Robert Healy, former Executive
Editor and Washington Bureau Chief, The Boston Globe
He is a World War II veteran and covered the Vietnam War. Interviewed June 19, 1996
FL: Could you recount the scene of your encounter with Dole as a reporter in
1972 and having that conversation with him...
We were at the Republican Convention in 1972 in Miami. And Dole had this
little cabana next to the pool. And he was seeing a few reporters. I was
covering the convention for The Boston Globe. And he had been given the
axe by Nixon from the Republican National Committee Chairmanship. And it was a
humiliating thing because they had shopped the job around, number one, and they
had shopped the job around before they told him he was fired. And then they
went to Dole and asked him to find out if somebody else, somebody else being
George Bush, was available for the job. So he was going through some personal
problems at that time in his life too. And he was pretty upset about it, I
mean he was very upset about it.
It was at that time that he told me, it was the first time I had heard it from
a Republican, in particular a Republican who knew something, that Watergate was
going to be a serious thing. Now, he was telling me that I'm sure because
there was a little bit of get-even in him. You know, they had canned him, so
he was now telling me as a reporter, watch out for Watergate because there is
plenty there that you don't know.
FL: Did he also say anything about feeling badly, about being canned? Did you
have that conversation?
HEALY: Oh yeah. I mean he was humiliated. I mean, he's the kind of man who
stands for something in his own mind, and he's loyal. And I think that he saw,
you know the gang around Nixon just felt that he wasn't performing, going to
bat for Nixon the way they wanted him to go to bat for him. And we now know
what that meant. I mean, we know that meant lying and cheating and the rest to
get them out of the Watergate mess. And Dole just wouldn't do it for them.
And I think those are the kind of standards he has, and I think that he paid
the price for it.
FL: Could you go into more specifics--analysis-- on this conversation with him?
Well, here we were in Florida, they had just tied the can to his tail as
Republican National Chairman and he is showing the both sides of Bob Dole. He
showed the stoic who really didn't want to admit that he'd been [jogged]. And
he was hesitant about really blowing the whistle on these guys.
On the other side, you saw the dark side of Bob Dole, who said to me, you don't
know how, as a journalist, you know, you don't know how bad this Watergate thing
is. And the signal was keep an eye on it. Keep an eye on this Nixon, keep an
eye on this game. The same guys that did the number on me are doing a number
on the country.
It was get even time for him. And that's a side of Dole that you don't see too
often. You know, when he gets cornered, when he gets hurt he tends to lash
out. He did that during the debate with Mondale, in Kansas City in the
Vice-Presidential debate in 1976, when he accused the Democrats of being a war
party you know, and everybody in that audience, you know, the journalists had
heard pretty much of everything, but that kind of shocked everybody, you know
there was a stillness in the room when he came out with that. And of course
Mondale came back, recovered pretty well, but I mean the fact was that it was a
shocker. You know, it was an old turkey really that we'd kicked around about
Roosevelt and other and Wilson and the like that they were war, that Democrats
were war-time Presidents. But it was a shocker. And you had the picture of
Dole in both cases as a guy lashing out.
But there in Miami in '72 , you had the hurt fellow and the angry
fellow. Here was a guy who was humiliated publicly by Nixon. They fired him,
they shopped the job around, and they asked him to shop the job around for
them. And he hated every bit of it. But he was hurt. He spoke to me about
loyalty and how he had been loyal to them. And obviously he expected them to
be loyal to him and they weren't. And he was very hurt. I think you saw the
dark side of Bob Dole when he looked and he said, "You haven't seen the last of
Watergate. This is very serious stuff." And of course at that moment, in
August of 1972, there had been very little printed except the burglary itself,
and we didn't know the consequences or the Nixon money involved.
FL: Were you at the Nixon funeral?
I saw it on the tube.
FL: Describe that speech and how, if you could, suggest how troubled that
relationship was, what did you see?
HEALY: I was surprised at the Dole speech because, because Dole referred to
him sort of as a mentor, and that Nixon had been his mentor. And having
experienced this scene in 1972, I knew that it had been a very troubled
relationship. And and that through his entire career. And there were moments
when he really didn't like Nixon, and yet he had subverted his own feelings to
be loyal to him and to be loyal to the party. Now some of that obviously was
ambition. He needed Nixon, he needed the Nixon people at least to win the
nominations, to get the, get on the ticket, and he knew that. But the speech
was more of the mentor. The speech itself as you remember, it was a speech
that people, I thought that he went overboard on it. Given his true feelings
about Nixon. But a lot of people do the same thing.
FL: Your own war experience. You said it was absolutely a transforming
experience for you. Take us through that and by going through it and
discovering things about yourself.....what insight did that give you to what
Dole went through and how that's shaped him, and what Clinton has gone through
and how that's shaped him.
Well, I think, WWII really determined the course of my life as much as
anything at that time. I had come from a rather provincial background and here
you end up in Europe, big war, people flying on your wing, getting shot down,
blown up, a lot of people taken prisoners, you're afraid to make close friends
with other crews in the barracks for the simple reason that you don't want to
get too connected with them. Because they may not be there tomorrow night.
And the scene of taking clothes out of the barracks, two - three times a week
was a little unnerving for an 18 year old, even though you were hardened to it
towards the end of tour of the missions. But it also gave you a
resourcefulness. Which you took into life.
And, we were risk takers. All of us were. I mean, going to school, going to
work. Our business, in the newspaper business, was dominated by older men who
wouldn't let you in. And I think the WWII veterans really broke that mold. At
least we made advances in the newspaper business that others hadn't at-at our
particular paper, you had to be a WASP and a Harvard graduate or you didn't
make it beyond assistant city editor. And I became executive editor. And
part of the reason I suppose was resourcefulness.
Now, how does that play with the two people that are running for President.
Well, I think I can be sympathetic to both. I think Dole's a stoic. I think
there's a lot going on with Dole. I think there was a lot going on between his
relationship with Nixon and himself that he hides. I don't think necessarily
that would make him a bad President. I think that he's tough enough to make
the tough calls, I think he's broad enough to listen to other people.
I think Dole, because he had faced enormous risks, would himself be a
risk taker as President. I think because he's been in the military, and like
a lot of people who have served in the military at the lower ranks, which he
basically was a lower rank servant in the military, he has a certain
condemnation for the kind of author- military authority there is, and I think
he'd be very suspect which is a good part of this of him.
Clinton on the other hand, I think he could talk five dogs off a meat wagon.
I think Clinton would love to tell you what is in his head and his heart about
Vietnam. But he sees things through the political prism all the time and I
think he has a real problem connecting anything beyond his ambition. I think
that the experience for him must have been excruciating and I and I think
that that there were two courses I think that he gets some credit for. I think
that the Bosnia thing certainly, he finally moved, he had to move, the military
didn't want him to move, but he did finally move. And I think that he took
great risks in Somalia against military advice. I think that despite the fact
that he has this problem in dealing with the military and those connected with
the military, that he has shown that he can go ahead and be his own man with
FL: Just in summary then, you'd say that war, one man's engagement with it while
the other disengages....It's a crucible and it was an important part of your
experience and you see it as an important part of their experience.
My experience was that it shaped the course of my life. It made me more
resourceful, and I think that in both cases, even you know even with Clinton
agonizing over this war, that it has shaped him. And I think for the better.
I think there are people that are never going to be convinced of that. I think
there are people, particularly of my generation, the Second World War Veterans,
who just don't believe Clinton. But those people are going to have to--we're
not going to have Presidents anymore that served in the in the armed forces. I
mean we're going to go into the next century probably with people who have
never served. I mean it was an essential badge of politics to have served in
the Army, Navy, Marine corps.