Nav Bar
Nav Bar

Bob Woodward

FL: Could you talk about Dole as the quintessential dealmaker, and what that means.....


The simple fact is that people like Dole. If you talk to Dole's Senate colleagues, they like him. He's straight. Dole's finest attribute, and it often gets him in trouble, is that he's basically a truth teller. He's argued that it's basically the truth telling campaign, and I think by and large that's true. And for somebody to be a truth teller in Washington politics, is so unusual, that people gravitate toward him and they know they'll learn pretty much where they stand or where things are going. It won't have the directness, it'll be this kind of convoluted style, but Bill Cohen, the Republican Senator from Maine, after working with Dole for what 16, 17 years, finally concluded, well, Dole, you know he's a decent guy, and you learn how to read him. You learn what the eyes, and the face and the body and the head movements and the head fakes, and you get to the point, it's like a spouse, or a parent watching a child, you can tell. And it got to that point. And the singular quality of truth telling endears him to his colleagues, Democrats and Republicans.

FL: His war wound, its effect on him. And, could you talk a little bit about this word that is always attached to him--bitterness.


I didn't find much bitterness in Dole. I found that he could joke, and he could mix scathing comments about people and situations including himself. The war wound, I think, the most significant part of it oddly enough, isn't psychological, but physical. That he has learned that just getting around, getting dressed, getting through the day, is hard, and he's learned to adjust to that hardness, and it's very difficult, it's almost like somebody's who's been in prison for 30, 40 years, they get along. The ordeal becomes part of their life. And somebody might go to prison and say how do you live with this for 30 or 40 years. Dole has learned all of his life to live with it, so when you have that physical backdrop, everything else is easy. And he stunned me, I mean it is the God's truth, you go out campaigning with him and the younger reporters, the younger staffers in their 20s and 30s, not myself, but they're exhausted, and Dole looks like he has a fresh shirt, often a tan, an exuberance, a kind of resilience, which I think is physical as anything. He has learned like people who have learned to run faster or sleep less, or read more, he has just learned to survive. And it's part of that survival ingredient that's physical with him, it goes back to the war wound. He realizes it gives him an advantage. That he can out sit, out last anybody, on anything, even at his age, and there's at this point, not just evidence of that, there's proof.

FL: Given the defining qualities that you have observed in both of them, obviously the records of both these men, and the sense that you have of them psychologically, what might we expect with each of them?


One of the things Clinton said to one of his aides was the presidency is about making the argument about what is next, where does the country go, what do we do. When you look at both Dole and Clinton, they are centrist, pragmatists, basically moderates, what they would both do with the power of the presidency, if you think about it, Clinton, very young man, would be in his second term if he won, literally could do anything if he won. He could make Hillary Clinton in charge of health care reform again. He could do all kind of things. He would have the kind of freedom, highly unusual in a president. If Dole became President, he would be 73, second term, might be problematic. So in a sense, he would have astounding freedom as a first term President. In the campaign, in the process of looking at what they would do, what they really care about, what their values are, I found that you really have to look inside at the private moments to discover their fundamental attitudes. And their fundamental attitudes are very very similar.

I think, Dole would make the case and probably would behave more as a reformer, oddly enough, would cut government more, would cut taxes more. Clinton would be more of an activist-- well let's get the government to do this, let's fix this with the power of the government. But their fundamental attitudes are very very much the same. And ah, but whichever one we get, we're going to get a President Clinton or a President Dole who are literally freed from the past obligations political and personal, and you know, a very unusual presidency where either of these men in the office would not have the normal restrictions that a president has, that now Clinton has in his first term because he has to be re-elected. So I, in defining where they might take the country, I would put up on the screen a big question mark.

FL: What might be the impact of Clinton's ongoing troubles with Whitewater, the 'Filegate' story and other such problems in his administration ..could you talk about this?


The biggest problem Clinton's re-election campaign, White House and the administration have is getting the answers to some of these questions on the table. Whitewater, the FBI files, very troubling issue. One little scandal, mini scandal after another. And what they all have in common, people feel, and I think rightly, they're not being leveled with--that they are getting straight talk. That the President doesn't call people in and say, God dammit, 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% of the truth. How do we try to conceal or delay or obfuscate? And that is a profound problem.

stories of bill | stories of bob | interact | photo gallery | four colloquies | readings | reactions | tapes & transcripts | explore frontline | pbs online | wgbh

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation