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.
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?'
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.
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
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
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.