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[This transcript is provided as a service of Journal Graphics. The WGBH Educational Foundation is not responsible for any errors or mischaracterizations in this transcript. JES]

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FRONTLINE Show #1501

Air Date: October 8, 1996

The Choice '96

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE_ it's one month 'till the election. How well do you know the next president?

BILL EMERSON, Southern Writer: Mr. Clinton's a voluble, passionate, gaudy sort of man. He's sort of a thinking Bubba.

STEVE BRODNER, Caricaturist: Dole is a lone wolf seeking his opportunities carefully, methodically, coldly.

ANNOUNCER: It's your choice.

BILL CLINTON: I want to build a bridge to the 21st century_

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the FRONTLINE season premiere, "The Choice '96."

MICHAEL KELLY, Washington Editor, The New Yorker: The White House has become an endless piece of theater. It is always staged. Everything's a campaign event and is designed to trick us.

CAMPAIGN WORKER: You should be cheering and happy that BILL CLINTON is being elected, okay?

BOB DOLE: ["Late Night With David Letterman"] The number one way to balance the budget_ Arkansas_ sell it.

BILL CLINTON: I am a terrible sound-bite politician.

MICHAEL KELLY: People, voters, all of us, have the sense at all times that when we're looking at the president or the man who would be president, there is no way to tell anymore the difference between what is image and what is real.

NARRATOR: Tonight we will look beneath the surface and search out these men through the lenses that matter to understand how they were shaped by their triumphs and their failures, by their home towns and their wars, by their teachers and their God, to look closely behind the faces they present us.

DIRCK HALSTEAD, TIME Magazine, White House Photographer: When I first saw Clinton's face there was an intensity and a sincerity. What I realized as time went on was that there was always the same degree of intensity, of caring, of sincerity. I don't know. I can't tell whether it's because he's so deep or it's because he's so shallow.

DIANA WALKER, TIME Magazine, White House Photographer: He has developed, or he has, or he was born with _ how do I know? _ in my view, a series of expressions. He has "I'm proud of America." He has that look. He has a look of steely determination, a look of concern. But this does not mean that it isn't true. This does not mean that he is not feeling these things.

STEVE BRODNER, Caricaturist: It's terribly frustrating to draw Bill Clinton. There's no telling in the face where he's going. There's no telling in the face what his core is. He leaves all the options open.

He consumes. He consumes policy. He consumes issues_ consumes people. He's a wide, soft, round, like a Macy's balloon kind of character. Covers a lot of ground. It's held onto by a lot of people. But after it's past, we wonder what we saw.

So when I draw him, I draw this person of excess, where everything is just kind of sticking out and thrusting itself. The jaw thrusts out. The cheeks are_ are not jowly, they're just wide.

That face is very easy to link up with a policy that is really a very indistinct policy, so that it can be amended and changed as the political winds change.

GREG HEISLER, Photographer: In Bob Dole's case, the look in his eyes conveys a wariness, a pain and an anger. It's the look someone gives you when they're cranky with you. It's the look someone gives you when they're not happy with you. It's the look someone gives you when they don't trust you at all. And it was more than serious and it was very direct, but it looked hurt.

P.F. BENTLEY, Special Correspondent, TIME Magazine: It's all in the eyes. Every time we look and hold up that optic, we aim into their eyes. Those eyes on that day, on that incident, have hope and these are items that you can tell every day_ hope, anger, happiness, frustration.

STEVE BRODNER: What I basically get from Dole is a sense of a hungry person, a person who is seeking his opportunities carefully, methodically, coldly. In the hollows of his face I'd find a certain hollowness in him, and brooding eyes, as if there are things going on in the dark there.

And to me, those things that go on in the dark are key because all his life in politics, Dole has been operating in the dark. He has been making his deals. He has been connecting with contributors, powerful interests. All of these elements go into the gears of power that enable him to craft legislation, to find compromise. It's not done in public. It's not done in the light of day. It's in the dark.

I don't think he's comfortable revealing anything on camera. That's the light. He doesn't know how to function that well in the light. But in the dark, he's full of energy and he operates. And for a public, an American public that wants to see everything right out there on the table, perhaps that's a little scary.

GREG HEISLER: I think what people distrust is the one-dimensional candidate that they're endlessly presented with because people know there's more to everybody than that. They just know it. They can watch a thousand T.V. interviews and hear a million pundits roar about the various aspects of this person. Ultimately, they know the president's not that simple a guy and they really want to get a sense, truly, for themselves, as authentically as they can, of who the hell is this guy?

ROGER MORRIS, Nixon Biographer: And until we see politicians in a candid way, beyond their appearance, beyond their earnestness, beyond their public facade, we can't begin to heal this political system.

I remember a moment on the White House lawn when Henry Kissinger turned to Pat Nixon after a presidential speech and, in an effort to ingratiate himself, typically, said how wonderful her husband was and what a wonderful speech Richard Nixon had made. And Pat Nixon turned almost sarcastically and said, "Haven't you seen through him yet?"

I think we need to see through our politicians in ways that we have not seen through them, in ways that we've chosen not to see through them. If we expect them to deal effectively with the real crises that confront us, if we expect them to realize our hopes and our dreams as a democratic society, we simply must take their measure more effectively.

Landscape

NARRATOR: Poets tell us that land is the map of the soul. Our first landscapes are written into us and, as years pass, convey the essential lines of our character.

VOICES of MIDWESTERN WRITERS: It's a very harsh landscape. The weather goes to great extremes.

It can be a hard place to live.

It's a lonesome existence, in some respects, but also it tends to make individuals very self-reliant.

You come to know your neighbors intimately. They know you intimately. You're dependent on that neighbor, but you also don't want to expose yourself too much.

PAUL GRUCHOW, Midwestern Writer: One of the things that I knew growing up was that I hadn't grown up at the center of anything, that I wasn't in any place in the world that really mattered. And it took me a long time, once I had left that country behind, not to feel apologetic about where I'd come from.

I do think it's the case that those of us who've grown up in places like this feel like we have something to atone for and that shows itself, in part, in, I think, that work ethic that is so much a part of our culture and that one sees in Robert Dole. He's still busy, I think, at the age of 72, atoning for having grown up in Russell, Kansas.

JONIS AGEE, Midwestern Writer: We learned to be silent. We spent a great deal of our time growing up being silent because we're listening. I remember doing that, spending hours in fields just waiting and waiting and I'm not sure what I was waiting for.

Once on a Sunday morning I heard these incredible bells and I actually for a moment though that God had come. And then I realized that they were probably from a great distance_ you know, a church.

I was very silent for a long time in my life and I think we don't come to language so naturally and I think that's something that we see in Dole a lot, too. He spent a great deal of time being silent.

LARRY WAIWODE, Midwestern Writer: Forty-mile-an-hour wind we had for three days once. Now, that's a big blow. And indeed, there comes a time in that wind when you just grab hold of something to keep from going out of your mind.

JAMES DICKENSON, Midwestern Writer: You're almost screaming to yourself, "Stop! Stop! Stop the wind!"

PAUL GRUCHOW: The skill you develop as a human being is to learn how to hide within yourself. That's the sort of privacy it's possible to attain in a landscape like this and I think that explains the reticence of somebody like Dole, too. I mean, there's a physical dimension to this.

JONIS AGEE: Yeah, and what's of value is not speaking, but doing. Dole is a man of action. His_ and he really doesn't trust words, I suspect, because people who babble too much, who speak too much, are usually not valued. They're_ they're_ they're speaking, they're talking, you know, they're rambling instead of doing something. We know these people. You don't want to hire them to work on your farm.

JAMES DICKENSON: That's it. This is a laconic land. There's no question about it.

DEAN BANKER, Childhood Friend: One of the things you have to understand is that Kansas, originally, when they first began to come here, it was a treeless plain. We were not, in fact, fenced in. Here you could see for 15 miles as directly as you want to. On a clear day, 25 easily.

And so it opened_ the vista was a little broader and so it gave you a sense of independence. And I will tell you, and these guys certainly would agree, if there's anything we're well known for its independence. We do really believe that we can make our own destiny.

BUB DAWSON, Childhood Friend: The dust would roll in from western Kansas or eastern Colorado and there'd be a dark cloud. We'd hope it was rain, but it would always be dust. You know, Bob Dole always has said, "I've been tested and tested and tested," and I think he means the Depression, the dust storms and the war. I think that's what he means when he keeps saying it. He always says it three times. So I don't know if that's what he means, but that's my interpretation.

DEAN BANKER: Well, it might also mean the dust storm, the dust storm and the dust storm.

GEORGE PYLE, Editor, Salina Journal : Dreams have been killed here. Crops have been blown away. Towns have been destroyed in the night by a storm.

People who come through Kansas who were dreaming big dreams went on to California and Oregon. People who stayed in Kansas were the merchants, the bankers, the sod busters who were just after efficiency. They were just going to stay here and hunker down get the job done. I think there's a lot of that in Bob Dole's character and a lot of that in the Kansas character.

His father had opened a restaurant and it failed. He had plans of being an athlete and a doctor, both taken away from him by his war wounds. He had his dreams taken from him_ literally, violently taken away from him, at one point in his life, and he's not going to allow that to happen again. It can lead you to be the kind of person who will hold onto your dreams very jealously and very fiercely and make sure that it's not taken away from you again.

NORMA JEAN STEELE, Dole's Sister: We did have a point during the Depression when things were really tough. Dad decided that it was time. We had to do something. He didn't have the house payments. And so we moved to the basement, but we didn't seem to mind. We kind of sat down and talked it over and we didn't think anything about it, really. We just gathered up our stuff and moved to the basement. We were down there probably two years, but we got $100 a month and that helped. That took care of our house payment.

BUB DAWSON: Most of us felt that we owed something to our neighbor because our neighbors were giving things to us. For instance, the doctor wasn't charging you anything. The grocery man would take milk in trade for groceries that you needed. So you had this bond and the debt of gratitude and, as I recall, not many people were starving.

ADOLPH REISIG& DEAN BANKER: No. No.

NORMA JEAN STEELE: I really can't remember ever thinking that we were poor. I really can't. I can remember breaking my shoelace and we'd tie them up and re-tie them and re-tie them until they got so short we finally had to give in and get some more.

GLORIA DOLE NELSON, Dole's Sister: I used to baby-sit for 10 cents an hour and do their ironing and wash the dishes and get the kids to bed. Imagine, 10 cents an hour! But if we_ I could go home with 80 cents, that meant eight movies.

NORMA JEAN STEELE: When Mom brought in the scrub pail, we ran to our chairs, and that's true. We each had a chair we'd run to and we didn't get down till the floor was dry. And then she'd wax it and then we still had to stay up there. And every now and then, Kenny'd get a foot down and act like he was going to get out in the middle and Bob would say, "Kenny, you're going to get in trouble," you know? But I can remember being in that chair a lot.

BUB DAWSON: She even waxed the inside of her wastebaskets.

DEAN BANKER: Oh, my goodness!

BUB DAWSON: She was a_ she was an immaculate house cleaner.

DEAN BANKER: Did you hear that? Waxed the inside of her wastebaskets? I didn't know that.

BUB DAWSON: Yes. She was a fine cook, too. A fine cook. But she was just that particular.

RICHARD BEN CRAMER, Author, "What It Takes": Bina Dole was a powerhouse. She had a voice that could take the paint off the walls and she would let you hear it. For instance, the girls had to do the ironing. If Bina found one wrinkle on one of Doran's or Bob's shirts, back it would go in the pile. She'd say, "Sister, you have to learn to do things right."

Now, the same thing went for Dole. When Dole was_ Dole and Kenny, his brother, had to do their jobs, had to do them instantly and do them right. Dole totally internalized these values of perfectionism. Everything about Dole has to be perfect. His press releases, his bills, his letters, his tie, his shirt, his car_ everything has to be perfect.

GAIL SHEEHY, Contributing Editor, Vanity Fair: Dole's father took pride in expressing no emotion. I asked Bob Dole, "Did anybody ever hug in your family?" and he looked startled and said, "No. We didn't touch." It was a_ it was an attribute.

GEORGE PYLE: Not a lot of emotion, not a lot of crying and hugging and_ I was just thinking the other night that in Kansas_ and you have Bill Clinton going around saying, "I feel your pain"_ in Kansas we will give you money so that we don't have to feel your pain, so that you will go away and take care of yourself and take_ we don't want to feel your pain.

BUB DAWSON: We hired Bob Dole as a soda jerk because he was a very popular young man in high school. The girls voted him he best-looking boy in high school, I think, or something like that.

ADOLPH REISIG, Childhood Friend: Their ideal.

BUB DAWSON: Yeah, their ideal boy. He was on the football and basketball team, ran track.

ADOLPH REISIG: He was a great-looking person. He had a fine physique. He was not an ordinary high school athlete. He was an exception.

BUB DAWSON: You have to be sort of a showman to be a soda jerk.

DEAN BANKER: You developed these skills that would serve you well throughout life. I think anybody who clerked anywhere as a background would do better in Washington as a result of those skills that they learned while they were waiting on the trade, as he put it.

GLORIA DOLE NELSON: He learned at the drug store how to cut up, maybe for the first time, and to be not so serious and have fun and relax and he learned to get his personality out a little bit. And these little one-liners_ I think that's a very good place where they might have started.

GEORGE PYLE: If you go to any coffee shop in Kansas_ and I don't know that this is unique to Kansas, but you go to any coffee shop in Kansas, you'll see a lot of 70-year-old people sitting around, drinking coffee, insulting each other. You know, it's really_ it's kind of the way they express their affection for each other But, you know, you can't say, "I love you, man," in Kansas. You say, "Boy, that's an ugly truck" or "Where did you get that tie?" or_ you know, Bob Dole has raised that to a higher level, but it_ that's kind of the Kansas sense of humor.

People of Bob Dole's generation_ life was hard and they don't see any other way of living. They don't expect life to be easy. They don't expect government to make it easy for them. It's hard and it's going to remain hard and you'll only survive if you're just as hard.

VOICES of SOUTHERN WRITERS and ARTISTS: The geography of Arkansas is so varied. We have the mountains and we have the rivers and we have the deltas and we have the creeks and we have the cotton patches and we have the watermelon patches.

There are birds of every description. There are bees and beetles and snakes and fish and deer and whatever you can think of.

It's hot and it's lush and the landscape is sensual and inviting and it's soaked in color and blossom. It swoons and blooms forever.

You feel the kindness of nature there. You don't feel that some terrible storm is going to come and blow you away.

You're invited to be out in the grass and have most of your skin uncovered.

Southerners live in this kind of wilderness of flowers and birds, a cornucopia upturned, and everything growing like crazy.

The kudzu vine that covers everything and grows a foot a night and sprawls and eats everything and covers barns and tractors and slow-moving children.

It's been known to consume a cow if left overnight in the field and the next morning_

The cow hollering in the middle of the night!

Yeah, the next morning, nothing but kudzu.

Southerners tend to be much more exuberant and open and with an almost prodigal abundance of feeling and it tends to be a much more operatic, emotional style.

I think Bill Clinton embodies this.

LYNN POWELL, Southern Writer: I think in the South, talk is like these tendrils going out_ tendrils of talk going out, like in the landscape.

BILL EMERSON, Southern Writer: Oh, God, yes.

LYNN POWELL: The landscape is unpruned and unmanicured. It's verbose itself.

BILL EMERSON: And so is the talk. That's right. So is the_

LYNN POWELL: The landscape is verbose.

BILL EMERSON: That's right. It is. It is.

LYNN POWELL: It's prolific.

BILL EMERSON: It's promiscuous. It's outrageous.

DOUG MARLETTE, Southern Artist: And I think Bill Clinton has this_ this quality, this essence.

BILL EMERSON: I think it's there, very definitely, in Mr. Clinton, and that's the thing that makes a lot of people _ not me _ uneasy about him, you know? I mean, he's a voluble, passionate, gaudy sort of man. He's sort of a thinking Bubba.

MARSHALL FRADY, Southern Writer: Clinton represents Jimmy Carter and Billy Carter kind of morphed into the same being, wholly containing all those qualities at once_ you know, these great, barging appetites, lip-smacking appetites, and that studious earnestness and_ and diligence.

BILL EMERSON: Everything we've said, all this hype, all the rest of it, all this fructifying prose and this honey-drippin' rhetoric_ this is all very Southern_

DEBORAH MATHIS, Southern Writer: Yes, it is.

BILL EMERSON: _and it's a part of Southernness that the rest of the nation is profoundly suspicious of and hostile to. [crosstalk]

DEBORAH MATHIS: The bottom line is to not offend. That's the effort that's made there_

BILL EMERSON: On the frontier, that was very important.

DEBORAH MATHIS: _not to_ not to offend. And I think part of that goes to the Southern need to be liked and to be accepted that in large part comes from the devastation after the Civil War_

MARSHALL FRADY: And in Clinton's beginnings.

DEBORAH MATHIS: _just not good enough, not smart enough_

MARSHALL FRADY: Very important.

DEBORAH MATHIS: _not whatever enough as the rest of the country and comparable_ and having to try and prove always that, you know, "You do like me, don't you? You will treat me like a fellow American, won't you? You will let me in. You do think I'm as smart as you are, don't you?" And so sometimes empathy or feigned empathy is the mode, is the vehicle to get to that place of being liked.

DOUG MARLETTE: What I've experienced with Bill, I always see in the president's eyes as he_ in that engaging, in that hugging, in that embracing that goes on, and then the being there with you and for you and feeling your pain and whatever_ plus I always notice that there's a moment of_ when he recognizes that he has you, that he has won you, and then moves on_ and then moves on. And it's like checking you off the list.

MARSHALL FRADY: He's a collector.

DEBORAH MATHIS: Let me tell you this. He is both a child of the South and he is this weird hybrid thing, too. He has betrayed what Southern men are about_ military service, protecting home and family. He has that charm, that_ that Southern charm that up North they like to call "slick."

LYNN POWELL: Clinton is a Southerner in form still_

DEBORAH MATHIS: Exactly!

LYNN POWELL: _but the content_

DEBORAH MATHIS: Exactly.

LYNN POWELL: _has changed.

DEBORAH MATHIS: Exactly. Exactly.

BILL EMERSON: That's great. That's true.

NARRATOR: Bill Clinton tells us he came from Hope, but he really grew up in Hot Springs.

VOICES: Hot Springs is the most beautiful, enchanting place. It's set in a valley like a little jewel.

It was unlike any other town in Arkansas, possibly unlike any other town in the South. It had always been, since its founding, a resort town.

People would come to Hot Springs for the baths. There was a migration into Hot Springs after the Civil War.

Things were happening here that weren't supposed to happen. Gambling was illegal statewide.

Gambling houses, whorehouses, racetracks, quack doctors selling fake cures_

Yet on the other hand, you had the churches on every corner.

Just about everybody came through here.

People came from New York and Chicago.

You'd have the gamblers come to town, sitting by us in the same pew.

It was a mixed world.

It was a magical town.

A sort of wonderful, charming corruption.

Move stars came to Hot Springs. They would come to matinees at the movie theaters. We had more movie theaters than any other little town in Arkansas.

My father was a bookie. The state police might have come at any moment to arrest him.

Hot Springs had sold its soul for this illegal gambling.

But it was legal in Hot Springs because everybody did it.

You had the Summer Club and the Vapors and so on and all the big stars came down, like Phyllis Diller and Liberace.

ROGER MORRIS, Author, Partners in Power: If Bill Clinton has a political tutelage as a young boy and as a young man growing up, it is that marvelous hypocrisy that Hot Springs represents. And of course, it is later translated into so much of American politics.

PAUL BOSSON, Hot Springs Prosecutor: In Hot Springs, growing up here, you were living a lie. You lived a lie because you knew that all of these activities were illegal. I mean, as soon as you got old enough to be able to read a newspaper, you knew that gambling in Arkansas was illegal, prostitution was illegal. And so you lived this lie, so you have to find some way to justify that to yourself and, you know, you justify it by saying, "Well," you know, "it's okay here."

VIRGINIA KELLY, Clinton's Mother (1923-1994): Hot Springs was so different. We had wide-open gambling, for one thing, and it was so wide open that it never occurred to me that it was illegal _ it really didn't _ until it came to a vote about whether we were going to legalize gambling or not. I never was so shocked.

NARRATOR: Bill Clinton's father died in a car accident before his son was born. His mother moved from Hope to Hot Springs, her true home. She once said, "If Hot Springs hadn't existed, I would have had to invent it."

GAIL SHEEHY: She was a force. She loved to be on stage and to shock people. She wore tube tops and short shorts and got her shoulders dangerously brown and took that Buick convertible and drove down Main Street with her shoulders flashing right past the whorehouses and to the racetrack every day.

VOICES: Virginia Kelly was the greatest horse player in America.

She loved to be at that track every day and to bet on the ponies and she loved to go to dinner and she loved to go to parties and she was just a_

_a good ol' gal that went out and had fun.

She had the eyebrows painted up here and the bright red lipstick and the eye shadow and the white streak in her hair and just dressed in vivid colors.

She stood out even in Hot Springs.

She was very much like a star, but she was also a professional woman.

DAVID MARANISS, Author, First in His Class: She woke up every day optimistic, believing that she could do something better for herself, for her kids. Part of that was blocking out the negative to_ sort of creating her own fictional life.

GAIL SHEEHY: The Clinton household, when Bill Clinton was growing up, was a pretty explosive place. There was a lot of alcohol around. There was a lot of physical abuse. The stepfather that Virginia Kelly brought into his life would just erupt without any warning and take some shots at the wall or take some blows at Virginia Kelly. And Bill Clinton was this little kid who was trying to keep peace and be the adult in a situation where the adults were acting like children.

VIRGINIA KELLY: If it was hard for him, I never knew it. I could see no change in him. He went right ahead with his school, his activities, his friendships. I could never tell a change in him. But I look back now and see the tremendous responsibility that he accepted for himself to protect me. I can see that now.

GAIL SHEEHY: And so BILL CLINTON acted like a good husband for many years, kind of keeping control, keeping some peace in the family, protecting his brother, protecting his mother, acting as his mother's surrogate husband when she kicked his abusive stepfather out of the house. He didn't have time to be 16 when he was 16 and, as he told me, you know, "I guess I was 40 when I was 16 and I always hoped I wouldn't have to be 16 when I was 40."

VIRGINIA KELLY: Yes, I remember him practicing. I also remember his bringing all his friends that are playing different instruments and different tunes into our home. I remember that, too. You should hear that! You should live through that. Oh, my goodness!

NARRATOR: As a teenager Bill Clinton played in the band and ran for almost every school office. The American Legion chose him for Boys Nation, their summer program for small-town favorite sons. In 1963 they sent his group to Washington, D.C.

DAVID MARANISS: From the time he was 10 years old they were saying, "This kid is different. He's going to be president some day." The first time I saw it was when he was only 16 years old and it's the iconic handshake with John Kennedy, the transfer of ambition from one generation to the next.

It was no accident. On the bus ride down to the Rose Garden that day it was Bill Clinton that was asking the chaperone, "Will I get to meet the president? Will I be able to shake his hand? Will I get a picture taken with him? My mother would love it."

And the other boys described to me how, when the bus pulled up in the back of the Washington, they had this sort of race walk to get to the best position in the Rose Garden and Bill Clinton, lanky Bill Clinton, six-two, won that race walk. And so when Kennedy was done with his speech, he had no choice. There was Bill Clinton, waiting for him with his hand out. It's always like that with Bill Clinton.

When Clinton was only 19 years old he wrote a letter to his girlfriend saying he was searching for a road ahead that would put an asterisk by his name in the billion pages of the book of life_ a 19-year-old.

The engine of Bill Clinton's ambition is, in one sense, a deep need for affirmation. Part of it is coming out of a small town without knowing a father. He's needed love and affirmation his whole life. But it really goes beyond that, beyond affirmation toward a need for being remembered, a need for immortality.

War

VOICES: I think this is an election about who these men are and I think there is no more important measurement of who they are than how they responded to the wars that they faced and the experiences they went through in that war.

The tradition of heroic wars is as old as Homer and it's passed on, transmitted to generation after generation by literature, by poetry, by popular films, by music, so that every generation grows up with children ardent for some desperate glory.

Everybody's forgotten about how young we all were during the Second World War. We were all virtually children. We had to grow up very fast with a totally different set of values.

We went to war without any qualms about whether the Japanese had attacked us or the Nazis had invaded Europe. We were terribly young.

The sacrifice of friends would be insupportable unless you made it meaningful.

You cannot do anything more serious than kill other people.

It was a horror. It was terrible. It was insanity.

It is the most serious experience that civilization holds.

NARRATOR: At 19 Dole was called into the Army for training. In February, 1945, only two months before the war ended, the new lieutenant was sent to the Italian front to lead troops from the elite 10th Mountain Division. Dole's patrol was caught in German fire. His radioman went down and Dole pulled him into a foxhole, but the man was dead. As Dole climbed out again, he was hit by a shell in his back and shoulder.

NORMA JEAN STEELE: It was horrible. I couldn't believe it was him, but_ he was in a full body cast. And when they first_ when he first got back and settled in his room, he had gotten Mom a beautiful brooch. So he had the nurse_ he knew she was coming. She was in the hospital and on her way to his room and he had this brooch draped over his cast and he wanted her to have it. But he couldn't hand it to her, you know, so_ that was pretty neat. But it was hard, you know? It's still hard.

BOB DOLE: I remember the first time I looked in a mirror, I couldn't believe it was me. They got me out of bed one day and the bathroom door was open and there was a mirror on the far wall on the shaving cabinet. I couldn't believe that was Bob Dole and so I didn't look in the mirror. I still don't look in the mirror except to shave.

RICHARD BEN CRAMER, Author What It Takes: Dole lost everything when he got hit. You know, he was a kid who had always defined himself by his body, you know, how he built himself up. He was built like a tank. And then when he was injured, all of that was wiped out. Suddenly his body was his enemy. He was ashamed of it. He was ashamed of himself for not being able to get out of bed. He was ashamed of the way he stunk in the body cast. He was ashamed that people had to help him.

BOB DOLE: It's kind of hard to adjust. You know, you don't know how you're being accepted by people. Obviously, they are sorry it happened and there's pity. And I remember my dad coming up one Christmas. He had to stand all the way on the train, the trains were so crowded. He got up there, his ankles were swollen.

PAUL FUSSELL, Author, Wartime: He had it much worse than I did. He was in the hospital for years. I was in the hospital for six months. And I'm sure when he came back, he faced the question of, "What shall I do with the rest of my life that's going to do some good? What shall I do to argue my value and to give me a reason for going on with my life?" As you can see, I get very emotional about it, just the way Bob Dole does. And I'm a radical Democrat.

MICHAEL KELLY, The New Yorker: People who go through the horror of war, they're exposed to the kinds of truths about the world that most of the rest of us spend a great deal of energy avoiding seeing. It is a bleaker and a darker place than we think it is.

A lot of Dole's wit seems to stem from this. Dole's wit is predicated on the notion of "as it if mattered." He cannot stop himself from turning and muttering some sardonic "as if it mattered" aside and there is a sense almost in his entire campaign of "as if it mattered"_ you know, "as if it mattered if I got to be president," as if it mattered who you voted for, in a sense, which is quite odd and puzzling to voters, I think.

And it's, I think, only explicable if you see it in terms of what he went through in the war. If you go through the same kind of thing he went through, the rest of your life is a sort of "as if it mattered." Everything that mattered happened.

DAVID HARRIS, Author, Our War: Bob Dole is a man who knows what it means to take the consequences and he knows what taking a risk means because nobody knows what taking a risk means until you lose at it. When you lose at it, then you know what a risk is about and Bob Dole knows what risk is about. He took that risk when he ran out to pull_ to try to pull that poor boy that was dying out there back to safety. He took a risk and he paid the price for it.

I think his war experience was a lot more complex than we would think or than he would let on. But what did he learn from all this? Whatever his experience in World War II was, it did not guide him well in Vietnam.

AMERICAN SOLDIER: [Vietnam] Just hoping to stay alive from day to day. The whole thing stinks, really.

DAVID HARRIS: There was an issue of right and wrong and I think Bob Dole missed it entirely. He was an active participant in sending more kids down the rat hole that Lyndon Johnson had started sending them down. He was not a man who understood what was going on in Vietnam. He was not a man who could step out of that pattern, even though it was a pattern that was enormously wasteful and was serving no purpose. And I think he even understood that, but he could not step out of that pattern. Bill Clinton, for whatever problems he had making decisions, stepped out of the pattern. He knew that the war was wrong.

I think the war, the Vietnam war, and how you responded to it was certainly the defining issue for my generation. I don't think the country has yet recovered from it and I think the decisions that led us into Southeast Asia are still haunting us to this day.

On issues of war and peace, which are really issues about life and death, you deal in the first person singular. I made a decision that wasn't what I wanted to do, that there was no good reason to kill these people and that I was not going to be part of that process and I don't care who else was part of it, I was not going to be part of it, and that, ultimately, to be the person I had in mind, I had to disobey a whole series of orders. And the consequence was, of course, they put me in prison.

DAVID MIXNER, Author, Stranger Among Friends: I think today that people have a hard time understanding what faced every young man of draft age at that time and how they had to examine their conscience and where they came from and who they were and what they stood for.

NARRATOR: Bill Clinton fought his private war with Vietnam during 1969, while studying at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

ROBERT REICH, Oxford Classmate: Most of us didn't know what to do. We were obviously patriotic, but faced with the reality of it, Vietnam, we didn't know what to do. Bill was in the middle of those discussions. There were ways in which you could get a deferment if you agreed to teach or to go on with your studies or to go into ROTC. Most of us followed that route. It was the simplest route_ get a deferment.

DAVID MARANISS: The extraordinary thing about Clinton and Vietnam and the way he handled his averting the draft and explaining it later is that he really knew right then_ the moment he got his draft notice he knew that he would be spending the rest of his life dealing with this issue.

NARRATOR: Clinton's deferment did not come easily, but he finally got it with the help of an Army colonel, Eugene Holmes, who signed him into an ROTC program in Arkansas.

DAVID MARANISS, Author, First In His Class: But he never really intended to serve in the ROTC and he worked out a deal where he could go back to Oxford for a second year before going into the program. And while there, he decided that he'd re-enlist in the draft, right at a time when it was obvious to him that the draft was being done out of existence by President Nixon and there would soon be a lottery and that they had essentially stopped drafting people that whole fall of 1969.

NARRATOR: Clinton was lucky that December 1st. He got a high lottery number. Two days later he wrote to the Army colonel to explain he'd had second thoughts about ROTC all along.

[reading] "Dear Colonel Holmes: After I signed the ROTC letter of intent, I began to wonder whether the compromise I had made with myself was not more objectionable than the draft because I had no interest in the ROTC program in itself and all I seemed to have done was to protect myself from physical harm.

The decision not to be a resister and related subsequent decisions were the most difficult of my life. I decided to accept the draft, in spite of my beliefs, for one reason: to maintain my political viability within the system. For years I have worked"_

MICHAEL KELLY: He is saying right there, "I, BILL CLINTON, am obliged to get out of the way or risk in the Vietnam war." In that moment, writing that, that is a young man coming to accept in his mind the great compromise from which all the other compromises will flow. "I have to do this because I have to keep my political options open and the reason I have to keep my political options open is because I have great and good things to do in my life." And that idea is the core idea that will allow Bill Clinton from then on, for the rest of his life, to rationalize anything that he has to do_ making a promise that he knows he can't keep, saying something that he knows is not true.

DAVID HARRIS: My issue with the letter is that he denied that it existed. That, to me, is much more telling about Bill Clinton, that he is_ you know, that 20 years after the fact that he was unable to then stand up for that letter and say, "Yes, that was me. That's who I was. I thought the war was wrong. I didn't want to be part of it and I did whatever I could to stay out of it." If he had simply said that, I would_ I would be much more comfortable with Bill Clinton.

BILL CLINTON: Did I do anything illegal or wrong? I did not. I made myself available for a draft. It is now clear to everybody. The facts are clear. I didn't know_ you know, I keep telling you I didn't know if there was going to be a lottery, but I certainly didn't know what my number would be or whether I would be called. That is clear. I put myself into the draft. That is the indisputable fact.

DAVID HARRIS: The ironic thing, that when finally someone from the Vietnam generation gets to the highest post in the land, he uses his post to make it all the more difficult for us to grapple with that experience by his own refusal to front up his own experience.

JOAN BAEZ: [singing] Ain't gonna let no lousy nation turn me around, keep on walking, keep on talking / Marching up to freedom land_

EVAN THOMAS, Editor, Newsweek: I think my generation, which is Bill Clinton's generation, is afflicted with a little bit of self-doubt because we never had to go to war or we avoided war, as opposed to our parents' generation, Bob Dole's generation, which fought a good war and got a sense of certainty and confidence and a sense of a belief that the United States could win, we can win the wars that we enter, that we can solve problems, that we can make life better. I don't think that my generation has that confidence. I don't think Bill Clinton has that confidence.

MARTHA SAXTON, Friend: This was a really defining and a terrible moment for him. He knew that by not going other people were going to go. It was_ it was just the inevitable consequence. And not only he knew that they were, it wasn't some anonymous "they." These were friends of his, people he really knew.

He was very, very opposed to the war, hated the war. On the other hand, it never left him feeling that any means was acceptable to get out, and so I think that one sees that later, in his presentation of how he dealt with the draft, that this for him was a moral conflict on a very primitive level and it really never_ in some way never really settled for him.

DAVID HARRIS: For both of these men, the issue of what kind of warriors they were is defining. We see a great deal about them despite themselves. I perceive Bob Dole as a teeth-gritter who is determined to make it through and I perceive Bill Clinton as a vacillator who is trying to find a way out of a hopeless dilemma. Both of those pictures I get from their war experience and they're the dominant pictures I have of each of them.

Teachers

NARRATOR: Both Bill Clinton and Bob Dole chose political mentors who helped them become themselves. Richard Nixon was Bob Dole's teacher.

BOB DOLE: I believe the second half of the 20th century will be known as the age of Nixon. He was a boy who heard the train whistle in the night and dreamed of all the distant places that lay at the end of the track. How American. He was the grocer's son_

R.W. APPLE, Washington Bureau Chief, New York Times: I was at the Nixon funeral and it was evident, I think, to everyone who had known both men that when Dole talked about Nixon's father and Nixon listening to railroad whistles and wanting to move on, he was taking about Bob Dole and Bob Dole's father.

BOB DOLE: _unyielding in his convictions. My God bless Richard Nixon and may God bless the United States.

JOHN EHRLICHMAN, Nixon Aide: There was a piece of Bob Dole in that casket. And I think he identified very closely with Richard Nixon at that moment. That's the way it felt to me. They were_ they were alike in a lot of ways and it must have been very difficult to eulogize a man so similar to himself.

ROGER MORRIS: I think Bob Dole saw in Richard Nixon a politician who was unappreciated and misunderstood, who had been misrepresented, in a sense, by the press to the American people, whose own personal trials and torments and hard work and anguish, whose own humble origins had never really been taken into account by the public, by the society in Washington. And I think that was Bob Dole_ Bob Dole, the poor boy from Russell, Kansas, who had suffered this devastating wound and who had fought his way back from the brink of death and then the politician who goes to Washington. He was a Nixonian figure. He comes out of Nixon's America more than any other Republican politician of the time.

RICHARD BEN CRAMER: The first time he ever really spent any time with Nixon was in 1964, when Nixon came to Pratt, Kansas, to help Bob Dole's reelection campaign to the House_ big crowd, big day. Dole was very thankful. But what really impressed Dole was that afterwards he got on Nixon's plane.

Nixon was flying east to Herbert Hoover's funeral and Nixon could look down anywhere in the country_ anywhere, any state in the country he could look down, he could tell you where he was. He could tell you who the political leaders were, who the county chairmen were, what their problems were, where the candidates were and what their standing was in the polls. He had the map of the nation at his instant command and Dole saw in that what you needed to know and I think he knew he could do it.

NARRATOR: Dole saw his chance to rise. He sought the top party position, chairman of the Republican National Committee. Nixon agreed. His staff was opposed. As in everything, Dole had to fight for it.

ROGER MORRIS: Bob Dole becomes, in effect, quite an agent and spokesman, if not a hatchet man and a hit man, for Richard Nixon. The White House, I know from being there, in foreign policy as well as in domestic issues, can count on Bob Dole to stand up on the floor of the Senate and to attack, as_ as strongly and_ and viciously as Nixon could hope, the opponents of the White House_ a George McGovern or anyone else.

JOHN EHRLICHMAN: Dole was asked to give speeches painting McGovern as, you know, a commie pinko radical, whatever the rhetoric was in those days, but to paint him as a far-out leftist.

Sen. BOB DOLE: The president was very pleased this morning that someone was about to rally around the cause, even as a_

ROGER MORRIS: Dole, I think, was always doing, in his view, the work of the Lord. He was a fierce advocate of the Vietnam war, a defender of the president's policies, fiercely loyal to Nixon himself, much more loyal than Nixon was to him.

Sen. BOB DOLE: We're not going to have peace any quicker by just doing nothing. We should defend the president if we think he's right.

JOHN EHRLICHMAN: Pat Buchanan was one of our speech writers. And he hasn't changed much in 25 years and the kind of stuff he was sending up to Dole was pretty powerful and not always tasteful. Dole, I think, exercised some pretty good judgment in turning down some of the stuff that was sent up.

Well, there came a time when Richard Nixon realized he was going to be reelected by a very large plurality and he began thinking about changing his staff and began talking about replacing Bob Dole, along with a lot of other people.

One of the people that was invited to Camp David to have his head cut off was Bob Dole. The president had decided Dole was not doing what he originally wanted him to do in the Senate to his satisfaction and so he was going to replace him. Dole resisted being replaced, that people in Kansas would know he had been dumped by the president.

BOB DOLE: That's sort of a harsh word, "dumped," but I guess I was let down. But I don't feel_

SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL, Author, The Permanent Campaign: The rite of humiliation was quite elaborate. Dole was sent to Bush, to the U.N. ambassador, to talk about this. He didn't know that Bush had already been offered the job and accepted it, that it already had been pulled away from him, that this was all a kind of charade that he was forced to act in by Nixon. And he was very bitter about the whole experience.

REPORTER: Senator Dole, during the campaign, as chairman of the party, you were often called upon to defend the administration against charges that Watergate had occurred and White House people were involved. Were you lied to?

Sen. BOB DOLE: Well, I wasn't told anything, so I don't know how you can construe that unless there is a silent lie. But I was_ I asked from time to time that I'd be going on at a news conference or on some program, "What should I know about the Watergate?" And I was told it was a one-day story, and it was. That day and every day since.

SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL: Nixon's disgraced. Nixon resigns office. But it is Bob Dole who decides on his own that he will make up with Nixon and not only make up, but seek Nixon out as a mentor. Bob Dole wants Richard Nixon's blessing even after what Nixon has done to him.

DAVID MARANISS: Dole has always been haunted by Nixon. It's an incredible love-hate relationship. But he also, more than anything else, saw in Nixon this resilience, this picking himself up and keeping going after an incredible trauma. I mean, being kicked out of being the president of the United States is a trauma equal to losing your right arm_ you know, the usefulness of your right arm. And I think Dole always made that connection. And so I think he really admired Nixon more after his disgrace than beforehand and their relationship certainly deepened during those years. Nixon would write him letters giving him political advice. Dole kept them in his office drawer right there ready to read at all times.

ROGER MORRIS: How much he genuinely believed in his policies we really don't know. Dole's own politics and policies seemed to evolve beyond Richard Nixon. But there was a fierceness, a kind of emotional tie there which I think goes beyond anything historians ordinarily deal with.

SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL: Both men are among the most powerful figures in our politics over the last half century. It's a relationship of father and son, of brothers, of unequals in which the power relationships shift, of someone who rises and someone who falls, of someone who has a future and someone seeking to redeem his past, of someone who seeks a mentor, of someone who desires a protege. It is all of these things at once. It is a very strange and curious friendship.

BILL CLINTON: When I was barely 20 years old, Senator Fulbright's administrative assistant called me one morning in Arkansas and asked me if I wanted a job working for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as an assistant clerk. Since I couldn't really afford the cost of my education at Georgetown, I told him I was interested. And he said, "Well, you can have a part-time job at $3,500 a year or a full-time job at $5,000 a year." I said, "How about two part-time jobs?" He replied that I was just the sort of mathematician they were looking for and would I please come. The next week, literally a day and a half later, I was there working for a person I had admired all my life. And the rest of it is history.

DOUG MARLETTE: Clinton admired Fulbright tremendously. He was a rather reserved, dignified, scholarly Senator who wasn't that close to anybody who worked for him. Fulbright broke all of the stereotypes of the Arkansas hick. And that's what Clinton wanted to do more than anything else, and so he followed the pattern. He went to Oxford in Fulbright's footsteps, as a Rhodes Scholar. He focused on education as trying to bring Arkansas up the way Fulbright did with his Fulbright scholarships.

RANDALL WOODS, Author, Fulbright: A Biography: Clinton wanted to be Fulbright. He wanted to go to Oxford. He wanted to go to Washington. He wanted to roam the halls of power. Not only was Fulbright a way out of the stereotypical Arkansas, the stereotypical South, he was the ticket out and Clinton punched that ticket hundreds, thousands of times.

MARSHALL FRADY: Senator William Fulbright was regarded as the liberal conscience of the Senate, but he was also, at the same time, many found very improbably, one of the Senate's most implacable segregationists in those highly fevered years of the '50s and '60s, supporting segregation in order to survive. It was a calculation not lost on Bill Clinton that Fulbright had arrived at.

NANCY BEKAVAC, Friend: Bill did talk once about Fulbright's stand on race being a tragic flaw, that, obviously, Bill would have preferred that he be a hero on it, but he wasn't.

HAYNES JOHNSON, Co-Author, The System: He never would vote for the Civil Rights bills of the period during segregation. He would not speak out about Little Rock and the integration movements. He was criticized terribly about being another Southern segregationist and so forth because he wanted to stay in power to do other things that he could do and make a difference in education and domestic politics and the exchange programs and the rest. Bill Clinton understood that and watched it, knows the history of that.

Sen. WILLIAM FULBRIGHT: I do not mean to suggest, of course, that I now agree with the course of action that we are following in Vietnam.

HAYNES JOHNSON: He also knows the history when Fulbright took on, with enormous courage and independence, challenged his own president, someone close to him, Lyndon Johnson, over the war in Vietnam, which was incredibly controversial for Fulbright to do at that time.

HOYT PURVIS, Fulbright Press Secretary: That was a time when Bill Clinton was there and he knew the strain under which Fulbright was_ was operating. He knew all the political forces that were pulling against him and he knew that the pressure that was coming from the Johnson White House.

RANDALL WOODS: Think about all the political havoc that was going on. This is a guy who wants to be a successful politician and he's living through this_ this political Armageddon, from Fulbright's dissent and isolation to Johnson's absolute self-destruction. If you're a politico, it's like the world's coming to an end. This is the end of the world as we know it. Of course, Fulbright's thinking in terms of democracy and republicanism. Clinton's thinking in terms of "There goes my chance to be president."

I think that Clinton learned from what he perceived to be Fulbright's mistakes. Clinton saw his isolation, saw what the cost of that rigidity was and I think decided that that was not for him. It may be that this need that Clinton supposedly has to reinvent himself every Monday is a reaction to the terrible political and psychological price that Fulbright paid for his rigid dissent.

God

NARRATOR: Clinton is a Baptist. Dole is a Methodist. The two religions could not be more dissimilar. So many of the differences between these two men flow from this source.

VOICES: The Methodist church is a quiet church. A quiet church.

But not something where you were taught to wear your heart on your sleeve or express yourself emotionally.

We didn't demonstrate.

I was always struck by how long the sermons were.

We didn't make a big deal out of religion.

Moderation in everything, no excess emotion.

Cool, stern_

Well, you didn't walk down the front and say, "I've been saved." You sat in your pews and you absorbed the religion as it was given to you, if you please.

This is a very silent but strong faith. You don't talk about it. It's bad form to talk about it. You live it.

We didn't hallelujah or immerse anyone in baptism. We just sprinkled them. That's the kind of church Bob grew up in.

DEAN BANKER, Friend: It was not, you know, a gigantic "Hurrah, hurrah" type of thing. It was_ it's serious and you have to understand your responsibilities. You've got to believe in God. You've got to understand that there is only one being and that being will take care of you if you do believe. If you don't believe, then you may not ever make it. There was a little bit of_ a little scare tactics occasionally thrown at the troops. It didn't ever scar Bub or him, but it scared me.

LEONARD SWEET, Dean, Drew Theological University: What I find so fascinating about Dole's spiritual pedigree is the language, Methodism, is just warp and woof of all of his biography. He_ he comes out of this church in Russell, Kansas, that is classic Midwest Methodism. He grows up with a father who is used by the church to go and visit people who are sick, when there's a death, so his father is kind of the pater familias of the church. Today we'd call him the lay leader.

Also there's that real tremendous optimism of spirit, but at the same time there's this pessimism of any time, any moment, anything can happen and you're totally dependent on God's grace and God's mercy. And then realities_ I mean, facing the realities, not escaping from them, but facing the daily realities and the challenges and_ and deal with it. I mean, it's a wonderful '90s injunction, "Deal with it." I mean, whatever life brings, deal with it. Don't evade it, deal with it, deal with those realities.

DOUG MARLETTE: Religion to Dole is Russell, it's Kansas, it's the United States, it's sort of the golden rule. I think it's a fairly simple, straight thing with Bob Dole and it doesn't need a church, it doesn't need a book, it doesn't need all of the sayings. It just sort of exists.

BOB DOLE: It's a nice little town. It's where you grew up and where you know your neighbors and where you learn about values like honesty and decency and responsibility and self-reliance, where you learn about your church and your family and your God and all the things we want to talk about_ values.

BOB WOODWARD, The Washington Post: For Dole, religion is values, and when you ask him about religion, he will talk about things like cleanliness, about not saying bad words. He recounted for me once how his mother washed his mouth out with soap when he said a bad word. Dole lives totally, I think, every minute of his life, in a practical world and "What can you see? What can you feel. What do you hear?"

RICHARD BEN CRAMER: Dole is certainly not going to make an issue of his religion. You know, he's never going to rub the fact that he believes in God in your face. On the other hand, he's got a kind of, I would say it's almost a childlike act of prayer. When he prays, he's going to have a prayer.

If he gets an important phone number or something, you know, big Republican says he's going to help_ bingo, right in the pocket, you know? But one of the other things he carries in the pocket is a prayer.

Now, Dole being Dole, nobody knows about the prayer. Nobody's seen the prayer. Nobody's going to see the prayer. But it's in there. Sometimes he'll say, you know, "All I've got in there is a prayer," you know? I'm not sure he's happy about that, that all he's got in there is a prayer, but it's in there.

REPORTER: Is there a special prayer for you this morning?

BOB DOLE: Well, I don't know. You know, I think that would be selfish. I think my wife keeps telling me that this may be God's will, anyway. If he has a plan for somebody, it'll happen. If not, you do something else.

DAVID MARANISS: I think that with Bob Dole, religion is so inside of him, it's inarticulated. Religion to him is just goodness.

BILL CLINTON: Still, I know that we are charged with the scripture, to make the word of God on earth our own.

VOICES: We Baptists believe that there is nobody beyond the reach of God's love.

Clinton is like a Southern Baptist minister. I mean, that's sort of the model for his speeches_ the language of emotion and yielding and giving over.

Well, in the South, why, you all grow up marinated in religion. It's everywhere. You can't escape it anymore than you could escape the weather.

The theology of salvation and damnation also hovered over your whole life.

Once saved, always saved, and that's the thing he knows and that's the thing he counts on.

And Bill loves that about the Baptist church and the mercy and grace there.

He reads the Bible and he can quote you scripture and verse.

He gives a great speech. He does convert people. He could pass the collection plate around because his soul is talking now, not his head, not his handlers, not the polls, not a focus group. His soul's talking again. He's home.

DANNY THOMASON, Friend: But of course, when we grew up in south Arkansas back some years ago, I mean, these evangelists would come through. They were powerful and they'd tell these great stories, these great tragedies, you know, and tears would come down their face and everything and it would touch the heart.

I remember one time we had an evangelist in church and his name was Dixon Rilen. When he would tell the story of Lot and Abraham and Lot's wife, you know, he said, "Lot_ Lot lived back there with Abraham, but he had two pink Cadillacs in every garage and he wore gold cuff links and his wife wore gold jewelry around her neck and they belonged to the country club there [untelligible] and so on and, you know, it just made it so real and so exciting. You sat up and paid attention.

BILL CLINTON: If Martin Luther King, who said, "Like Moses, I am on the mountain top and I can see the promised land, but I'm not going to be able to get there with you, but we will get there"_ LYNN POWELL, Poet, Old and New Testments: I think Clinton exudes that Southern Baptist conviction that once you're saved, you're always saved. For the believer, in the words of the old Baptist hymn, that's a blessed assurance. But I think to the skeptic, it's this maddening self-assurance and this hubris.

DEBORAH MATHIS, Syndicated Columnist: Being saved doesn't mean that you will no longer sin or that you are no longer subject to danger or trouble. It means that you are promised an afterlife where you have no more of these troubles or no more of these dangers and no more of these temptations.

Pres. BILL CLINTON is a man of the flesh. I think he is a man who loves the thrill of the chase. He loves chasing legislation and then, once it gets past and people sign on to it, he kind of leaves it alone and gets bored with it and fails to close the loop. He may have loved to chase women. He loves to chase the food. He loves to chase an idea.

He's a man who loves the thrill of the chase and he recognizes, I believe, that this is one of his weaknesses and he's trying to rein it in and he's partly relying upon his own maturity, partly relying upon forgiveness and partly relying on faith in God to bring him through.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: This is a place where I have come to seek divine guidance and support and reassurance.

DEBORAH MATHIS: We know as much about his religious relationship as we do about anyone's, and that is to take them at their word. That's about all that we can do.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: It's not only for me, as a Christian, an assurance of a life after my life is over here, but it is_ it frees you of all the guilt you would otherwise carry around from all the mistakes you make. I mean, the important thing to me about my life and my faith is that every day I get to get up and try again because the God I believe in is a God of second chances.

Gifts

NARRATOR: Clinton and Dole have very different gifts. Clinton is a great campaigner. Dole is a skillful legislator. But for both, their strengths define their limitations, too. Dole is a master of the deal, an artist of detail, but does he have a larger view? Can he help us see it?

Prof. ROSS K. BAKER, Rutgers University: Over the period of Bob Dole's career, there is not one piece of major legislation called the Dole Act or the Dole Bill, but his imprint on just hundreds of pieces of tax legislation and agriculture legislation over that period of time is really quite remarkable. It's an amendment here, it's a modification there. And this, again, is the hallmark of the deal maker.

VOICES: The Senate wouldn't work without the art of deal making.

It's a combination of information_

Dole knows everybody's business.

_persuasion_

He knows things you wouldn't even think he would know about.

Very much the perception of Dole as the "godfather."

Looks at a piece of legislation_

_patience, the way a mechanic looks at an automobile engine_

_even a sense of humor.

He knows whose wife is working on a big party and who's going to be nervous if he keeps the Senate in late on that Thursday night.

He didn't see Republicans and Democrats.

He knows who ought to be in the room.

He saw issues. He saw regions.

He knows how to deal with conflict.

This is the kind of thing that can consume you.

He knows everybody's bottom line so that you can make a majority for something.

Making these deals, counting these votes, scratching these backs_

Sen. MARK HATFIELD, (R), Oregon: It's a behind-the-scene type of thing. It's not secretive, in the sense that we don't want the public to know what's going on. It is a style of leadership. There are times when a quiet personal conversation can resolve more misunderstanding than a public debate on the floor.

LARRY O'DONNELL, former Chief of Staff, Senate Finance Committee: We would have Finance Committee meetings in the back room of the Finance Committee with 20 Senators sitting around the table to discuss the GATT 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 with little jokes, everyone was on the edge of their seats. You could see the younger Senators nudging_ who_ who got the least favored 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 anyone else 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's very difficult for him when he tries to talk to a general audience.

GEORGE PYLE, Editor, Salina Journal: What Dole seems to excel at is the_ just the encyclopedic mind of keeping track of what the other 99 Senators want, what they have to have. And it goes back to the drug store in Russell, you know, knowing what everybody wants, knowing them, calling them by their name, remembering what they said the last time they were here so you can throw it right back at them.

Being a good soda jerk is a performance. So is being a good Senate majority leader, I guess. It's a lot of the same talent. The disappointment sometimes is that that's all it is. Instead of any kind of grand accomplishment, it's just selling sodas in a more expensive suit in an older building.

NARRATOR: At the very heart of Clinton's appeal is his need to connect, to touch other people. And they respond.

ROGER MORRIS: I think it's hard to find, in the history of American politics, a better campaigner, one on one or one on a thousand. He speaks the language of the moment and the place and the time, as he thinks they want to hear it. He knows the statistics and the habits, the minutiae, of every one of these battlefields, whether it's a town or a village or a county or a section of the state, a Congressional district. And later he knows some of the same detail about an entire nation.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: From Wall Street to Main Street to the meanest streets in this country, that is what I offer this country and that is what America needs.

VOICES: It's like watching Magic Johnson run a fast break.

It's like nothing I've ever seen with anyone, perhaps except the Pope.

Bill Clinton runs primarily as a seducer.

He loves to get out with people and shake hands.

People loved him. People wanted at least to see him, to touch him.

NARRATOR: His empathy is both an authentic gift and a studied skill.

DARRYL HAMMOND, "Saturday Night Live": If you watch him long enough, he's going to sell you something. Eyes will widen, he'll say, "All of our programs will fail. Fail." But see, when the eyes narrow, he'll go, "Unless_ I feel so strongly about this. I_ I do. I feel so strongly about this." See the eyes narrow. You're about to buy.

PRES. BILL CLINTON: Let me say this again. I feel so strongly about this. All of our efforts to strengthen the economy will fail unless we also_

DARRYL HAMMOND: He simply needs to get a message across quickly and if he's going to be successful, it's going to require a degree of skill in the performance arts.

MICHAEL KELLY, The New Yorker: You have a sense when you're watching him that you're actually watching someone trying on the appropriate face for the moment and moving on. I don't think it's to his benefit, in the end. I think it's discomforting to people and it plays into people's more serious unsettlements and fears about the whole nature, the whole question of whether we know anymore who the president is.

What is strong is his astonishing resiliency. This is a man who ran for president and was hit with two charges, either one of which would have proven fatal to most politicians_ one, that he had evaded the draft and lied about it, the most controversial war since the Civil War in this country, and the other that he had_ that he was a womanizer of spectacular proportions and he had had a tawdry affair.

REPORTER: Mr. Clinton, what was your relationship with Gennifer Flowers?

Pres. BILL CLINTON: There really isn't one, obviously. I mean, the charges are false.

MICHAEL KELLY: In both cases, Bill Clinton simply didn't blink. He got up out of bed and went on and campaigned at a time when the average politician could be excused for lying whimpering in the closet. I mean, he simply does not stop in his tracks. He just goes on.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: I'm on the ropes because other people have questioned my life after years of public service. I'll tell you something. I'm going to give you this election back and if you give it to me, I won't be like George Bush. I'll never forget who gave me a second chance and I'll be there for you till the last dog dies. And I want you to remember_

NARRATOR: Both men had been seared by political failure.

Defeat

NARRATOR: Dole has had great success in the Senate, but he has also suffered painful defeats. A bid for the vice presidency failed. Twice he lost the presidential nomination. But it was in his first brush with failure that he glimpsed his own personal darkness. He discovered he would do almost anything to win.

GEORGE PYLE: This is Bob Dole's closest call. This is the closest that Bob Dole ever came to political oblivion. He had been in Congress. He'd one term in the Senate and now he was running for reelection.

Kansas is a Republican state. Bob Dole was very popular. The idea that he would be in trouble was something that was a surprise to people. Bill Roy was a popular Congressman, moderate Democrat, from northeast Kansas. For a long time, Bill Roy was actually ahead in the polls. It was the fight of Bob Dole's life.

The race was very close. This was right after Watergate. This was right after Nixon had resigned and Bob Dole had been loyal to Nixon maybe longer than he should have been, even the people of Kansas would say.

BOB DOLE: [1974]Well, I hope so. Hope you know me in November. Oh, good. Thank you. Hi. Bob Dole's my name. What's yours? Nice to meet you.

GEORGE PYLE: The campaign got very nasty and, to some people, that was the turning point for Bob Dole, where he came to the point of saying, "I will do anything I have to do to win."

Most people, if they remember one thing from that campaign, they remember the debate. It was at the state fairgrounds. It's traditional in Kansas to have a debate during the state fair, which is always in early September. And it was Bob Dole, Bill Roy, one on one, Lincoln-Douglas style. It was broadcast live.

BOB DOLE: [1974] Do you want to throw away the voice you've had for 14 years and have nothing in return?

Dr. BILL ROY, Dole Opponent, 1974: I felt somewhat intimidated by the very strength of Dole's negative emotions toward me. You could feel Bob Dole's anger, or I've even used the word "hate," toward me. In other words, he was emanating very negative feelings toward me because, obviously, I was threatening his very life, which is his political life.

BOB DOLE: You got to watch these doctors.

GEORGE PYLE: All anyone remembers of that debate is about the last three minutes.

BOB DOLE: How much time do we have?

GEORGE PYLE: Bob Dole, who really felt that he was on the ropes, walked up to the microphone and asked Bill Roy, who was an obstetrician_

BOB DOLE: Mr. Roy, other than talking about health issues, how many doctors have you gotten for Kansas and what is your stand on abortion?

GEORGE PYLE: And Bill Roy was not prepared for that question and he kind of stammered a little bit and then the debate was over. The crowd of Kansans, who'd known Bob Dole for years, were offended by that. A lot of people were offended by that. That's the only time in his political career that Bob Dole has ever been booed off the stage in Kansas.

BOB DOLE: I want to tell this audience that he believes in abortion by demand_ on demand. [audience boos] Don't hold it against him personally. Don't be fooled.

GEORGE PYLE: The campaign for Bob Dole ended the weekend of the election with the windshield pamphlets showing babies in garbage pails and so forth. So I don't think there's any question in anyone's mind in the state of Kansas, including the senior Senator's mind, that he won that issue on the question of abortion.

RICHARD BEN CRAMER, Author, What It Takes: And in the end, Dole's victory was_ "narrow" is too mild a word. Dole's victory was hair's width. He knew it was a horror show. It's interesting that when he got back to Washington, he was different, and that's when he started going across the aisle. That's when he went across to McGovern to build the food stamp program. People in Washington couldn't believe it. I mean, this wasn't the partisan Dole that they knew.

Sen. GEORGE McGovern, (D), South Dakota: Senator Dole felt the need to show that he was a broader, more humane, more decent human being than had come across in that earlier hard-line partisan role. I think that's the principal reason why he reached out to me and to others in the Senate, to demonstrate his capacity to cooperate with people who he at one time treated as the hated enemy.

RICHARD BEN CRAMER: He wanted to make something positive happen. It was almost as if he had to expiate that '74 campaign. Dole was determined he was going to have a larger self.

DAVID MARANISS: The central theme of Clinton's life is the repetitive cycle of loss and recovery. Pres. BILL CLINTON is constantly losing. He's someone who you think of as being the ultimate golden boy triumphant, someone who at such an early age became president, and yet to understand him and to understand his ability to constantly come back, you have to understand that cycle of being defined by loss, starting with the loss of a father he never knew_ political losses, the most significant being in 1980 when he was rendered the youngest ex-governor in American history.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: I regret that I will not have two more years to serve as governor because I loved it. I have probably loved it more than any person who has ever had this office.

DAVID MARANISS: The defeat in 1980 was the single most dramatic trauma in Bill Clinton's life. It was what really has helped shape his whole presidency. It was as traumatic as FDR's polio or Truman's bankruptcy. It really shaped him. He became the youngest ex-governor in American history.

When Pres. Bill Clinton first became governor, he wanted to do everything. He wanted to do it quickly. He wanted to build all new roads in Arkansas into every rural hamlet. He wanted to get health care into all the rural areas of his poor state. He wanted to lift up the schools. He wanted to help the economic development and bring in every industry he could from the North. He tried to do everything at once and he ended up doing very little.

What's known as "Clinton II," when he came back as governor of Arkansas, was remarkably different.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: [1982] I have been given something that few people get in life: a second chance to serve the people of our state.

MICHAEL KELLY: The Clinton who came back was not the more radical, not the more liberal Clinton who was defeated. He was no longer interested in taking on the moneyed interests in Arkansas to the degree that he had been. He was no longer interested in doing things that would alienate the voters, as he had, for instance, in raising taxes and so on. And the fact that this necessitated a shift in direction of fairly large proportions was not a problem for him.

DAVID MARANISS: It's probable that, had he not lost in 1980, Bill Clinton would never have made it to the presidency. He really reinvented himself in a way that made his rise possible. He learned how to move to the center. He learned how to govern. He learned the rhetoric of politics. He became the quintessential modern politician after that defeat.

He developed a permanent campaign of constantly polling and reading the public and creating campaigns even when there weren't campaigns that year. He started running for president in 1980, essentially, and it took him 12 years, but that's how it happened.

The patterns in Bill Clinton's career are really haunting. The first two years of his presidency were almost a precise replaying of his first term as governor of Arkansas.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: [1992 inauguration] There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America!

DAVID MARANISS: He wanted to do everything on health care right at once. He wanted to do economics right at once. He wanted to reform Welfare. He was fighting over what he could do first because he had so many things that he wanted to do.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: And a new season of American renewal has begun!

DAVID MARANISS: In both cases, these pent-up idealistic agendas ended up working against him and he couldn't do much at all.

It's not that Bill Clinton is playing out some psychological need to lose, but he has this capacity to learn lessons and then forget them and then learn them again in a constant repetitive cycle. He has a near photographic memory and yet he's constantly forgetting what it was that got him on top.

And yet, when he's on top he has a tendency to be over-confident, for his governing to become somewhat chaotic. And it's when he's down on the bottom, when he has this cause, this need to overcome, that he's most focused and that's why he keeps coming back.

HELEN THOMAS: Mr. President, while acknowledging your accomplishments, the Republicans are savoring a big-time victory in November. You also have had some major setbacks in legislation and some of the pundits are counting you out in '96. How do you account for this very dark picture, political picture, and what are you going to do about it?

Pres. BILL CLINTON: Well, what I'm going to do is go out and make sure the American people know what the choice is. If the American people_

DAVID MARANISS: When the Republicans took over Congress, it was the second major trauma of Bill Clinton's political career and what he did was Proustian. He turned to his past and he followed the same patterns again and he reinvented himself.

MICHAEL KELLY: The Clinton administration that came back in post-1994 is essentially a new administration and it is entirely different. It is so culturally conservative that it takes that sort of conservatism, those conservative issues, away from the Republicans in 1996 almost entirely.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: Today we have an historic opportunity to make Welfare what it was meant to be, a second chance, not a way of life. Even though the bill has serious flaws_

LARRY O'DONNELL: Bill Clinton in his first two years as president wanted to spend dramatically more money on Welfare. Bill Clinton now, following the Republican Congress, says he believes that the way to get people off Welfare is to spend dramatically less on Welfare, to actually abandon the entitlement to Welfare that FDR enacted, something that Ronald Reagan did not dream of suggesting.

MICHAEL KELLY: This pattern that Clinton did first in Arkansas and now in the White House is, on the one hand, his great strength, his astonishing flexibility. It leaves the opponents bewildered and breathless. But it's also his great weakness. It leaves the voters utterly unsure about what's_ what the president actually believes in.

NARRATOR: And finally, that is the question for both of these men. What belief cuts closest to the bone? Is there one?

Vision

RICHARD BEN CRAMER: Bob Dole was a kid who saw people die from debt. When you were a kid in the Depression in Russell, Kansas, you would hear, "One of the Croup boys hung himself up in the attic and they called Doc White and he rushed over, but all he could do was hold the guy's legs while his daughter cut him down."

Now, that_ you know, there wasn't any way not to know that stuff. And what you knew was that debt could kill you. You knew it like you knew that the sun would rise tomorrow. So for Dole, this isn't a political issue, it's an article of faith.

NARRATOR: By 1985, Reagan's economics had plunged the country into debt. Dole's all-out fight to lower the deficit became the defining battle of his career.

Sen. MARK HATFIELD, (R) Oregon: That was the first time in my legislative career in which a serious proposal was made to get control of the runaway deficit and to address the fastest growing component of that deficit_ namely, the entitlements.

RICHARD BEN CRAMER: Everybody was going to take a little hit. The Social Security cost-of-living increases were going to get delayed or they were going to get eliminated. The Pentagon was going to get hit. Ag subsidies were going to get hit_ everybody's little Welfare check, you know, all those things that_ you know, everybody wants a balanced budget, right, "But don't touch my check." Well, Dole touched everybody's check. Not only that, but he got a majority of the Senate to go with him.

Sen. ALAN SIMPSON, (R), Wyoming: We clobbered and put out of business 13 agencies of the government, froze everything in the federal budget, froze it all.

RICHARD BEN CRAMER: And on the last night, still no one could quite tell whether or not it was up or down. Ultimately, they turned George Bush, the vice president at the time_ they turned him around in mid-air aboard Air Force Two and made him fly back to the Capitol. Meanwhile, Dole and his staff were calling the hospitals for two Republican Senators. And Pete Wilson had just had an appendectomy and they wheeled old Pete Wilson in in his bathrobe with an I.V. tube still sticking out of his arm to cast the final "aye." And then Bush, who had been turned around in mid-air, broke the tie and Dole had his deficit bill.

BOB DOLE: [1984] For you to get it right.

RICHARD BEN CRAMER: Now, this is unprecedented in the annals of Washington, to actually do the thing you're talking about, but that just_ that's Dole's way.

BOB DOLE: [1984] Mr. President, how're you doing? I got Pete Domenici on the line. We had a fairly close evening.

RICHARD BEN CRAMER: Dole had made all these people take the tough votes and nothing happened.

BOB DOLE: That's right. Well, George Bush was very helpful.

Sen. ALAN SIMPSON: The tragedy for us, those people who voted that way, that vote was used to clobber them in '86. That was very simple. You just had a 30-second spot and it said, "This is the slob that cut your veterans' benefits. This is the slob that cut your railroad retirement. This is the slob that cut your Social Security. This is the slob that got rid of the so-and-so department." So we lost six of our U.S. Senate colleagues in that race of '86 and that's a lesson that never escapes a politician.

NARRATOR: Dole got his Republican Senators to vote courageously, but the House and the President abandoned him.

RICHARD BEN CRAMER: Once Jack Kemp started waiving in the breeze and then Reagan folded up like an old flag, Dole paid tremendous dues for it and he didn't get his law.

LARRY O'DONNELL: I was the chief of staff for the Senate Finance Committee when the Democrats were in control of it during Bill Clinton's first two years as president and that was the time when Bill Clinton alone was setting the agenda in Washington.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: [1992] Let's start with this bill and start with this plan and give the American people what they deserve: comprehensive, universal coverage.

LARRY O'DONNELL: Virtually all of his agenda came through the Finance Committee. The stand-alone item that was purely Clintonian was health care. It was breath-taking in its reach. It was extreme in its liberalism and it involved pure experimentation on a gigantic scale. It was the only piece of legislation in the first two years that was defining of this presidency.

DAVID MARANISS: You have to understand with Pres. Bill Clinton that health care is not just policy. It's also the one deeply personal part of government for him. His grandmother was a nurse in Hope, Arkansas. His mother was a nurse in Hot Springs. He grew up around doctors. He grew up around a lot of poor people who did not have health care. It is the essential idealist in Bill Clinton coming out there. That's why it's so ironic that it became the defining failure of the first part of his presidency.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: Today I am announcing the formation of the president's task force on national health reform. This task force will be chaired by the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

HAYNES JOHNSON, Co-Author, The System: There was a bipartisan consensus that something had to be done. Health care costs were bankrupting every governmental entity from the Congress to the mayors to the state houses right down to county commissioners. So it was a titanic struggle that directly would affect the lives of every single American and directly affect the entire American economy for generations to come. That's how big it was.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Many of you, Republicans and Democrats_

MICHAEL BROMBERG, Health Care Lobbyist: My conversations with Hillary were basically private. I told her the president was in a win-win position. Any bill that passed, even if it was 50 percent of their bill, he would be the first president in history. And she looked at me and she said, "Bill and I didn't come to Washington to do business as usual and compromise." And when I heard that, I knew it. I knew there wasn't going to be a bill. It was all or nothing. She was going to roll the dice.

HAYNES JOHNSON: I am absolutely persuaded that she always understood they would have to make compromises, that their plan would not be the plan that would finally pass, that it would have to go through processes with the Congress. However _ saying that _ she did give the impression of enormous rigidity and she did take on, very strongly, heatedly_ she would attack in public opponents of the plan which, politically, backfired.

Sen. JOHN McCAIN, (R), Arizona: This is the Health Security Act_

HAYNES JOHNSON: They played into the hands of the enemies who had defeated health reform for decades_ "socialized medicine," "big government." And they concocted a plan that was seen to be a secret, closed off behind closed doors. No briefings with the press allowed. It took months and months longer than expected. When it arrived, it was filled with bureaucratic language, like "mandates" and "alliances" that sounded bureaucratic, heavy, threatening.

It's going to come down to trust in Bill and Hillary. And as Whitewater enveloped, literally enveloped the White House, it brought things to a dead stop.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: _that I am happy to answer the grand jury's questions_

BOB WOODWARD, The Washington Post: People feel, and I think rightly, that they're not being leveled with, that they aren't getting straight talk, that the president doesn't call people in and say, "God damn it, let's answer this and get the truth out, even though it's not pretty, even though it may be embarrassing."

There is this tendency in Clinton, which you see through all his life, of "How do we spin our way out of it? How do we put out 10 percent of the truth? How do we try to conceal or delay or obfuscate?" And that is a profound problem.

HAYNES JOHNSON: And as Whitewater eroded trust in both Pres. Bill Clinton and, even more notably, Hillary Clinton, as they went down, so did the chances for passage of this very important reform.

Clinton, at the end, was extremely, remarkably thoughtful and introspective. He sat in the Oval Office the summer of 1995 and he talks in this very calm manner, on and on, almost like a soliloquy, of mistakes he had made.

"I tried to do too much too fast. I should have reached out to Bob Dole earlier, even if it wouldn't have made a difference, because Dole kept telling me privately, `We're going to make a deal. We're going to make a deal.' But he didn't do it publicly. I should have told the country that when I realized we couldn't get it done in a year, as promised, that it was going to take longer, maybe two or three years. I should have spoken to the country. I should have given a speech when it was over, explaining why I thought it had failed, where we went from here. I didn't appreciate the lightning rod of my wife in this, of Hillary, in this process, that she would be not only so controversial, but even inhibiting to members of my own administration, who wouldn't feel that they could be as candid with her and I thought they would be. I was surprised at that." And then he finally says, "I set the Congress up for failure and I set myself up for failure."

Now, I don't believe_ my background in graduate school was American history. I don't believe any sitting president has ever acknowledged so large a sense of responsibility of a major issue in which he felt responsible for its failures.

I think he's too strong on himself, by the way. I think the failures are across the board. His are among them. But he was doing this in an analytical way, which told me_ and I look back at that moment in sort of awe because I think you can see a different president emerging from that moment_ more cohesion, more discipline, more of a reaching out for bipartisanship, more willing to fight on the few things that he cares about and make it clear, more focused. If he wins the presidency, is reelected, I think it will be because he learned those lessons.

BOB DOLE: So today I announce that I will forego the privileges not only of the office of the majority leader, but of the United States Senate itself. It is my obligation to the Senate and to the people of America to leave behind all the trappings of power_ all comfort and all security.

And I will then stand before you without office or authority, a private citizen, a Kansan, an American, just a man. But I will be the same man I was when I walked into the room, the same man I was yesterday and the day before and a long time ago when I rose from my hospital bed and was permitted by the grace of God to walk again.

BOB WOODWARD: For an adult to be so tearful, remembering his home town, it's a very strange phenomenon. He's a son of Russell, Kansas. When he talks about it, when he goes there, why does he cry? Why would this bring_ what's been lost?

RICHARD BEN CRAMER: It's always about Russell because, in essence, that's what he's lost. His success has carried him away from the place where he had all that love and support. And his parents, his brother, are all gone now. The Russell he knew is gone now. In fact, he's given it away in his campaigns in creating his own political persona. He has, in effect, used Russell. And once you do that, it's lost to you internally.

DAVID MARANISS: Hope is the great contradiction in Bill Clinton's life and career.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: I told you about the place I was born. I still believe in a place called Hope, a place called America.

DAVID MARANISS: It is largely mythological. The man from Hope really never existed. He was born there, but he grew up in Hot Springs, an utterly different place. And yet Bill Clinton talks about and hungers for this simplicity, this Hope, a place of forgiveness, of an overwhelming love beyond just the family. And that's the home that Bill Clinton hungers for and he can't go back.

Brothers

RICHARD BEN CRAMER: What's interesting about these two guys is that no matter how different they seem_ they come from different generations, one talks all the time, one barely says five words, you know, in a meeting. You know, Bob Dole is not going to pick up a saxophone and entertain.

But fundamentally, in the way they do politics, in the way they do their lives, which are politics, they're really brothers under the skin. I think what's really fundamental to them both is their agenda-less-ness. They are not about any ideology. They're about the conviction that when the deal goes down, it's they who should be in the center of the table. They're the ones who have to bring it together.

They will take from every side. They'll take from wherever the help is going to come from. They're about building the consensus around them and this makes for some terrible shocks to their supporters because the supporters are about some issue, whereas Dole and Clinton are about themselves.

DAVID MARANISS: Bob Dole's embrace of the 15 percent tax cut and Clinton's decision to go along with Welfare reform are really of the same piece. In both cases, you have politicians turning against something that had been a tradition, either personally for them or for their party, in the search for victory this year.

And both of them, I mean, are very similar in that way. Throughout their careers, they have maneuvered left and right, staying in the middle but turning against things they have believed in, at various points, to get where they want to go. And in that sense they are very much alike.

LARRY O'DONNELL: Well, we've come to an election now where each party has as its nominee the most politically expedient nominee they have ever had. There is no Democrat during my lifetime who has been more politically expedient than Bill Clinton. There is no Republican during my lifetime who has been more politically expedient thanDole.

This means that they actually end up, in policy terms, as you come down to the finish line on this election, in very, very close proximity to each other on all of the real governing issues in front of this country, which is things of the sort of "How many hundreds of billions of dollars do you want to spend on Medicare? What about Social Security?" Basically, what we're paying for as a government. The differences between these two is very slight.

GEORGE PYLE: It's kind of scary, really. It's almost surreal how similar they really are in so many ways. They're career politicians, very pragmatic. They have independent and powerful women that they're married to, who have their own careers. There is a core of values that they both have, but it doesn't always show in their desire to gain and hold power and make deals and win successes. Neither one of them is going out on a limb for anybody.

BOB WOODWARD: If you put them in a room and said, "You will be co-presidents and you will decide between the two of you what we should do and what we shouldn't do," there would be fights, there would be disagreements, but there is a kind of moderation that both of them possess that is their political identity.

BOB DOLE: _God, family, honor, duty, country_

MICHAEL KELLY: I think that the conventional wisdom is that if you're trying to decide who to vote for president_

Pres. BILL CLINTON: We need to build a bridge to the future_

MICHAEL KELLY: _what you have to do is look at a litmus test of issues that you care about and base your decision on that. But it seems to me that the conventional wisdom is, in an important sense, exactly backwards because the way the world works, not just for the president, but for everybody, is that life is a series of random, unpredictable events and the only true indication you have about how somebody will react is a sense of that person's character.

Is he honest? Is he trustworthy? Is he decent? Is he kind? Is he a good person? So even though divining the character is much harder than divining positions in a candidate. It does seem to me that, in the end, it's the vital thing.

BOB WOODWARD: Whichever one we get, we're going to get a President Clinton or a President Dole who are literally freed from the bonds of the past obligations, political and personal. Clinton, a very young man, would be in his second term if he won, literally could do anything. If Dole became president, he would be 73. Second term? Might be problematic. So he would have astounding freedom as a first-term president. So I'd_ in defining where they might take the country, I would put up on the screen a big question mark.

ANNOUNCER: Visit FRONTLINE on the Web at www.pbs.org for dozens of revealing stories about Dole and Clinton; the photo gallery where top photographers show what the lens reveals; and four colloqueys on ethics, war, Kansas and the South. Also you can try the Clinton-Dole crossword puzzle and lots more at FRONTLINE online at www.pbs.org.

Now it's time for a few of your letters from last season. The first one responds to the program "Angel on Death Row," defending the death penalty and criticizing Sister Helen Prejean.

PATRICK O'DAY: [Clackamas, Oregon] Dear frontline: the choice '96: The concept that a person is worth more than their worst deeds was expressed as the foundation for the support and defense of death row inmates. To the contrary, some persons' deeds have been so horrific that all the good they have ever done or could ever do would never make their life worth saving. Sincerely, Patrick O'Day, Clackamas, Oregon."

ANNOUNCER: This viewer took issue with the program "Does America Still Work?"

TIM SIGNER: [Bloomington, Indiana] Dear frontline: the choice '96: America does work. The work ethic is still alive, but it has been beaten nearly to death by this new managerial class that has taken control of America's seats of power. This managerial class clearly believes that greed is good and believes that the quarterly report is the only meaningful timeframe. Tim Signer, Bloomington, Indiana.

ANNOUNCER: Finally, a comment about the program "The Kevorkian Verdict."

MICHAEL POPHAM, R.N.: [Seattle, Washington] Dear frontline: the choice '96: It is about time that it is recognized that all suffering cannot be relieved by hyper-technological means and that death can be a very desirable experience when compared to the horrific pain and suffering of some unfortunate individuals are destined to face. Michael Popham, R.N., Seattle, Washington.

ANNOUNCER: We welcome your comments at FRONTLINE by by fax [(617) 254-0243], by e-mail, [FRONTLINE@pbs.org], or by the U.S. mail. [Dear FRONTLINE, 125 Western Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts, 02134]

Next time on FRONTLINE the story of a warrior breed, the culture they thrive in and what happens when it clashes with the sexual politics of the '90s_ "The Navy Blues," a FRONTLINE investigation.

RICHARD BEN CRAMER:What's interesting about these two guys is that no matter how different they seem_ fundamentally, in the way they do politics, in the way they do their lives, which are politics, they're really brothers under the skin.

THE CHOICE '96

PRODUCED BY

Helen Whitney

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WRITTEN BY

Helen Whitney &

Jane Barnes

_______________

ASSOCIATE PRODUCERS

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1996

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