Former GOP leader Bob Dole tells lawmakers to ‘get together’

At 91 years old, former Sen. Bob Dole is still traversing his home state of Kansas to thank his supporters for five terms in the Senate. Judy Woodruff sits down with Dole to discuss how Washington has changed since he was in office, his activism for disabled Americans, President Obama’s foreign policy and what he expects from the upcoming election.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Judy's in Georgia today, reporting on whether the Senate race there might help Democrats reclaim the South. We will have that story tomorrow night on the "NewsHour."

    Before she left, Judy sat down with a man who knows a thing or two about Senate math, Bob Dole, former majority leader and presidential candidate.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Senator Bob Dole, thank you for talking with us.

    FORMER SEN. BOB DOLE, (R) Kansas: Thank you, Judy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You are 91 years young. You have led a remarkable life after those terrible injuries you suffered in World War II. You have gone on to be a very busy man. How are you doing today?

  • BOB DOLE:

    Doing great.

    I'm in great shape. And I keep busy, which is important.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And you have been gone — as I understand, nine trips to Kansas this year?

  • BOB DOLE:

    Nine trips, and we have been in 96 of the 105 counties.

    We don't have any agenda. It's just a thank you tour to thank the people for voting for me five times in the U.S. Senate. Now, many in the audience aren't old enough to have voted for me five times. So you meet a lot of new friends.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You have talked a lot about how Democrats and Republicans worked together to do important things.

    But you have also talked about the Senate doesn't work that way anymore. How much do you think it has changed? How different is it today?

  • BOB DOLE:

    Well, it's hard to criticize the Senate, when I was there for 28 years, but it does seem to be more confrontational, not as much bipartisanship.

    I go back to the time when Ronald Reagan told me one day, he said, Bob, I'm going to send this legislation to Congress, and I want 100 percent. And then he said with that little twinkle in his eye, well, if you can't get me a 100, get me 70, and I will get the rest next year.

    So, he believed in compromise and working together. And I just don't see much of that now.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What would your advice be to members — members of the Democratic Party, but also members of your own party right now?

  • BOB DOLE:

    You know, get together.

    Get — and I haven't been there, so I can't say they're not getting together, but from what I hear and from my friends in the Senate, it's sort of a different place than it was, not just because I was there and Senator Mitchell was there, because we were great friends. And we used to talk a lot and try to work things out. And I don't think it's there right now.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Do you think it matters for the good of the country whether the two parties work together?

  • BOB DOLE:

    Oh, that's the way to do it.

    And there's a group now in the House and some in the Senate who just vote against everything. And I don't think they contribute much to their districts if they're not engaged in trying to work it out. But that's their privilege and right.

    But we have sort of the far right in the Republican Party and the far left in the Democratic Party. So both parties are sort of split, which makes it harder for Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid to work things out.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Last year, at one point, you said there are some Republicans who have leaned so far to the right, they are about to fall out of the Capitol.

  • BOB DOLE:

    Speaker Boehner has had a lot of difficulty with about, what, 30-some. I thought I was a traditional Republican conservative, but they have moved beyond tradition, and I don't know what they're for. It's easy to be against things, but what are you for?

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You have advocated relentlessly for those with disabilities. And, most recently, you have been lobbying for the Senate to ratify the Convention on the Rights of People With Disabilities, international convention.

  • BOB DOLE:

    Right.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But it is, at this point, still some Republican senators who are holding that up.

    What argument have you made to them, and why do you think they haven't come around?

  • BOB DOLE:

    Well, I have tried to explain to them this treaty is neither Democrat nor Republican. It's not liberal or conservative. It just protects the rights of disabled who may travel overseas; 139 countries have ratified the treaty.

    And we're the leader, the United States, on disability. And there's no reason the treaty shouldn't pass with 100 votes. And we're going to try and bring it up again in the lame-duck session after the election. And I believe we're about two votes short.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What do you think the greatest challenge facing the country is today?

  • BOB DOLE:

    I think the greatest challenge is in foreign policy areas, where every — you could almost throw a dart on a world map, and it would be — you might hit a country where they have a conflict with us, whether it's Korea or whether it's Iran or whether it's Ukraine or whether it's Syria.

    Kind of the world's on fire, and we're dealing with it, but some of it's going to take time. And we don't want to send any more American men and women to fight a ground war. And other countries ought to come forth and do their share, but, so far, they haven't done anything.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And what sort of job do you think President Obama has done dealing with all these international crises?

  • BOB DOLE:

    I think President Obama is a fine man, but I think he has trouble making a decision. And he sometimes delays a decision, which doesn't help the problem.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Do you the think Republicans are going to take control of the Senate?

  • BOB DOLE:

    Well, I think it's promising, but I don't think it's in the bag.

    There are a lot of close races, including the Republican state of Kansas, where Pat Roberts is in a very tight race with a so-called independent who was a Democrat who ran against Roberts six years ago, and then withdrew after he had filed.

    But that's going to be close. Well, it's become a battleground state. Who would think Republican Kansas would be a battleground state? Our governor also is in a very tight race. So, I think the moderates feel that both the governor and Pat Roberts have been too conservative.

    So there's been a number of moderates who have publicly endorsed their opponents. We have got to be a party of inclusion. We don't want anybody to leave the party. So they're reaching out to the moderates and trying to bring them on board.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Last thing, Senator. What do you want your legacy to be? What do you think it is?

  • BOB DOLE:

    I don't know. That I worked hard. And I think my legacy will be that the people of Kansas trusted me, a majority, and I did the best I could.

    I'm sure I made mistakes, but I think I served Kansas well. I don't know what my legacy will be. That I lived to be 200, or at least 100, and that I have never forgotten where I was from.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Senator Bob Dole, we thank you for talking with us.

  • BOB DOLE:

    Thank you, Judy.

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