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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...

HEALY:

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?

HEALY:

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?

HEALY:

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.

HEALY:

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 'em.

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.

HEALY:

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.

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