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tv   Washington Journal Richard Norton Smith  CSPAN  December 6, 2021 8:58pm-9:15pm EST

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politics. you meet almost all good people when there out there taking care of you in a hospital when you with your family. >> thank you for being with us today. >> thank you, rick. >> the body of former senator bob dole will lie in state in the u.s. capitol on thursday. in on the phone, richard norton smith, longtime friend of this network, historian, author, also the founding director of the rubber gentle institute for politics at the university of kansas. good morning to you, sir, thank you for the time this morning. your thoughts this morning on bob dole's legacy, dying at age 98.
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>> well, that is a very big subject. the president sent me a statement yesterday and quoted from something senator dole said back in the mid-1980's when he was for managing the legislation that created the martin luther king national birthday holiday, which is one of many dole accomplishments that people perhaps are not aware of. as i recall, the quote was, no first-class democracy would power some class -- second-class citizens. it really was a lifelong belief in one that was rooted in dole's upbringing. you know, it is tempting to see or define dole through his world war ii experiences, of course,
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his severe wounding and subsequent hospitalization, three years or more on both sides of the atlantic. but actually, bob dole's character, the character that enabled him to survive that ordeal and eventually overcome it and go into politics, first of the small-town level and then in the congress and eventually at a national level, that was something that preceded the war. that was something formed in immodest rhetoric, residents at the corner of 10th and maple streets in kansas and on the football field and track. as a young man, ironically, he wanted to be a doctor. the irony is he would spend a good deal of his life around doctors. one of them he never forgot was
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an armenian immigrant who, after the war, as a way of saying thank you to his adopted country performed medical procedures, operations, free of charge on badly wounded veterans, one of them being bob dole. that doctor sat him down at one point and said to him very candidly, you know, you have to understand what limitations, and effect, physically will be yours for the rest of your life, and you have to make the best of what do you have. dole took that advice to heart, never forgot the doctor's generosity. and i think, in his own way, he tried to give back, particular to veterans. long after he left the public eye, long after he was out of the senate, long after his
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presidential ambitions were behind him, dole made it his business -- he once told me, at least once a day, to do something for a veteran. there were veterans all over the country, particularly the world war ii generation but not limited to them, who looked up to him almost as their president , certainly as their representative and advocate. it gave him great pleasure to navigate the federal bureaucracy . it is something that meant a lot to him. host: mentioned his presidential ambitions. we talked about his 1990 six campaign. ran three times the presidency. this is what the editorial board
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of the wall street journal says about robert joseph dole today. history can be cruel to candidates for president who lose, but bob dole's contributions to american life far exceeded his failed campaigns for the white house. indeed, richard norton smith, we will play this clip later, but in his final speech on the senate floor, bob dole said, i would know more distance myself from the senate then i would for the united states herself. do you think bob dole ever regretted leaving the senate to run in 1996? >> i will tell you what he told me. he said later on that he never should have run in 1996, that he's year was 1988. of course, he won the iowa caucuses. for a few days, it looked like bob dole was going to be the republican presidential candidate. it'll collapsed over 48, 72
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hours, and then new hampshire basically undid his hopes i think he missed the senate, to be sure, i think he left the senate. it was a very different senate though, you have to remember. i remember the first time we ever met, i had been working for a book for a kind of republican you could not find today, a classic rockefeller type. he and bob dole, turned out, were very good friends. also, when brooke lost his reelection bid in 1978, he talked to dole, who was looking for a speechwriter. an appointment was made. i went down to washington. we met for the first time and talked for maybe 15, 20 minutes. and i went downstairs to the cafeteria and 10 minutes later,
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they found me there and said he wants to hire you. i would not have predicted at that point, to be perfectly honest with you, given my own political feelings at the time, that it would have been the start of a 42-year friendship, both professional and personal. but i had the opportunity to see dole evolve, and especially -- remember, republicans took the senate for the first time since 1953, and suddenly, dole one from being in opposition figure who was releasing press releases to someone who was responsible for actual policymaking. and i think, in some ways, the 1980's for almost his best decade. i mean, social security was preserved through the device of a bipartisan commission because,
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needless to say, it was famously the third real of american politics, and no politician wanted to touch it. but the tax code was reformed in a massive way. as head of the finance committee, dole had an enormous imprint on economic, health care, you name it, and it was an opportunity for him in some ways to shed the hyper-partisan reputation that he had developed in the senate. but it really was preparation for the white house bid in may 1988 and, to a lesser degree, 1996. host: what did bob dole say about the republican party of 2021? what did he think in recent years of this party? >> look, even now, there is
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controversy attached to senator dole's name. and certainly probably a number of people in your viewing audience this morning who have not forgiven him, in effect, for twice endorsing donald trump, a man in many ways was polar opposite in terms of his character and service. and there are those who ask whether party loyalty demanded too much. the fact is, dole was a party man, and he -- i often thought -- talking about the campaign in 1996, there was a sense that -- i do not think he ever really thought he was going to win that campaign. bill clinton was riding the crest of a very strong economy and was only a very strong position throughout the campaign. i always sensed that, for dole,
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it was enough of an honor to have been nominated by his political party. but again, it is kind of a throwback. it is when political parties define politics, our political leaders, in a way that i think is rare today. i think he never lost that sense of party loyalty. and you could argue that, in some ways, he outlived the period when that kind of loyalty was invariably considered to be an asset. i think the larger issue, the bipartisanship that dole practiced when he was republican leader of the senate and that went to achievements like the social security rescue or the
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martin luther king birthday bill, that kind of bipartisanship has virtually disappeared. because the two parties are no longer themselves diverse collections, one essentially right of center, want essentially left of center, but in both cases, including in their number and also liberal republicans and conservative democrats. that political system, if you will, is history, and you see it play itself out everyday. dole used to say -- president ford put dole on the ticket in 1976, they were on the class of a politician who believed, even if we were in the minority, that at the end of the day, voters will judge us on our ability to get things done.
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increasingly, in today's political system, it seems the opposite, that the objective is to prevent things from being done. and that certainly is a kind of united states senate with which dole was out of sympathy. host: richard norton smith, final minute here, what do we know about bob dole's wishes for where he would like to be buried? do you expect him to lie in the u.s. capitol? >> i am not sure, to be perfectly honest with you. the plans have evolved, as you can imagine, over time. i remember he once said to me that the one thing he wanted on his tombstone was, bob dole, veteran. and i believe he will be laid to rest at arlington. host: richard norton smith, presidential historian, author, friend of this network.
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