush
Limbaugh. And what they didn't reckon with is they had Dole. And Dole if you
remember took Clinton to the cleaners in the first year of his presidency. And
now Dole, if you ask Dole about that he'll say that, you know, maybe if Clinton
had started off with a few different things, he wouldn't have been able to do
it. But basically Bob Dole was the Republican party. Brought them back to a
point that before 1984 they were a majority party. I don't think he gets much
credit for it. And maybe it's not a legacy that's going to live on in
history forever. But, it was a hell of a dance.
FL: But that time...It was after Watergate. It was after that complicated,
painful relationship with Nixon . . .
I think after Watergate and after that terrible painful reelection in Kansas in
1974 where he just got back by his fingernails. I think that Dole had the
feeling that he had learned something about himself. You know. Maybe he had
more respect for the institution of the Senate. But he also had respect for
himself. He was not going to carry water for anybody anymore. What he
proposed was going to be Bob Dole's agenda. When he got into leadership, you
know, positions of actual authority and leadership, later during the Reagan
years, of course he had responsibilities to carry water again. He was carrying
Reagan's agenda in the Senate. But even then he would do it, his own way. He
was not taking orders from the White House anymore. Usually, he was letting
everybody around him know that the White House couldn't find it's backside with
FL: Did he ever talk to you about Nixon and that period.
I think he felt, sad, for Nixon, and about Nixon. You know, he went to the
wall for Nixon. He stuck with him for as long as anybody could. And when he
learned Nixon had in fact had been involved in the coverup, had been in the
meetings about the coverup, had participated in them, basically when the tapes
came out, I think that it really saddened him. Because, he had . . . I think
he had to realize, that he had no more mentors anymore. You know. No one was
going to be able to teach Bob Dole much anymore. And he had got to the point
in his life where, basically, he couldn't rely on a lot of help from anyone
else. Nixon was the last one who was, you know, at such a remove from him, at
such a vastly higher level of experience that Dole could go to him as a teacher
or a mentor. But after Nixon had passed, and after Nixon had discredited
himself, there really wasn't anybody else.
So I think that's why I think when Dole started in presidential politics, it
was very much as a lone wolf. I mean he didn't have any of the advisors and
consultants and all the things that seem to be built automatically into
campaigns today. It was Bob Dole in his plane, you know, basically looking for
a crowd seeing where to land.
FL: Did he ever express any anger to you about how badly he was treated by
No. He never expressed any anger about Nixon. In fact, I think he forgave
Nixon, whatever Nixon's sins were. I think he felt sad for Nixon more than he
felt angry toward him. I think when he was cut out of the Republican National
Committee, and when he was humiliated at Nixon's second innaugeral, he may
have felt some anger towards Nixon. But even then he tended to displace it
towards Nixon's palace guard, to the Halderman, Erlichman and Colson crowd that
he thought really had done it to him. I don't think he could bring himself to
feel the anger directly at Nixon. And even up to Nixon's death Dole would
still talk to him and write to him and let him know he was thinking about him.
FL: Was it true the detail that he found out in the limo to the innaugural?
During '72 Dole really, I mean, devoted himself to Nixon's reelection. I mean,
at the cost of his marriage, at the cost of his health, at the cost of his own
political reputation. And one of the things that he did is was he went to the
White House and he said that he had been going around the country and he'd been
hearing about this Watergate business. And he thought that the party and White
House ought to address it, ought to clean the table of it, tell the truth and
get it out.
Well, that didn't endear him to the Nixon Palace Guard, you know, Halderman,
Erlichman, Colson. They all of a sudden regarded Bob Dole as suspect. So when
the election was accomplished and Nixon had his landslide, all of sudden Dole
found himself on the outs, you know. Little hints in the papers, that Dole's
maybe not so popular at the White House. But he really didn't know for sure
until he was, found he was the last car at Nixon's inaugural parade. He said
the only one behind him was the garbage truck. After that he got called to
Camp David again. And by this time Dole had figured it out. He told me
he was sharing the helicopter out to Camp David with ?Clinebeens? Clinebeens
was going by the way too, you know? So Dole leans over to him and Dole knew
they were both on their way to a hanging party, you know? He leans over to
Clinebeens and says "Aaa, did you bring your rope?".
FL: What were the lessons he learned from Nixon?
I think he learned how a bigtime national politician knew the country. The
first time he ever really spent any time with Nixon was in 1964 when Nixon came
to Pratt, Kansas, to campaign, to help Bob Dole's reelection campaign to the
House. Nixon stood on a bale of hay and made a speech for Dole. Got a lot of
ink, big crowd, big day. Dole was very thankful. But what really impressed
Dole was that afterwards, he got on Nixon's plane. Nixon was flying east to
Herbert Hoover's funeral. And Nixon could look down anywhere in the country,
anywhere, any state in the country, and he could look down, he could tell you
where he was, he could tell you who the political leaders were, who the county
chairman were, what their problems were, who the candidates were and what their
standing was in the polls. He had the map of the nation at his instant
command. And Dole saw in that what you needed to know. And I think he knew he
could do it as well. And later, when, after he'd been Republican chairman he
could pretty well fly over the country and he could do the same thing.