FLN: Can you set the scene, describe the way Senators reacted to Dole?
Bob Dole was a member of the Finance Committee as all of the most
powerful Senators arrange for themselves to be. The majority and the minority
leader always make sure they are on the Finance Committee because that's where
the money is and where all of the control of the legislation is.
And we would have Finance Committee meetings in the back room of the Finance
Committee with 20 Senators sitting around a table to discuss the GAT or discuss
health care, something like that. And you always knew that the power was with
Dole. And so there was always a kind of breathless anticipation about what
would Dole say? Where was he going to come out on this?
And whenever he did speak, often in half sentences, often in grunts, often
within jokes, everyone was on the edge of their seats. You could see the
younger Senators --who got the least favorite seats at the table farthest from
Dole--the younger Senators nudging one another saying, 'What did he say? What
was that?' There was a real, and correct, anticipation that whatever Bob Dole
was going to say, was going to define this outcome, more profoundly, than
anything else anyone in the room was going to say.
And this actually converts into one of the problems that Dole has as a
campaigner. He was so accustomed to communicating his position in half
sentences and in grunts and in jokes and asides, to Senators, that it is very
difficult for him when he tries to talk to a general audience. To make it
clear to them, the full dimensions about the way he feels about any particular
problem. I mean I feel like I know the full dimensions about the way he thinks
about problems, and I also know he is the least likely person to provide me
those dimension verbally. He just was never required to. There was very much
this sensation around those conference tables of Bob Dole as the Godfather. As
the guy we were all just waiting to hear him say the word yes or no, and when
he did, nothing else mattered. And he grew kind of accustomed to that.
Understandably so. And it makes him less of a communicator externally to the
rest of the population.
FL: And how fellow Senators ranked him....
Well, Bob Dole was the most admired Senator in the Senate by other Senators.
Every other Senator wanted to be Bob Dole when they grew up. They probably
somewhere inside knew that they weren't ever going to be that good at this
particular kind of work. And so he got admiration across party lines in a way
that I didn't see anyone else get, on that order, with, that number of people.
Liberal, Democratic Senators, really like Bob Dole as a person. Arch
conservative Republican Senators who think Dole is a liberal, really like Bob
Dole as a person. And a lot of it has to do with their gratitude for all of
the thing Dole allowed them to get done. They all knew that Dole was going to
be their guy standing there at the finish line determining their success or
failure, and Dole made sure that everybody had a couple of successes in the
course of the year, so that very few people around there, and there might be 10
or 15 Senators who don't like him, really actively don't like him. But that's
that's an amazingly low number for that place.
FL: So few people that are close to Dole, much more so than most Senators, even
given the fact that the Senate is a treacherous place and politics is a
treacherous place...Can you talk more about that?
Politics is a life of temporary relationships. Friendships are very
strangely defined within politics. Bob Packwood was as Senators go, a close
friend of Bob Dole's. When Bob Packwood's Senatorial life came to a crisis and
he faced being expelled, Bob Dole did not lift a finger in the end to try to
save him from being expelled, and he could not lift a finger in the end to try
to save him from being expelled.
There is in the air this understanding that you never know what's going to
happen with anyone. And it's very very difficult to hold to the normal
standards of friendship, therefore it's very difficult to build intimacy to get
more and more friendly with other Senators. You're going to have disagreements
with every Senator at some point. Serious disagreements. That will really
kill the legislative hope that that particular Senator has for that particular
year. So it's hard to have real working close friendships in what is so often
an adversarial line of work with even the people who are on your side most of
the time. You'll end up in an adversarial position with every single Senator
there at some point.
So those relationships are difficult. They are also temporary because someone
can be there for six years and gone because they lose an election. Then when
you add to the fact that Dole has spent virtually every minute that the Senate
has been out of session, on an airplane flying somewhere to raise money for
other Senate candidates, to raise money for presidential campaigns, to campaign
himself, it, you aren't even allowed the physical proximity of each other in
leisure moments. Now what kind of friendship do you think can develop with
someone who you will never see, at leisure, never, there is an extreme limit on
But yah. Bob Dole is a somewhat more distant character than most Senators.
But his human availability in one on one moments on the Senate floor that is
genuinely intimate. I mean he used to ask me about my daughter and how she was
doing in a more genuine, intimate way than almost anyone else there did. It
was really quite striking to me. And he had no particular reason to bother
with that, and he did. So to the extent that you could have a moment with him,
that was unguarded, he was as unguarded and open and genuine as any Senator I
FL: Trust....closeness....in the environment of the Senate...can you talk a bit
more on that?
Trust is the most dangerous investment that you can make as a politician.
First of all, simply trusting someone with the truth with what you actually
think about a policy, about Hillary Clinton, about Bob Dole, is an extremely
dangerous thing. If you think something negative, that word can get around.
If you're an arch conservative Republican, and you happen to think something
favorable about Hillary Clinton, you might not want that to get around. You
end up in that world, I think at a kind of subconscious level, almost
craving the ability to trust someone, but always recognizing that it is the
single most dangerous thing you can do. And when you have the United States
innate with 100 people enveloped in that kind of dynamic with trust, you know
friendships are going to be kind of limited engagements there. It's a very
I mean I would suggest that possibly the most important argument for term
limits is simply almost for the psychological well being of the holders. How
long can you do that? How long is the denial of the very simple human
indulgence in something as necessary as trust, how long is that possible for