Charlie Rose Show Transcripts
April 13, 2005
DISCUSSION WITH SENATOR BOB DOLE – PART 1
by Charlie Rose
CHARLIE ROSE, HOST: Welcome to the broadcast. Tonight, Senator Bob
Dole talks not only about his war record, the subject of his new
book, but also about his time in the Senate, growing up in Kansas,
and the politicians he has known.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB DOLE, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Think about the Senate, in the House
there are so many — you have to wait a while to really make an
impact. In the Senate, from day one you can stand up and make
speeches. You can offer amendments in the House, but it s always a
different procedure, they have more flexibility than the Senate. But
you used to have great senators like Hubert Humphrey, who was one of
my dear friends and. CHARLIE ROSE: Was it painful for you to have to
step down, or not to know that you could run for president, the
greatest honor that can come, as the nominee of your party, but you
re going to have to leave the Senate?
BOB DOLE: You know, let s face it, every time — the Democrats —
politics is hardball, not beanbag. And they were bringing up all
these things for me to vote on. CHARLIE ROSE: To keep you there. BOB
DOLE: To keep me there, and also to let people know, this guy is
against this, he s against this, he s against this. And I decided
that, you know, not just to leave the Senate, but to give up my seat
and leave the Senate. I could have left and come back. CHARLIE ROSE:
But did you want to ever think about coming back?
BOB DOLE: No, I thought if you re the party s nominee for president,
it s the highest honor you can have, and then to go back, you know,
in my judgment it was not the appropriate thing to do. (END VIDEO
CHARLIE ROSE: Bob Dole for the hour, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CHARLIE ROSE: Bob Dole is here. He has been a life-long public
servant, first elected to the United States Senate from Kansas in
1968. His Senate career spanned 27 years. He spent eight of those
years as minority leader and three more as majority leader. He
remains the longest- serving Republican Senate leader in history.
In 1996, he retired from the Senate to run for president as the
Republican nominee. His new memoir, “One Soldier s Story,” chronicles
a near-fatal injury he sustained in the second world war, and his
long path to recovery. I m pleased to have Bob Dole back at this
table. Welcome back.
BOB DOLE: Charlie, thank you.
CHARLIE ROSE: Great to see you.
BOB DOLE: Thank you.
CHARLIE ROSE: Before we talk about what happened, tell me how this
shaped you, this — what happened to you and — in Italy, in terms of
who you are today.
BOB DOLE: I ve got to believe it changed my life. I mean, I don t
know precisely what I might have done had I gone through the war
unscathed, but probably going back to school, getting a degree in
something and ending up in business or back in Russell, Kansas. But I
think it did change my life. I couldn t use my hands, so I could use
my head. That was my theory. So maybe I should go to school, maybe go
to law school. And it s all because of what happened on April 14th,
CHARLIE ROSE: What happened?
BOB DOLE: Well, I was in the wrong place at the right time, and got
hit by a high-explosive shell that sort of tore into my body and
messed up my right shoulder. But also damaged my spinal chord. It
didn t sever it; it just damaged it, thankfully. And I couldn t walk.
I couldn t use either arm. I couldn t — my legs wouldn t function,
my bowels — nothing would work. But fortunately, as I said, it wasn
t severed; it was only bruised and I started gradually regaining — I
could feed myself in 11 months, I could kind of walk in six months. I
mean, I was very lucky as you look back on it.
CHARLIE ROSE: Did you think you were going to die?
BOB DOLE: I wasn t sure when I was lying there for about nine hours.
I didn t of course know it was nine hours. I was told later it was
nine hours, waiting for the medics to pick me up. And I had been
bleeding some. And I think the guys who sort of looked at me then
weren t too sure about my living.
I never even thought about death at the time. I thought about it a
couple of times later on. But on April 14th, and the few days after
that, I was sort of in and out of consciousness. And you know, I
thought I had been hurt. I thought I would be OK again. You know,
when you re 20 years old, that s the last thing you think about.
CHARLIE ROSE: Dying.
BOB DOLE: Yeah.
CHARLIE ROSE: This is what you said. “It s said often that my
generation is the greatest generation. It is not a title we claim for
ourselves. Truth be told, we were ordinary Americans, faced to
confront extraordinary tests. Every generation of young men and women
who dare to face the realities of war, fighting for freedom,
defending our country with the willingness to lay their lives on the
line is the greatest generation.”
BOB DOLE: That s right. And that s why I say Tom Brokaw in his book,
“The Greatest Generation,” was very kind to my age group. But now we
have a different generation doing the fighting, doing the dying,
being wounded, lying in hospitals, not knowing what s going to happen
the rest of their life. In my view, it s sort of a trophy. You pass
it on from one generation to the next. They re the greatest
CHARLIE ROSE: Of today.
BOB DOLE: Today, right. CHARLIE ROSE: These are the people who have
been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
BOB DOLE: Iraq, Afghanistan, the DMZ in Korea. Wherever they are, I
mean, you know, they re making a sacrifice.
CHARLIE ROSE: You know a young man named Craig Nelson.
BOB DOLE: I knew a young man named Craig Nelson. Still know of his
memory. Poor guy. You know, I ll give you the story if I can just
take a minute. Elizabeth and I were having — I was in the hospital
on Christmas day. And so she came out and we went down at Christmas
with the rest of the soldiers. Many were amputees. Many were — there
were men and women. And just as we were leaving, we heard someone
yell, “Senator Dole, Senator Dole.” And it turned out to be Craig
Nelson s mother, Lois, and his sister, Carly. And they wanted me to
go see Craig. They said he is upstairs. He s not very well. And I
know he would be thrilled to see you.
So I went up. I m not certain he recognized me, but I told him I
would pray for him. And he was in a great hospital, Walter Reed Army
Medical Center in Washington, D.C. It s a great hospital. And we said
a few other things, and then I left. And he didn t respond, but his
mother always — has told me since she felt — she feels sure that he
knew that I was there and I said something to him.
But the point is, he kind of took me back to where I was 60 years
ago, when I was lying flat on my back. But then I could speak. I wasn
t nearly as severely wounded as poor Craig was. And the bottom line
is, three days later he expired.
CHARLIE ROSE: And it meant to you…
BOB DOLE: It meant to me — it meant to me a lot to see this young
man, strapping 6 1″, 185 pounds, good-looking kid, and his life was
just snuffed out because of the conflict in Iraq.
CHARLIE ROSE: He answered the call.
BOB DOLE: Yes. He answered the call. And I had talked to his mother
as recently as two days ago. And she is very proud of what he did.
And they started a scholarship fund in Bossier City, Louisiana. And I
m going to go down there and do the commencement at the junior
college, where they re going to honor Craig. And we re going to take
the proceeds from the book and put it into the scholarship fund.
CHARLIE ROSE: The scholarship fund. You ve contributed, I ve read
somewhere, $ 5,000.
BOB DOLE: Well, I ve done that, but we are going to take this book s
CHARLIE ROSE: Additional. BOB DOLE: Yes. CHARLIE ROSE: Is it fair —
is it the correct thing to say that men and women who fight, you
know, as you just said, each is the greatest generation. I mean,
there is nothing finer that you can do for your.
BOB DOLE: Country, yes. CHARLIE ROSE: For your country, and for
yourself is to…
BOB DOLE: But not all people can do that. You have to understand that
there are men and women who can t be in uniform. They re teaching, or
they re raising crops to keep feeding the troops that are out there,
and some people make the mistake that if you are not in uniform,
somehow you re not serving your country. I don t think many men and
women in uniform feel that way. They chose to be in the service, it s
a volunteer army. And that s what they wanted to do. And with it come
a lot of risks. And they re willing to make those, take those risks.
CHARLIE ROSE: What happened when you came back from the service?
BOB DOLE: Well, I was still in the service until 1948. And of course,
all the good doctors had gone home by then. And so I went outside and
ran across this great Armenian-American named Dr. Hampar Kelikian —
k- e-l-i-k-i-a-n — in Chicago. And he took me under his wing and he
operated on me I think six or seven times. Never let me pay him. He
lost a brother in War World II, and he had been a major himself. He s
a great orthopedic surgeon. His son, Armen, is now an orthopedic
surgeon in Chicago.
And he s the one who told me in effect — he always called me
captain. I was only a lieutenant, so I was very flattered. “Captain,
you ve got to grow up,” is what he said, “you ve got to grow up.”
CHARLIE ROSE: He promoted you. BOB DOLE: Yeah. Grow up and live with
what you have, and go out and do the best you can with what you have
left, which was great advice. Because I was looking for a miracle. I
wanted to play basketball again, I wanted to run around the track
CHARLIE ROSE: So it was a reality check for you?
BOB DOLE: A reality check, and he was man enough to give it to me. I
think he — because I think he loved me in a way that men do
sometimes. He respected me and he knew my family, and he sort of, as
I said, took me under his wing. And he wanted to give me some good
advice. So I did. I went on with my life and did a few good things.
CHARLIE ROSE: Notwithstanding how my original question, were you so
shaped by the war and what happened there, and coming back, and
recovering, and the impact of that process on you, you also say that
if you want to understand Bob Dole, go to Russell, Kansas.
BOB DOLE: Go to Russell, Kansas. CHARLIE ROSE: What am I going to
find in Russell, Kansas?
BOB DOLE: Well, you may not remember the old “Saturday Evening Post”.
It s like one of those covers on “Saturday Evening Post,” with a
little idyllic town of 5,000. It was up to 8,000 at one time. Where
you don t lock your doors at night and you don t take the keys out of
your car. Maybe now they do, but when I was growing up, you know,
nobody bothered anybody. When somebody died, everybody rushed to the
home with food, and they still do that in the cities and rural areas.
But it was that way. When I came home the first time, we had to shut
off visitors. I mean, everybody wanted to come and say, you know, we
re sorry, Bob, we re sorry this happened. One fellow, Mr. Wiggly (ph)
brought me a live duck. He didn t have any money, so he brought me a
live duck, which we ate, of course. I mean, just an outpouring from
— you know, I wasn t politics. It wasn t Democrat or Republican.
Just people. Some had lost their sons in World War II, and I think
they saw me as, you know, maybe somebody who was wounded rather
seriously and could still make a go of it.
CHARLIE ROSE: They clearly saw that. There were also people when were
you in the service that performed heroically to save your life.
BOB DOLE: Yes. Three that I know precisely. One was this Frank
Carafa, who was in New Rochelle, still alive. He has kidney dialysis
about three times a week, just lost his wife a few months ago. He is
the one who really pulled me back to safety. And I think he pulled me
by my right arm, which wasn t a very good idea at the time. And he
feels guilty that he may have caused more damage, but I don t…
CHARLIE ROSE: You feel like he saved your life?
BOB DOLE: I feel like he probably saved my life. And then there was
Sergeant Kuschik, and Ollie Manninen, who was an Olympic skier later
on, and Ed McBreyer (ph). Those are kind of the three guys who — or
four guys who kind of looked after me that day. They weren t supposed
to. McBreyer (ph) stayed with me for a while. And you re supposed to
move with the troops. You don t stand — if everybody waited on a
wounded guy, you d never get anywhere. And I was a second lieutenant.
CHARLIE ROSE: A 90-day wonder, you were.
BOB DOLE: I was at Benning school for boys, and some of these tough
guys, these regular 10th Mountain guys, you know, lieutenants come
and go, you know, it s like presidents. And we re going to be here
forever. So — but they were nice to me.
CHARLIE ROSE: You had never skied before you went in the Army.
BOB DOLE: I didn t ski then. Imagine, Kansas is as flat as this
table. So how would Bob Dole ever learn to ski? I don t know, well,
this is a very elite division. Not when I got in it, but it started
off by a fellow named Minnie Dole, who sold the War Department on we
needed ski troops to go into the mountains of Italy. And he finally
sold the War — the Defense Department, and they came up with this —
and you had to have letters of recommendation to get in the Army,
believe it or not. Because they wanted the best of the best. But they
weren t a bunch of rich boys looking for some easy way out, because
they had heavy casualties in Italy. But they were great skiers. A
fellow named Torvil Torkel (ph), who was a great skier, I saw his
body after he had been shot and killed. Just many of the famous
skiers came back and started the ski industry in this country.
But I was only there seven weeks. It s not that I had worn myself out
in that division a long time. If you re in the wrong place, it doesn
t take long.
CHARLIE ROSE: So you never skied?
BOB DOLE: Never skied. My wife skis. She s a pretty good skier. When
I was running for president, she would go up and ski in New
Hampshire. I would stand at the bottom of the hill, waiting for her.
CHARLIE ROSE: That s Elizabeth up there. BOB DOLE: Vote for me
because Elizabeth is skiing.
CHARLIE ROSE: She likes New Hampshire so much, she comes here to ski.
BOB DOLE: She comes here to ski. And she had done it before, before
she ever met me, yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: The recovery, before we move beyond this. The recovery,
what made it possible?
BOB DOLE: I think my mother.
CHARLIE ROSE: Really?
BOB DOLE: And the doctors and the nurses.
CHARLIE ROSE: But your mother.
BOB DOLE: I think my mother. If you boil it all down, because she was
— she moved into a place in Topeka, Kansas. And I was in Winter
General Hospital, an Army hospital. She moved about three blocks from
the hospital. She was there every day and every night. Everything I
wanted, you know, she talked to my dad every night, give him a
report. I only saw her sob uncontrollably once in my life, and that s
when she walked in for the first time to see me, weighing 120-some
pounds, from 190-some pounds, and then this body cast from my neck to
my hips. And I asked her if I could have a cigarette, and she
detested smoke, anyway she couldn t stand cigarettes. But I think it
was my mother, with my father s influence, and my sisters. My brother
was serving in New Guinea.
But you know, when we found these letters, we weren t — we didn t
have a book until we found these letters about two years ago. There s
always somebody in every family who hordes everything.
CHARLIE ROSE: I know, I know. BOB DOLE: So my sister Gloria collected
all these letters, and apparently put them under her bed for 25 or 30
or 40 years. She said, would you like to look at these letters? It
was two years ago. I said, I could have used those in my campaign.
Anyway, so that made the book.
CHARLIE ROSE: Now I ll use them in my book. BOB DOLE: That made the
book, yeah, the letters. My mother s letters to me, my father wrote
about I think four letters in his lifetime. And one of them was to
CHARLIE ROSE: I wonder if it is going to change now that we have e-
mail and people don t write as many letters as they used to.
BOB DOLE: I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it s going to be, yeah. CHARLIE ROSE: I
CHARLIE ROSE: You can t save your e-mail the same way. BOB DOLE:
Yeah, right. But you know, I told somebody the other day, the last
time I visited Walter Reed, I met a couple of guys. One was a double
amputee and the other had lost one leg. But standing beside them,
down in the physical therapy room, were their mothers. It tells you a
lot about who really carries the burden. It s the mother. It s her
husband, it s her son, it s her son-in-law, it s her grandson. And
she quietly worries and worries and takes care of them.
CHARLIE ROSE: I think some of the most heroic people, and I know you
do, too, in America, are single mothers who, for whatever reason.
BOB DOLE: That s right. CHARLIE ROSE: . are courageously working two
jobs, worrying about their son or their daughter getting to school
safely, worried about them getting the best education possible. Those
are the people. BOB DOLE: Well, worrying about. CHARLIE ROSE: They re
BOB DOLE: Oh, they are.
BOB DOLE: They re the unsung heroes, too. Because you don t. — maybe
you do on your program. I watch it quite often, but you know, there s
a story there that ought to be told about mothers and the burden they
carry. And right now, who really suffers in the Iraqi conflict? We
don t make any sacrifices here or in Afghanistan.
CHARLIE ROSE: It s the mothers who send their children.
BOB DOLE: The mothers who send their children.
CHARLIE ROSE: Their sons and daughters. BOB DOLE: . the fathers. But
again, the father sometimes, he s kind of a macho guy. You know, I
was in the service, nothing like that ever happened to me. But the
mother, it s different.
CHARLIE ROSE: In your career, you once said to me that you thought
the second greatest job in Washington was being the majority leader
of the Senate when the opposition was in the White House.
BOB DOLE: Right. Then you could fire at will. Just get out your gun
and start firing. Yeah, that s pretty — it gives you a lot of
influence too with the White House, if you re in the majority and you
ve got the president of a different party there. And — because he
needs your support.
CHARLIE ROSE: Lyndon Johnson and Ike — and President Eisenhower come
BOB DOLE: Yeah. Of course, Lyndon had 68 senators, too. But he and
Eisenhower had a great relationship. He and Everett Dirksen had a
great relationship. And Dirksen sitting there with…
CHARLIE ROSE: When Lyndon was president and Dirksen was then Senate
BOB DOLE: Right, yeah. Minority leader.
CHARLIE ROSE: Minority leader, right. BOB DOLE: I think he had 33 —
33 little Republicans. He hardly had enough for, you know, a squad in
But I think being a senator is one of the greatest jobs in the world.
CHARLIE ROSE: Was it painful for you to have to step down or not to
know that you — you could run for president, the greatest honor that
could come, as the nominee of your party, but you had to leave the
BOB DOLE: I didn t have to leave.
CHARLIE ROSE: I know, but you made the choice.
BOB DOLE: I made the choice.
CHARLIE ROSE: That s what I mean. I mean, you made the choice so you
had to leave, because you felt like you couldn t run effectively and
do both jobs effectively.
BOB DOLE: That, and plus, you know, let s face it. Every time the
Democrats — politics is hardball, not beanbag. And they were
bringing up all these things for me to vote on.
CHARLIE ROSE: To keep you there. BOB DOLE: To keep me there, and also
let people know, this guy is against this, he s against this, he s
And I decided that, you know, not just to leave the Senate, but to
give up my seat and leave the Senate. I could have left and come
CHARLIE ROSE: But did you want to ever think about coming back?
BOB DOLE: No, I thought if you re the party s nominee for president,
that s the highest honor you can have. And then to go back, you know,
in my judgment, it was not the appropriate thing to do. I mean, what
else do I want? I mean, I was honored by my party. I think I worked
hard for my party over the years. I ran unsuccessfully. It s time —
there s a time to go, and I think some people haven t gotten that
message in Washington.
CHARLIE ROSE: Like who, for example?
BOB DOLE: I won t give an example. But you know, there is a theory in
Congress that if you ve been there for at least 20 years, you never
want to leave, because you have to pack. So go ahead and serve until
you drop dead, and then somebody else has to pack everything.
CHARLIE ROSE: Was it you who once said something, I can t remember
what, about Strom Thurmond?
BOB DOLE: I don t know about Strom, I don t think he s — I know he
is in heaven now somewhere, looking down on us.
CHARLIE ROSE: But I mean, he was going to serve — he was determined
to serve for a long, long time.
BOB DOLE: He wanted to do it to be 100, and he did.
CHARLIE ROSE: And he did. BOB DOLE: And he did. And right after that,
I think he was satisfied. But he served the last two years living at
Walter Reed Hospital. He would go into the Senate from the hospital.
CHARLIE ROSE: Because he wanted to reach 100.
BOB DOLE: He wanted, and he did.
CHARLIE ROSE: The — Jack Kennedy once wrote a book called “Profiles
BOB DOLE: I ve read it, yeah, a long time ago.
CHARLIE ROSE: And somebody who was a senator, and other people. Who
are the profiles in courage for you in terms of the people you served
with? Who are those that you would say, these were the finest of
legislators and the finest men and women I knew in politics?
BOB DOLE: I think you would have to break it down in categories. I
mean, there are different skills in the Senate. One is knowing the
rules. And there s only one master of the rules. BOB DOLE: Robert
Byrd. BOB DOLE: . and that s Robert Byrd of West Virginia. And it s
Robert, it s not. CHARLIE ROSE: Who s still serving. BOB DOLE: Yeah,
and it s not Bob Byrd. It s Robert Byrd.
CHARLIE ROSE: You don t call him Bobby, do you?
BOB DOLE: No. And he was kind of suspicious of me at first, when I
became the minority leader, but we later became very good friends.
And Everett Dirksen, again I think he would probably be number one as
far as collegiality is concerned and reaching across the aisle, even
though he didn t have much gunpowder. He had 33 votes. And — but he
— on the civil rights bill, for example, he was the key.
CHARLIE ROSE: Without him, there would have been no civil rights
BOB DOLE: Probably would have been by now, but the iron was hot, that
s when you want to strike.
CHARLIE ROSE: Lyndon Johnson after the assassination. BOB DOLE: Yeah,
Lyndon Johnson. And you get into the contemporary ones — certainly,
Howard Baker, Dirksen s son-in-law. CHARLIE ROSE: Because he was a
BOB DOLE: Because he was a good, moderate Republican who could bring
people together. He wasn t a strident partisan. Though he was
partisan. You don t become a leader if you don t carry the flag for
your party. And Howard did that very well, and we took over the
Senate when Reagan was elected. Howard was just the perfect guy to
step in and do that.
On the Democratic side, Russell Long. Russell Long knew more about
everything than anybody in the Senate.
CHARLIE ROSE: Especially tax policy.
BOB DOLE: And he would say — when it was getting late like midnight,
and he wanted to get finished the bill, he would say, I ll take your
amendment. Yes, sir, it s a very fine amendment. He had no idea of
ever getting the amendment passed. He said, I ll take it, and then
they d go to what they call a conference with the House, and he puts
them all in the wastebasket, and comes back and says, well, I couldn
t, I couldn t hold it for you in the conference.
But he was a great guy. CHARLIE ROSE: You know what amazes me about
Russell Long is how much he idolized his father, didn t he, Huey
BOB DOLE: Yeah, oh. CHARLIE ROSE: Idolized him. BOB DOLE: He used to
talk about him in the Finance Committee.
CHARLIE ROSE: Is that right?
BOB DOLE: Don t tax you, don t tax me, tax that fellow behind the
tree. That was one of Russell Long s great lines. When I first became
chairman of the Finance Committee, he had been chairman 17 years. And
we had the first vote under my leadership. When they said, “Mr.
Chairman,” he voted. He said, oh, I. CHARLIE ROSE: I forgot. BOB
DOLE: . now I vote for my chairman — with my chairman — I vote for
my chairman. He was quick on the uptake.
CHARLIE ROSE: I know people, and I think Sam Nunn might be among
BOB DOLE: Oh, Sam is another one, yeah.
CHARLIE ROSE: A great one. BOB DOLE: Senator Russell, another one,
CHARLIE ROSE: OK, let me get to Russell in a second, but Sam Nunn was
a guy who, after he was no longer chairman of the Armed Services
Committee, because it had become a Republican majority, something was
taken out of it, I always assumed, for him. If you weren t chairman
of the Armed.
BOB DOLE: It s got to be, it s got to be. CHARLIE ROSE: . Services
Committee, it was hardly worth it, once you had had that kind of
BOB DOLE: It s almost — it s politically born again when you become
in the majority, when you ve been in the minority as long as
Republicans had been. And suddenly, you known, we re in charge? Who
is going to tell us what to do? How do you rap the gavel?
CHARLIE ROSE: All of a sudden, you re running things. You have real
power. BOB DOLE: Yeah, I go to the chairman — I go to the Finance
Committee, I m the boss, I m the chairman. I am going to write all
these tax bills — I don t know much about taxes — oh, yeah, we got
CHARLIE ROSE: But does the — I want to come back to Russell Long and
others, but does — I mean, to senator from Georgia, Richard Russell.
Do you have to make a decision when you come to the Senate, either I
want to find fame as a chairman, I want to find power from being a
chairman, Armed Services, Finance, Judiciary, Foreign Relations — or
B, do you say I want to be part of the leadership, I want to go that
route? George Mitchell went that route. You went that route.