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FL: Phyllis Dole. You were describing that marriage and why it fell apart.

CRAMER:

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.

CRAMER:

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?

CRAMER:

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?

CRAMER:

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 life.

FL: Describe her to me. And the nature of her ambition, and their relationship, and what draws them together, and the nature of that.

CRAMER:

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.

CRAMER:

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.

CRAMER:

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?

CRAMER:

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 Dole's life.

CRAMER:

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 blind trust.

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?

CRAMER:

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.

CRAMER:

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 . .

CRAMER:

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 calling?

CRAMER:

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?

CRAMER: 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 again.

FL: Dole and the subject of debt and, relating that to the budget deficit...

CRAMER:

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?

CRAMER:

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?

CRAMER:

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 . . .

CRAMER:

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 both hands.

FL: Did he ever talk to you about Nixon and that period.

CRAMER:

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 Nixon?

CRAMER:

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?

CRAMER:

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?

CRAMER:

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.


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