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CRAMER:

There is a continual learning that is going on for him . And sometimes you can see, almost see him avoiding what he did-- or avoiding what he did in '88 in a way that I think puts him back in touch with his past and himself and helps him not lose himself in the process. You know , these guys are very fine athletes, all of them , all of the people I've seen who make it in this presidential business. The demands are incredible . The days are incredible you know , you are waking up at 6 a.m. in some godforsaken hotel somewhere to go stand out at some factory gate to pump some hands in the freezing cold and then you got the kawanis breakfast and then you got to go three counties over for some coffee clatch at 10 a.m., and then there's the lunch another 2 counties over, and a courthouse tour and a couple of radio shows, and interviews in the car between counties. It's unbelievable. And you get done that night at 11p.m. and fall into bed for a couple of hours sleep and you up again at 5 or 6.

You have got to be in shape. You [have] got to be able to do this . You [have] got to have the core of belief in you. Because otherwise you are not going to be able to get out of that bed. And for Dole, it's the belief that he has got to make a difference. That he will make a difference. [T]hat he can. Because that validates not just the campaign but his life.

FL: Tell us about the response to your question, 'What are you going to do when you become President?' and his difficulty in answering that.

CRAMER:

Well, I think one of the reasons Dole has never had a set answer to that question "What are you going to do when you become President?" You Know every candidate, some schlub who's going to get 2% in New Hampshire has an answer to that question, maybe the staff wrote it up for him but he has answer. But Dole has a great respect for facts. And the fact is that anyone who tells you what his presidency is going to be about, is blowing smoke in your ear. Nobody knows what his presidency is going to be about. And Dole is laboring under the burden of actually knowing that. You know , if you get a guy like Bill Clinton whose experience was being Governor of Arkansas, he may actually think he may have thought that he could walk into the White House and say what that term was going to be about. Dole knows better. I think if you shot Dole up with truth serum and asked him what is a Dole presidency going to be about? You know what I think his answer would be? ''Ah something will come up".

FL: What was his answer to your question, 'Let's not talk your first 4 yrs, lets talk your first 100 days?'

CRAMER:

Well, I asked him when I was putting together the book [several years ago] I asked him, 'You know, I've got one President question.' I said, "I don't want to know about your hundred days, I don't want to know about your legislative program , I just want to know what's the first thing you are going to do if you get in there. What's the very first thing?" And he kind of looked away and paused for a minute and he said, "You know I hadn't thought. You know it's not some kind of program or agenda. I'm just going to get in there and serve my country." And I think that was quite an honest answer.

FLN: The budget deficit struggle.

CRAMER:

When Bob Dole got elected as majority leader in 1984. He announced on the very first day that what he was going to tackle was the budget. And there are a lot of guys in Washington that talk about the budget deficit but nobody , if you have noticed has ever tried to wipe it out. That's exactly what Dole proposed to do. And I think he set the town on it's ear . I mean I'd never seen anything like it since. I mean every move he made after that was weighed, you know, what was the affect on Social Security, what was going to happen to taxes. I mean he took the whole, he took the entire pie.

He said OK I'll bring it back in a month. You know, fundamentally changed. And he was running secret meetings with Stockman and Reagan, and cameras following him everywhere, press conferences every day, every Sunday show. I mean it was like the Bob Dole network. It was really a show. Well, the way he was actually putting it together was that he acted on his fundamental belief that everybody is included. This goes back to Russell. There are no social divisions in that town, everybody has been broke, everybody has pitched in, everybody has had woe. And that was Dole's method, he was going to make sure everybody took a little hit. And that meant everybody. Even the one who supposedly couldn't be touched -the Pentagon, Social Security, agricultural subsidies , military pensions. Things people would never bring to a vote. Dole was going to bring them to a vote and bring them all to a vote all at once.

And what he was working with was his intimate knowledge of which Senators were on which interest. What their real bottom lines were, what their personal situations were at home, what they needed to get re-elected, how much they had to protect, what they had to be able to show, where they could make a deal. And with this knowledge of the map of the Senate floor in his head he began to widdle. But he was widdling everywhere. He proposed to take $300 billion dollars out of the budget at one time. Well he put 2 guys in the back room of his office to have a meeting to work out the rice subsidies for the Southern rice growers. He had Zarinski in there on wheat, he had maybe Riker in there on mass transit, over here in another office he had another group working on the depreciation schedules or something like that. It was a fantastic show and the only place where these meetings met was in Dole's own mind. He walk between them...'How are we doing, getting close?' And if it went on until two in the morning , he would go on until two in the morning, he would be waiting for them to get done. Have a milkshake in the Senate dining room, tell a few war stories.

He was as happy as anybody had ever seen him. He was actually doing what everybody said had to be done. There was a certain kind of naivete; about this that he actually believed they meant to do it. It came down and he'd done it. He wrote the bill, he got the deals, he had a majority he thought. It was actually very dicey. On the last day it came down he needed 50 votes because with Republicans in the House he could have George Bush the Vice-President break a tie. So he needed a tie. Well he had two Senators who were in the hospital and the Democrats had one Senator who went in the hospital and it was very dicey . Counting the votes was a matter of art and science. But it came down on the last night that he could do it if he could get one of the Republicans out of the hospital. Now he had John Eastland in the hospital and Eastland's wife wouldn't let him go, she said he was too sick to go. But he had Pete Wilson who had and appendectomy, and Wilson said he'd do it.

So about midnight, Dole's got them all on the floor, and he's got the roll call going and he's got the bells and lo and behold comes up the mall toward the capital an ambulance with it's lights flashing. Dole' s staff had run down before to take out the revolving doors so that a wheelchair could get through up the main capital doors. And they wheeled Pete Wilson in from the hospital in this brown ratty bathrobe, with an IV tube still sticking out of his arm. They wheeled him in and he cast the last eye. Dole got his tie. They had turned Bush's plane around in midair over some state out west to fly back to break the tie. Bush broke the tie and Bob Dole had killed off the deficit . Now I mean he had wiped it out. Ultimately, it was he who got wiped out because the bill went to the House. Jack Campo who was supposed to be a Republican leader there started wining about 'Oh, you know the Republicans just can't be about cutting you know, we need a progressive message, we need a message of hope.' And Reagan wouldn't back him up. Reagan didn't really want to cut Social Security quotas either. But while Dole had it he got those people to make those votes. Social Security, military pensions, the Pentagon, egg subsidies, everything that was supposedly untouchable ...Dole managed to cut and he got his deal. But by the time Reagan and Kemp had let it drop and the bill had crumpled, then really all Dole had done was gotten his guys to make the unpopular votes where they could be killed in there next election campaigns by whoever ran against them. I think that's one of the reasons Dole started planning his 1988 run.

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