tv Oral Histories Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole CSPAN November 9, 2021 10:10am-11:22am EST
awe that was speculation. bob dole, tried to torpedo bush. and then the john -- came longest about that time. and of course dour was a very good friend of mine. >> did he get a raw deal? >> well he got a raw deal by -- couple people have drinking problems and speaking against him in the senate floor. i mean -- you know. and -- you know, i i really liked sam dunn, i think he's really a great guy. but i thought -- you know, i thought he got talked into opposing john tower and they were good buddies but i later forgot it all. because we had a memorial service for tower at the arlington. sam showed up. >> there are those who think there was a little bit of payback involved. over the years, tower, you know
he was a very bright guy. >> -- yeah, very bright. and no small talk with tower. and he did have a problem. you know, i'm not sure if it's bad as -- or when it ended or started or all that. >> yeah. >> but -- but, i think that that was the thing that kind of convinced most of the bush people that -- wanted to bring tower into the senate, which you have a right to do and have him testify before the senators. which is permitted under the rules. and he declined. because i thought he could look in the eye and other people and make a difference. but apparently didn't think. dignity i guess. any kind of begging for. >> yeah. >> we could have done it.
>> ninety budget feel? that had to have been -- >> the don reagan. >> the ninety -- yeah don -- >> no. >> he wasn't at the white house yet. >> a yeah that's right. nick brady, secretary of treasury but basically it was bush going back on his word on the read -- >> the read my lips. yeah. >> and gingrich i think shot down the first deal and there was a second deal i heard described as worse than the first deal in terms of spending control. if there ever had been a time when you were entitle to say i told you so, that would have been it. >> yeah but instead fs trying to tell the white house. i was trying to work out something else that didn't look like a tax increase. and really about midnight
though, i remember, and they were still talking to whoever it was at the white house. and said make a better deal here. i don't remember who it was but they kind of gave up. and bush said well he had no choice. democrats ran the place. and what are you going to do? i got to have the money. so it -- he's probably right too. there weren't going to give it to him without the tax increase. but he thought he never should have said that, "read my lips". >> what were the challenges in passing the ada? >> well again we had a lot of conversation in the white house. we had a guy named boyden gray in the white house, whose very
sympathetic. so we tried to use the terms reasonable, and cost, and we didn't try to load it up. >> so lot of that came from the business -- >> yeah. through the white house, you know, consistency. but, you know, bush brags about it now. president bush, 41, that it was a great day. probably 3,000 people out there in wheelchairs and gurneys and white canes and what's his name, one of the leading disability advocates wore the hat, just
passed away. >> yeah. >> but anyway he was up on the podium with bush. and quite a day. >> i assume there was another side to this too. disability advocate who is wanted perfect. >> oh they are not happy now. in fact they want to -- they want to do a lot of things. some should be done. i've been working with tom hearken, trying to be helpful without conflicts to the law firm. but, you know, some people just can't satisfy. and i don't care what part of who you are. it is very important legislation. i don't know who counts the number of disabled. i mean, i think probably serious disabled probably what, 15, 20 million. if you count'em all 45, 50 million people on disability with some disability don't bother people but, but if you are in a wheelchair or you are
blind or you are, you know, paralysis, some internal thing may not show. you got problems. bipartisan legislation too. >> if you look time, there is actually more of a domestic record there than he -- in some ways he couldn't take credit for it because taking credit for clean air or clean water would rile the conservatives he had to placate because they never thought he was one of them. >> yeah. >> he was in some ways hog tied because of his reagan successor, pele were always looking for d -- from reagan. he was a very awkward. >> people always forget reagan's earlier record and all stuff about how we're going to -- of course he blames it on -- but for -- cut taxes we're going to cut spending one dollar.
well never happened. who did he blame? congress. while it was this guy up there skuterring the budget. don reagan. but reagan had that he's -- i've seen most of'em. >> did you have, one has the sense that bush was increasingly satellite isolated. i mean after the gulf war that it took a long time for the white house to -- politically dangers they were in. >> squandered. he was what, 92% approval rating and down to 30 or something. and he got nothing for it. nothing on the domestic front. political front. just evaporated. they didn't use it. >> did you try to -- >> -- position to do anything that i could remember. but, boy, i think it was 92% it was up.
probably not accurate but it was way up there. and, you know, he had the world by the tail. i mean this, guy was it. and congress was ready to respond. you know, victory.. actually did something and finished it. casually. a hundred and -- >> yeah. >> so there and others sort of sitting on their lead, which you don't do. >> also ironically that you could only now look back and see. you know, cold war was over. and that united conservatives. -- unified enemy and a sense bush's --. >> one thing got him in trouble was the economy. which as we all know did pick up the last quarter, which he didn't get credit for.
and that's, you know, bush had a good record. as you said but when the economy is bad. nixon is always right. it's always bread and butter. i remember that letter, i had seven page letter from nixon. if the economy is good you will lose is what it said in effect. and it was. but i that was the big. and there are some people thought he didn't really want it. remember that talk about, does he really want to be reelected? he doesn't act like it. doesn't you have the fire in his belly. i never sow that. i thought he was working hard. no, we became very good friends. i remember going down there and '92 and -- running again. talked to him and he said well let's talk about this.
you know, i said, you know, you are still a young guy and la la la. and i think was it 92? i guess it was. >> yeah. >> and -- >> what made you think about not running again? >> well it was prostate cancer. i didn't know at the time that if you get it early and all this stuff that your survival rate's excellent. >> so was that -- >> after i had that. when i went out and talk to the president about maybe it is time for me to move on. he said no no. not time. >> what would you have -- you must have thought about the alternative. what would you -- i can't imagine you -- i mean i still find it hard to believe -- >> -- make money. >> well, okay.
>> i don't know, i don't think i really thought about what i was going to do. but '92, well, i'd still be young enough to kick around a little. '68. >> but see that's interesting. because that -- at least suggests that, you know, you didn't have this absolute need to be president. >> no. >> the '96 was kind of a -- >> i always thought '88 was the year. '96 i shouldn't have been running. look back on it. all this bob dole's turn. i never did understand that. but i should have won in '88. that was the year. >> the two dictators you met with. i want to make sure we get them on the record. -- >> yes -- >> and what happened in that --
>> -- laded in baghdad and --. we had this letter from bush. which in effect was saying, you know, be careful of israel. you are getting a little aggressive. we have strong ties to them. we continue good ties -- just a one page letter. and we weren't getting the meeting. so -- then we got to egypt and called saddam on the phone. i got these guys here. bob dole and all this stuff. and you ought to speak to him. so that's how it really happened. and we got there.
and i remember big hotel where he was there and surrounded by all these guys, machine guns. and i remember we -- we talked a lot about, you know, some of the good relationships and some of the stuff he was buying from america like wheat and stuff like that. we talked to him about the letter. we were presenting for president bush. i think al simpson got in a few old jokes. and then he said -- >> -- >> i doubt it. then he suggested we go on a helicopter ride. he said the people really love me and i want to take you up on the countryside. so i said well i think i need to visit a minute. and to his credit -- says no way we're going to go up in a helicopter with that guy.
so we declined. so i was happy i took him along. some stories some previous delegations visited ended up mysterious, i don't know if there is truth timeout but anyway, he was -- >> that occurred. you won't over. did you accompany the president at one point? >> i went to kuwait but i droent -- >> between -- before the liberation of kuwait. during that period of time, several months, i thought some point you visited the troops in -- >> oh yeah, that may have been. yeah. but it was also i think kuwait on the same trip. i'm not sure. >> okay.
>> i did go over there with clinton but that was another time. bosnia, a nato thing. i did go with bush. where did -- somewhere. >> thanksgiving. >> yeah, thanksgiving. >> in between the. >> yeah i remember being out in the desert somewhere. lots of sand. i remember that. man, he was toughing up the troops. yeah i remember that. yeah. that's right. what year was that? that was. >> oh, well it would have been '90. in the fall of '90. because the war began in january of '91. >> yeah. that's right. and later went with hillary and bill. because of the troops. so. >> and of course you also had an encounter with daniel ortega. in nicaragua, while he was in power. >> yeah. as i recall i wasn't -- that was
more of a commentational meeting, not as bad as melosivic, but i met with him a couple of times too. >> what was that like? >> well he was -- i left congress, we didn't understand him da da da. no, i guess i was still there because we were trying to get something fast and joe biden was helping. and he had the dining room there and we were in the next room and the doors were open for lunch and we were there about 11:00 with the ambassador. and about 1,100, after a rather long, heated discussion, the dining room doors closed and we were neither staying for lunch and meeting was over. and ortega's meeting. who went with me on that?
i don't know have -- but obviously we weren't supporting ortega. i don't remember what was -- was that in the reagan years? >> yeah. >> must have been, yeah. >> 85, 86. >> all the contraaid and all this stuff. and my good friend biden and -- of the democrats, and -- contras. we stopped in honduras too. el salvador. >> what do you think was reagan's actual role in the ian contra. one of the theories, someone said -- well first of all, bill casey mumbled and ronald reagan was deaf. and i could imagine casey going in and mumbling something and reagan nodding his head. >> i just -- and he got away
with it. so i don't know whether he ever knew what was happening. i think olly north sort of a wild card in the whole thing. >> another theory, remember. they made the switch. if ronald reagan. lot of people who believe if jim baker was still chief of staff instead of ronald reagan. the iran con ra never happened. >> oh, that's a possibility. -- >> he was always kind of leaning over the president like i'm right here. two leaders of the -- whatever countries, he's right in the middle. but, you know, we always got -- shiela always liked ronald reagan some reason.
and he double crossed us on the budget. i think i told you this before. came up the next day with champagne and chocolates and all this stuff. >> what was your first impression of bill clinton in the white house? because these stories about you going down there and one of the stories is what? about the doughnuts? or. >> yeah. first meeting. you don't even have doughnuts in this place. always doughnuts republican. next meeting we had doughnuts. had'em every meeting after that. i thought he was a very charming guy. and i helped him out on nafta. which i'm not sure i look back on it and they were supposed to help me out on something which never happened. or allow our company to get out of this w.h.o. stuff. adverse biased ruling, going to set up retired appellate justices, bipartisan -- anyway.
and i remember talking to him about monica lewinsky. and i told him what i thought he should do. to get a letter signed by 34 senators saying there is no way we're going to convict, to have it in your pocket. then i wrote the op ed piece the "new york times," which i think he would have accepted. you know, kind of admission i did something wrong. and maybe a rebuke and that would have been it. turned out i think he won. the politics of it. i mean republicans knew it was not going anywhere. and they were hell bent to try to make it happen. but those are the kind of the
times you kind of wish you were up there. he was always good to visit with. and, you know, ginsburg, she lives right down the hall from us and he called me, say he was going to do this. and, you know, he said i want to get somebody close to bob dole, you know she's my neighbor. that was his way of kind of -- well, i don't agree with her philosophical, she's nice, wonderful lady. and he said well you kind of move it along you know? and sure i -- and we did and she got 96 votes. >> that wouldn't happen today wouldn't it? >> no. alito and roberts. and filibuster and post fall and post fall and we had breyer was next. and knew we had him. worked for kennedy. nice guy. liberal. but the constitution gives the president right to qualify to
make the appointment. got 97 votes i think. just shows how to change in 15 years. >> you know, that's leads to a huge question. but, you know, as we've been working on this and i thought for 30 years about this. if you look at your -- you go back to '76, or --. two guys from the midwest. republican party has a mid west phase. it was conservative but mainstream conservative. >> yeah. >> economic conservative. it had a healthy skepticism about government but not nihilism. it wasn't libertarian. it wasn't reflectively hostile. lot of people needed help and couldn't get help from anywhere else. it was open to that at least. it wanted to keep government out of the classroom, the boardroom and the bedroom.
a whole generation who grew up in the depression and world war ii who were accustomed to shared sacrifice and that meant as eisenhower famously said in his farewell address you don't plunder future generations. that is your republican party. your conservatism. >> yeah. we were eisenhower republicans. always my view. >> you look at your public career by the mid-70s and mid-90s, it is almost like you were chasing this kboos that -- >> and abortion popped up in '74. you know, let's face it. nixon never worried about that issue. i don't think ford ever did even. i'm not sure. such a hot butt in in 76 and then it became a big, big issue and that sort of started defining different groups and parties and different whatever.
i thought we were always a party the balanced budget. old time republicans and vetoed 51 bills one year. and suddenly all you got to do is cut taxes and keep on spending and you will have a surplus. something i never -- i'm not an economist. i never understood it. most people in our party at that time like --. you know, we thought you were supposed to balance your budget like people did at home. you didn't have the money you didn't spend it. >> and almost -- it is almost a moral at least an ethical -- live within your means. at the very least --. >> gone. -- the rich.
even whoopi goldberg was complaining the other day about the estate tax. said well we're making headways. why should i have to pay again? i pay 40% i got to -- la la. i said oh boy that's what i like to hear. >> what are the consequences to the republican party and to conservatism if you toss that aside? if you no longer -- >> well look what happened in 2006. i think the iraq war was primary. but, you know, we were spending money faster than democrats and all these pet projects and earmarks. i think we own the worlds record. -- stevens and colleague don young and other people. of course there were others just as bad or worse. but that's disease now. pass a big bill and at least 2,000 earmarks. i don't understand we never had'em but if you got one of little projects, that's a big
deal. and i was their leader. so it's all kind of changed. just keep on -- it up. >> you were rising to the top of your field at the very time that the cultural. >> field was leaving. the field, they kept changing the goal posts. best way to describe it. i was on the five yard line. then they moved it and i was on 15 yard line and got there again they moved it again. >> that's brilliant. but i mean these whole wrath of cultural issues came in and redefined conservatism. old conservatism basically said we mind our own business. >> don't want any government. except for farmers. like the subsidies out in kansas. education, that was a big thing in my first house race.
because, you know, and we still don't have. we have lot of math and science, especially. but let the locals people do it. let the school boards do it. >> 50% drop outs in high school? so i've come to the point that got to be -- there ought to be universal higher education some kind. like high school. and grade school. if you are qualified. you don't have a college degree, these days, i don't know what you do. >> you mentioned progress. what if philosophically or politically or both, what do you think is the right role for the government in terms of agriculture. >> for farmers? yeah. well, used to have a guy at a hardware store in smith center kansas used to talk, i got all
these hammers left over i can't sell. now can you get a program where i can get paid for these hammers i didn't sell em? like for farmers, for crops they don't raise? all that stuff. i said he can't win because he's right. on the other hand you need some safety net. because they are producing. and the way the system works, you know, the bigger producers, you get more of the money. that's just the way it works. so that is always a headline, 10% of the producers get 90% of the money. while not quite that bad. i think 28% of the producers get 58% of the money. but we even now -- we put together a bipartisan farm bill this past year. they are still paying farmers
when corn is almost $4 a bushel, an 18 cent/bushel payment. and says we shouldn't be doing that. ought to take that and put it in energy or somewhere. but the only good thing. the better thing about the farm bill is we now include all the nutrition programs because we're having trouble passing the farm bill. and i think in the 70s. so we food stamps and school lunch and get the city people and vote for it and the farm people vote for it. used to be american farm bureau pretty much against subsidies. where you can borrow, have some money, price went up, you could still make profit.
they now sort of joined the chorus. zblet me ask you about the healthcare package in the early days of the clinton presidency. obviously this is clinton's baby. >> did shiela talk to you about it? >> we talked about it a little. >> i told him if you can get shiela burks to vote for it, i'll vote for it. >> but it was an alternative. >> -- to a committee. because he was a, you know, lot of common sense, little to the left of most people in the party but still a good republican. and i think also another conservative in the group. so -- but yeah. they were i don't remember the details. they are getting close to, and remember mitchell kept us in
part of the recess trying to get -- finally i think august 15th we gave up. but my view is i remember clinton coming to see me and she's very nice. and lot of us didn't know why she should be doing this. she wasn't accountable to anybody. she hadn't been sworn into office. this wasn't a little triia thing. this was national healthcare. and she wasn't accountable. hhs, the white house, these secrete meetings. all started off in kind of a bad way. the president's anointed his wife to be the new health czar. but anyway, she came by. very nice. i think we met at least twice and then her people started meeting with shiela i and remember meeting at the white house with --.
and but we didn't do enough of that. and pretty soon got to be, you know -- way or the highway. and senator's office came up with a chart. start off up here and go through all these. and finally way down in the corner the patient finally gets help. that killed it. >> the bill was -- >> that chart was designed by somebody in the office really caught on. and just, i -- but anyway. i think it was shiela was tell mega. years and years ago we had what we called a three d bill. the dole -- danforth bill. what shiela -- back in the
seventies that was pretty progressive. and doesn't differ -- well many areas. some similarities what we were doing back there and hillary trying to now. because you had insurance pool where poor people couldn't get insurance. someone had to take them. not this chart say take the healthy people. so i'm going take that out and take a look at the three ds. -- probably knows all the details. so healthcare was a big issue, no question about it. >> interesting because 6 first of all, clinton later on said he realized he made a mistake. should have sat off with healthcare reform. >> -- twice. and after i started running campaign for president he signs the welfare reform bill. >> over the misgivings of a lot of his --
>> yeah. and nafta too of course. that was early. >> well, hillary is going to repeal first, now he's going to modify it. i think bill told her wait a minute that was one of many i proud achievements. >> the sense is the clintons came into office. maybe it was an unrealistic set of what could be done. and he wasn't interested in increment lism. the problem with the --. they wanted 100% now. >> i think his first mistake was the first bill he sent up was a spending bill.
then it was david moran blue the whistle on him. out on the floor. campaign, money going here, money going here. really didn't create any jobs or anything. just sort of a payoff. and it was defeated. and he started off with that defeat. and i think both clinton and bush have just made big mistakes. by not putting their arms around congress. you know, democrats and republican. bring them down. not just a photo op. have them down there once a week, put your arms around them and say come on. i think that's the only way we're going to get back to where we were way back with jerauld ford's days when.
>> does it make sense to you that one reason 30 years ago why the two parties found it easier in some ways to work together? 30 or 40 years ago. was because 0 or 40 years ago each of the parties had liberal and conservative southerners, northerners, that when mondale arrived in the senate it was only a few years before you. if you wanted to get anything done, you were from minnesota you had to work with dick russell and john stannis and you had to develop personal relationships that in some ways transcended ideology. so you develop a knack of compromising internally. >> plus the fact we felt we were the permanent minority. and if we were going to get anything done as republicans we had to reach out to democrats.
but that's true particularly, it wasn't so bad in the senate us -- block of eight, ten twelve where you didn't need the 40 republicans generally, 41 or two. but i remember working mondale on trade stuff because we both came from farm states and stuff like. this but i don't know. we didn't seem to be. we disagreed and would go out on the floor and debate. we never called anybody names, i don't think. well, holings did couple times and -- couple other stupid things he said. but i thought it was more -- i don't know. >> no he made it clear that he said, you know, your friendship preceded 76. and went back and talked about the things you had worked on together and of course the humphrey -- >> i introduced him ambassador of japan. i went up to introduce them.
it was different then. i mean so i lost today. tomorrow maybe i'll win. so. >> why do you think it is different? is it because -- i mean what i guess i'm getting at. i'm not being very articulate. for years people say we need a liberal party and conservative party. guess what, you have got'em. and you have parties that only have liberals and that only have conservatives. are you happy with what you have? >> yeah. moderates we have are dwindling. and "new york times" is taking care of one or two a year. and susan collins 76% approval rating after -- spent a million dollars. but she's in a tough race. and new england just about -- "new york times" just about wiped us out. but there's got to be somebody in the middle somewhere. i don't mean they have to be, you know, moderate, liberal,
moderate conservative where they just don't vote straight down the line. >> do you think that is one reason so many people are turned off? people outside the city who are not idealogically driven. probably don't pay much difficult -- raising money, republicans particularly. because they don't have the sources and others. and i was listening last night to norm ornstein who is democrat, and who is -- barone, michael. >> oh, yeah. >> very good. and barone said, if you talk about how the republicans could be in trouble because there are fewer volunteers showing up for republican candidates than democratic candidates. now, maybe that's because hillary's nationally known and barack, you know, is a charming guy, new face, fresh. but the guy's got to make sense.
but even -- they're saying this could go -- republicans right down to the convention. you're not going to pick somebody on february 5th. >> well, at least it would make for an exciting convention. >> yeah, but they've got five different scenarios for republicans. only -- i think two for the democrats. either hillary or obama, and it could go past february 5th. probably not. that's their view. >> to flip that coin, there's also something contradictory here. people say over and over again they want the parties to work together. they want people to, you know, rise above narrow partisan, ideological difference. what that means is, make a deal, you know. >> or give in. >> well -- but then you know, if you get tagged as a deal-maker, you know, and, oh, he's a
legislator, as if that means you couldn't be a president or a leader. isn't that a little contradictory, that people say they want one thing but they don't reward that? >> they want leadership. they want -- you know, they want somebody they can look to and say, i think she or he -- i don't agree with them. i think they're probably pretty honest people. they're trying to get something done. that isn't always spending money. i mean, that isn't how you measure what you're getting done. that's not always cutting taxes. i mean, there's other things going on, too. but, i don't know, it's -- i think we're in for, what, another several years of this gridlock? you're the historian. >> yeah, it's hard to see how it -- and in some ways you can see a scenario. say obama gets elected. expectations will be awfully high. >> oh, yeah. >> and if he can't ratify
them -- on the other hand if he gets a really strongly democratic congress. >> yeah. >> i mean, people are looking for john kennedy again. >> i listened to mitch mcconnell last night. he was there at this little fund-raiser for the party at our place last night. he admitted people are looking for change, but he said, they've looked and they don't like the change they've got. pelosi, congress at 24% or something, bush -- what, bush went up five points to 36% or something. but, of course, they're trying to paint a rosy picture for next year, which doesn't look that good on the senate side. >> what has been your relationship with the second bush white house? >> i just got a picture from president bush, you know, autographed, something like, still doing good for america, commission on veterans. you know, it's not close, but if
i -- i weighed in pretty heavily on the va selection and introduced general peak at the hearing along with senator inouye a couple weeks ago. you know, it's -- i don't have anything to ask him. i've met with hadley a couple times about libya, or the law firm, take libya on. i've met with lautenberg and all the other people, lockerbie because we think we might be able to help. so, they've been good about giving me certain information, you know, but -- and i think bush, you know, one-on-one, i mean, talking to these veterans we take down, veterans that lost their legs and all this stuff, he's great with them one-on-one. and they all -- this one guy, jose ramos, lost his arm.
boy, he thinks bush was great. he was on our commission. bush has had us down there, what, three times. and the last time spent two hours just visiting with all these different -- so, you know, it's pretty hard to beat. >> is there such a thing as presidents being unlucky? >> yeah, i think he's unlucky. well, history's going to have to judge preemptive strikes and why the whole world community said they have wmds and they didn't. and was it worth it? hillary mentioned she would bring in republicans like colin powell. he's a great guy. i talked to him in '96. i didn't ask him because i knew what the answer was going to be. i went out to his house. he had a little reception for me. went in a little room. i talked to my race. i said, i know it's tough, uphill, the economy's good, but
who knows what could happen. he wished me luck, in other words, don't ask me the question, will you be my running mate, so -- >> but you would have -- would he have been your first choice -- >> oh, yeah. >> -- if you could have gotten him? >> yeah. he went out to iowa. he tried it. they weren't ready for barack obama yet. as great a guy as powell was, and i think he's much stronger than obama, he was running fourth in the polls in iowa. >> well, he's in the wrong party. >> yeah. >> if he wants to run for president. >> yeah. but he had -- well, i'd say moderate-conservative views, you know. >> but you remember at the convention when he talked about -- >> yeah. >> -- affirmative action and he got some boos. i mean, if you had put him on your ticket, it would have been -- he would have been nominated, but you would have had a rough movement on the floor of the convention.
>> yeah, probably. then you got something -- something happens to bob dole, there's going to be a black president. >> yeah. >> but anyway, i was looking at somebody i thought was capable. and had some -- >> see, that's interesting because, you know the rap on presidential pick running mates because you never pick someone who might rival you or overshadow you or have their own constituency, you know what i mean, that complaint has been made about recent presidents. >> yeah, i don't believe you ought to pick -- pick the smarter people than you are, but as long as you got pretty good political sense, they may be much smarter than the field they're in. that's what you want. and i just thought powell had this great touch with the american people. more than i had. and i could see him reaching out to independents and moderates that we were probably going to lose because clinton was going to pick them up.
scalia was another one on our list. i never talked to him. >> that would have -- >> john boehner wanted me to take scalia. get all the catholic vote. >> can you imagine how many times in the course of that campaign he would have said something that would have to be taken back in the next news cycle? >> yeah, well, i said a few things myself. >> when you -- >> that's like reagan, he wants to bring the missiles back. what was that quote? >> oh, yeah, we just launched -- in five minutes we're launching an attack on the soviet union. >> he thought he was not on the air. >> but, see, reagan could get away with it. >> i know, yeah. >> they're charmed, lucky, or whatever people. >> i think you're right. a good point on bush. i think he's smart, smart enough. again, i think he made the basic mistake of not working more closely with congress because he
came here as a compassionate conservative and it got to be all politics, you know, me against them or -- and then the war in iraq just changed everything. i mean, suddenly all the focus on domestic programs and relationship with other countries and -- had to take a backseat. i mean, wasn't much of a choice. look at all of the money we spent on education, and you could look at all of the different things that happened, and plus, you know, the loss of life. >> where were you on the morning of 9/11. >> 9/11 i was just headed to walter reed. i had walked out of the front door, and the doorman said, have you heard about that plane flying into the tower of new york, and i said, oh, no, must have been a terrible accident. and by the time i got to reed, people were running all over the hospital, and getting mobilize
and they said that they were coming to the pentagon and the whole place was in turmoil. >> going back, where were you pearl harbor day? >> i was in my fraternity in lawrence, kansas, and we were shocked. we were just kids. we could not believe it. >> could you sense that day or immediately thereafter that it would change your life? >> shortly thereafter, because everybody started to sign up. i was not one of those. a lot of the young guys were joining the navy or the army and everybody wanted to do something. and, yeah, as i remember, you know, roosevelt was pretty, and we didn't get in, because we were not too anxious to get in. >> and draft, and it was passed by one vote. >> yes, it was rankin or somebody.
wherever in utah or something. >> montana or something. >> yeah. i remember the day of pearl harbor and we were all grief stricken and i think that it would have been okay, but we were kind of selfish. >> you became a repub ling and we talked about the reasons that you became a republican, which suggested that numbers better
than ideology. >> i kind of added that. >> but over the years, a very loyal republican, and what does that loyal revolve around? >> we had a young guy that i liked a lot named john wilk who was a little county attorney in our county. he was wanting to leave, and i was in law school, and he thought that i ought to come back and run for that job. and before i did that, i thought that i would run for the state legislature, and that is, i think that's what i think that i don't know who got me, but i think that john wolf got me excited about politics and beth bowers who was a democrat, and talked to us four young law students to run for office, and we didn't know anything about public office, and the three of us got elected and that is all by accident, and so we just
thought that more young people should be involved and she is a wonderful lady and we would go down there and talk about it, and the four of us finally picked up the challenge and did it. >> but i wondered because this is the time that ike comes back. >> 1951. >> and ike come back the next year, and an overlap, and this is a hero of yours, and to make it easier. >> and i was out there in the rain, and coming to abilene -- >> that was june of 1952. >> yes, i was there in the rain. and oh, boy, we were all eisenhower people in kansas. and so, even the local paper, webb hawk, and he was a moderate republican, and he coined the term in our area an eisenhower
republican, and maybe taft in those day, but it sounded good to me, and that is what little i knew about it, and why not an eisenhower republican. >> did you ever have a vote you wish that you could take back. >> yes, as leader, you have to vote, and if some guy or lady offers an amendment, and you to show it a little support. and back home, you got four votes or something, and yeah, i have done some of those. and i voted against the attorney general from georgia -- >> griffin bell. >> griffin bell. i apologized to him for it, because the secretary of transportation --
>> bill coleman. >> bill coleman, a lawyer, and great guy, and he said, bob, you are a great guy and republican leader, and you can't vote for this guy. and he gave me all of his record, and i think that i was one of 19. and griffin bell never held it against me and in fact, he endorsed in 1996 in atlanta, and i kind of regretted that because he was not a racist as it turned out. and just a good old southern gentleman. >> later on people realized that they had realized that politics had taken over because of nixon with haynesworth and --
>> oh, no, i worked with fritz -- and senator bayh had made a mistake with haynesworth and some petty little tiny mistake and came from a long line and $24 or something, and he came from a long family, and i am thinking of somebody else. >> mediocre people. >> what we don't need is mediocrity on the bench. but the vote was 55-45. and they won haynesworth and we ended up with -- >> harry blackmon. >> the guy -- stevens. >> no, harry blackmon and henry rehnquist. and a lot of good that did him.
>> and the running mate for hillary maybe. >> i am sure it happens to everyone, but constituent pressure, and in retrospect you wish you hadn't? i know you resisted it a lot. >> i probably -- well, farm bills and all of that kind of stuff, and it is really not pressure, and when you from a farm state and on the ag committee, you better vote for it. and in those days, senator talmage and he would go to work out the wheat program, and come back and we will put the bill together, and senator eleanor was the same from louisiana and so there was not partisanship in those days and from the finance committee, and we worked
alongside, and it was russell long who gave us the famous alternative minimum work because there were 20 millionaires who didn't pay tax the year before and it was not russell's idea, but it was from another senator who i will not name, but we had 20, 30 million people, and so, you know, some of the great ideas, and in fact, i have a check that i voted for it on final passage, but i probably did it because russell wanted me to. and he was a great legislator. he'd get up on the senate floor and there'd be 50 amendments at 8:00 at night, and he'd just start taking it. yeah, i'll take it, and i'll take it, and he knew they were not going anywhere, and they would go to conference and not going anywhere, and amendment was adopted in the senate.
but get some press back home, adopted in the senate. >> and conversely, when somebody gets up to speak in the senate, people really come in to listen, and is there -- >> well, a lot of the first ones. dirksen would bring a few in. and he died shortly when i got to the senate, and generally in the closing debate, people would go to listen to robert byrd on appropriation, and if he didn't give you a long history lesson first. and the leaders, and sometimes you would ask people to come to the floor, and we have to show that we have support on the republican side, and mitchell would say, not always there voluntarily and always urged to come, and names probably taken,
but a lot of people when they got up to speak -- whew, nice time to go to the men's room or lunch or vacation. >> have you been in a situation where informally colleagues went to somebody, and said, you know, either it is the age or some other reason -- >> drinking. >> or the intervention almost? >> well, you know, not getting into the names, but senator bob packwood and i never thought that he was treated fairly and by today's standards he would not have a problem, and people have a little different view of some of that. but, and there are others who
had a bad drinking problem and had to be escorted off of the floor from time to time, and i would not have liquor in my office. if you wanted to be drunk, do it somewhere else, but not in my office. we served coke or whatever, but in the old days, it would be the drinking hole would be the leader's office, and that is fine, i don't have any problem, but not my thing. >> do you think that television has changed that, and bringing television to the senate might have had an impact on that? >> might have. i don't know. >> do you think that it has been a good thing to bring in television? > at first, i thought, oh, people would be up there making a speech for north dakota or wherever they from. but i think that overall, it has
been pretty well, because people after several year, it is just part of the deal. i don't think that anybody really thinks that, how big is the c-span audience, because you ought to know. >> the only thing that i know is that they have done statistics on the ratings that say that supposedly in the course of the week, and who knows what they watch, but in the course of the week, between 30 and 40 million people. >> so that is a big audience out there, and if somebody wanted to go out, and i have not watched that closely, and i mean, the senate to see if there are any real grandstanders up there, but there are a couple in both parties, and i can remember some of them walking in and looking up to the press gallery to see if there is anybody up there to write down their words, and sometimes the people come running out of the gallery if it is ted kennedy or somebody, and if nobody came, generally the
speeches were shorter, and very nice. >> two last things. one, what did you want to do as president? what would your presidency have looked like? >> ugh, well, i think they we would have had more emphasis on a balanced budget, and little bit more emphasis on family, and social programs and health care. of course, a strong defense. i don't like taxes either, so maybe a little right of center, if you could get there, and again, you have to deal with congress. >> that is interest, because, vi asked this of other people, and a number of people have said, well, he would have spent a lot of time on the hill. he would have been sitting down
with -- >> yes, i know those guys, they are my friends, and this is why, i think that as i said before, bush and clinton made a cardinal mistake. a great, and maybe great governors, but it is a different place up here. that is why i thought that gerald ford, and somebody who really knew the congress and got a lot of things done, and some of them were not too good, and like the wind program was his own, but he has friends, and sometimes politics can separate the two, and sometimes you can't, but. >> last thing. unfair question.
how would you like to be remembered? >> well, a veteran. because i do a lot of work with the veterans and still do everyday. and i really recall henry waxman and thanked him for the hearing. and about how the charities are ripping off these people claiming that they are helping veterans and millions and billionsf dollars, and henry, and i had a little hand in it, and he had the hearing yesterday, and after passing it on to him, and those are the kind of things that are important to me. >> and i don't live in the past, but i live in the future. and i understand that. do you look -- >> not as much as i used to. i used to dream about what i did wrong in 1996, and particularly
in 1988 because i used to lie awake at night and say, what did i do wrong, because i could feel like we could do it, and particularly in 1988, but it was not the same feeling, but it was just, but anymore, i don't look back. you know, i had a great experience, and it didn't work. when you get to be 84, you have so many days left, and what am i going to do, spend tomorrow worrying about what happened in '88 or '73? i have to worry about what is going to happen tomorrow. >> life has been pretty good though for you? >> yeah. >> you have done a lot of things, and memorial, and you have done extraordinary things? >> i have made a lot of money, and helped my family, and i have had family members who have needed help. i have run around the country
making crazy speeches. i used to get clinton for $50,000 and i would tell them, i will tell them whatever you tell them for $300. >> so you are the poster child for the world war ii generation. and there a whole generation of people who don't think of you as a politician. >> no, a veteran. and i must spend two hours a day average, because i have to write out longhand and i don't do it very well, but somebody else will type it, and emails from veterans who have a problem or they want to say thank you or i was on the honor flight and you were there to shake my hand and whatever. and so that is how people know you, and if they have a veteran problem, i will be hearing about it. they don't write pat roberts. >> they don't send it to the
senator or the congressman? >> no, to me. some of it they do, because we don't have the staff. but we have a good contact at the v.a. and the d.o.d. and they have kind of agreed to help us with some of the stuff. and then make quite a few phone calls and the guy is 85 years old and in a hospital, and he is really like to hear from you. just nice little thing, and it does not cost anything. >> and the contrast is that this town is full of people who at one time were very powerful people on the hill or elsewhere, and never adapt to life after. >> i answer every piece of mail that comes into the office. >> you do. >> yep. not a form letter, and generally something that i scribble out in these yellow sticky pads, and
ruthanne will decipher them. either that or i put them on a phone list, and some young guy called yesterday from texas, billy somebody who wants to get into politics an iraqi veteran and i will get him touch with some dallas county chairman and you get into all of these things. >> and adapting to -- there are some people who never get over to fact that they are no longer a big deal, and people's memories are pretty short, and shelf life, and you have beaten that, but i mean, probably because of the ads -- >> i remember asking, because he is a good friend of mine, and i asked lloyd handler, and i said, what is the shelf life of protocol, and it was like i shot him with a .10 gauge, and you are light. shelf life of protocol is never.
if you sit around thinking about how important you were or whatever, kind of a waste of time. it is kind of nice to have elizabeth involved, and i have only been on the hill since i left in 1996 probably 20 times. i don't go up there -- i think that i have taken people up there about to see ten different senators, kennedy, warner, laudenberg, and i don't want to get my law firm involved, and i have talked to carl levin about the same thing, and we do things like that, but we don't lobby people, and say, we have to have this. i did lobby dan inouye once on
the appropriation bill, and he tried to be helpful, and it never happened, but i decided that i didn't want to do that anymore, and once is enough. you go to ask your friend, can you get $4 million for this client of ours, and it is a blood thing that is supposed to be helpful for a battlefield wound, and this is my last shot at that. weekends on c-span 2 are every saturday on american history tv documents america's story, and then book tv brings you nonfiction books and authors. funding comes from these television companies and more including charter communications. broadband is a force for empowerment, and this is why charter has invested billions for infrastructure and upgrading
technology, and empowering communitys the big and small. charter is connecting us. charter communications supports c-span 2 as a public service. next on american history tv, mercury 7 astronaut alan shep erd, the first astronaut in space talks about the earliest days in space, and his career, and as an apollo commander, he was the first man to walk on the moon, and he was interviewed is months before his death from leukemia. this is part of the oral history. >> alan shepard, we thank you for letting us to be here to do this oral