Transcript of an evening with Bob Dole at Osage County Senior Center, July 15, 2014

An evening with Bob Dole at Osage County Senior Center, Osage City, Kansas, July 15, 2014.

080214-bob-doleRetired U.S. Senator Bob Dole greeted a roomful of about 90 people at the Osage County Senior Center, Osage City, on July 15, 2014. Dole was introduced by Willie Prescott, of Osage City, and sat in a chair in front of the crowd to give his speech. The following is transcribed from a recording of the event.

Willie Prescott: Greetings Senator … Senator Bob Dole, a Kansas icon. [Prescott noted it was one week before Dole’s upcoming 91st birthday.] Our native Russell Kansan has come to visit us tonight.

Bob Dole: Well I know its dinner time, but I didn’t bring anything. This is a very nice senior center, you ought to be very proud of it. Is the food good?

(Crowd murmuring.)

We have a very nice senior center in Russell, so they’re very important and help a lot of people.

I’m happy to be here. I don’t have an agenda, so we can probably adjourn in about two minutes.

I just came by to say thank you. Thank you for voting for me over all those years. I ran five times for the Senate, and even if you voted against me that’s OK, we won anyway.

Any way it’s great to be here I’ve been here many times before and always nice people and good people.

One thing we have in Kansas, that I think some places lack, won’t name the states, is common sense – if everything else fails, we read the directions.

I think I learned that growing up. Our parents taught us to work hard, be accountable, be honest. We didn’t have a lot back then. We lived in the basement apartment of our house and rented out the upstairs to help pay the bills.

But that was a long time ago and my dad [noise …] with farmers, he bought their cream and eggs and chickens and later ran an elevator, a grain elevator.

I sort of started off in politics by accident. I was a law student at Washburn University and we had a law librarian, who was a very nice lady named Beth Bowers, who was a Democrat. She thought more young people ought to get involved in public service, not just politics, doing something where you could make a difference for one person, or 100 or 1,000. She talked four us into running for the state legislature, and two of us were elected, one Republican, I was the Republican, and one Democrat, and I served one term there and then I ran for county attorney and served eight years as county attorney.

Then our congressman came by to see me one day in the county attorney’s office. He said, Bob, I’m going to retire. I only won my last race by 57 votes so I think it’s time maybe I ought to leave. So I think you’d make a pretty good candidate for congress and I said I’ll think about it, and I thought about for about five seconds, it felt like a good idea to me.

So we had three people in the race, my name was Dole, d-o-l-e, and we had a fellow named Doyle, d-o-y-l-e in the race.

He was from Beloit and I was from Russell, people in our hometown knew us but nobody else knew us in the district and we had another very fine guy named Keith Sebelius who later came to Congress, was American Legion state commander, was just a good, good friend.

So we had to figure out some way to make a distinction between me and this Phil Doyle so we came up with the idea of serving Dole pineapple juice. We served it all over the district, and it was served by what were known then as Dolls for Dole. We had all these lovely ladies serving pineapple juice, If I did that today I’d be arrested for harassment or something. We didn’t know then there was anything wrong with it, we were having a good time and just trying to get elected.

We had a covered wagon, we had Bobolinks [?] we had everything, and we won by 984 votes. So I stayed there for eight years and then Sen. Carlson, who some of you may remember, a wonderful man, he started the Senate prayer breakfast when he was in the Senate.

Called me over to his office one day and said, Bob, I haven’t told anybody but I’m not going to run again, just like to spend some time at home in Concordia. I’ve watched you in the House and think you’d probably make a pretty good candidate, so let me give you a little heads up. Don’t tell anybody I’m not running, but you can start moving around the state saying in case Sen. Carlson doesn’t run, I’m here to fill his shoes, and it worked.

I ran against former Gov. Bill Avery, who was another good friend of mine. We always seemed to like to run against our friends, so I ran for the Senate, ran five times totally.

Probably one or two in the room who voted for me five times. It’d be somebody that old or older than me.

(Crowd indicates some voted for Dole.)

Did you vote once or twice?

(Crowd noise)

Only vote more often than once in Chicago.

I just want to thank you for you know giving me this opportunity to provide public service and at the same time try to represent the people in my state the best I could.

One thing I learned early on is it’s the little things that count, big things are of course very important, don’t misunderstand me, but it’s whether you’re taking care of somebody’s Social Security or veterans benefit or their welfare check or something they’ve had trouble with government or VA, well that’s part of government, too, VA or whatever it might be, getting somebody home for somebody’s last rites, or getting some veteran home for some reason for him to be home, and all those things are sort of small things, but they add up, people begin to get confident that you can get things done.

I was freshman of the Senate Republican freshman class and later I became the Senate Republican leader for 10 years and had the honor of being Ronald Reagan’s leader for four years, and he is the Republican icon conservative icon that we all admire and wish we could find another one right quick for 2016. But I learned al lot from President Reagan, one thing I learned is sometimes you don’t get everything you want.

He told me one day, he said, now Bob, I want to get all this legislation. I want to get 100 percent. And he said that with that little twinkle in his eye, if you can’t get a 100 get me 70 and I’ll get the rest next year.

So I learned you know in private life or public life sometimes you have to give a little unless you’re at home and then you just say yes – that’s for the men.

So I think it was a good lesson.

Reagan also believed in reaching across the aisle. He had this personality and persuasive voice of his and he could charm a snake. And he would get Democrats or Republicans down at the White House and go up to the living quarters and have a Coke or Pespsi or whatever soft drink you wanted, and you know he just had this way about him that really paid off and he did a lot for America. Think of the millions of Europeans that are free because he stood there and said ‘Gorbechev tear down this wall’. And it paid off.

When he fired the air traffic controllers, against the union’s objections, people knew we had a leader, I mean he wasn’t anti-union but he wanted to preserve the best interest of the people of this country and they were kind of  (unintelligible) everything and he thought that was the wrong thing to do.

So, but anyway, I was Republican national chairman during Watergate – I was clean.

But I had a reporter come to me one day, his name was Joe Lastelic [?] of the Kansas City Star, and he said to me, ‘Bob, I hate to ask you this question, but the Democrats keep insisting I ask it, were the burglary tools hidden in your apartment?’

I said, ‘no, Joe, that was my night off.’

So anyway that was quite an experience, a lot of travel, a lot of campaigning for other people .

But I think the disappointment, I’ll just take another minute or two here, was not getting the balanced budget amendment passed, which would have required the government to balance the budget just like everybody in the audience tries to balance yours or balances yours. And that was in the early ‘80s and we had 51 Republicans in the Senate and 49 Democrats, so I thought we’d win by 51 to 49, except one Republican defected overnight, so the vote was 50-50 and we lost. And I’ve thought many times what a difference it would have made had we required a balanced budget way back in the early ‘80s, we wouldn’t have a lot of this foolish spending, I don’t mean the regular spending, Social Security, farm legislation and things that you appropriate money for, I’m talking about pork and similar things that people load the bill up with, the bridge to nowhere and all these things read about, and that couldn’t happen, and that was my biggest disappointment while I was in the Senate.

My biggest, I don’t say achievement, because I didn’t do it by myself, was rescuing Social Security was about to go bankrupt in a sense that Social Security trust fund wouldn’t have enough money to pay your entire check unless we fixed it, and there was timeline, there was deadline. So they appointed a commission – sometimes a commission is just a way to delay things.

But we knew, there were six Democrats and six Republicans, Alan Greenspan, who later became chairman of Federal Reserve, a very important job, was the chairman. We just couldn’t put it together, it wasn’t politics, we just couldn’t find enough Republicans or Democrats to give us, there were 13 of us counting the chairman, so we needed at least seven votes, so finally after one day I met Sen. Moynihan on the Senate floor, we adjourned for Christmas in ‘82, came back January 3rd and we met on the Senate floor and we said almost at the same time, we can’t let this happen. There are 30 million Americans relying on Social Security and in some cases that’s their sole source of income. So we changed a few things, and got some other commission members together and changed a few things, we finally had nine votes out of 13, it passed and it passed the Congress, so Social Security has been solvent since 1983. It’s going to have to be fixed again one of these days, but it won’t affect any seniors, in fact it probably won’t affect anybody 45 or older, maybe younger, I don’t know where the line is. I’m not up there anymore but I hear a lot of gossip, but you might have to, if you’re, say, 38 years old, you might have to wait another year until you’re eligible for Social Security, and if maybe we need something in Kansas, maybe Pat Roberts can get that done.

That’s sort of it, any questions that I might be able to …

I don’t know who the candidates are going to be in 2016.  Hillary can hardly afford it, said they were broke while in the White House, had to pay two mortgages, I felt for them – not very long.

Republicans I don’t know, I think they’ve got all kinds of possibilities.

Man in audience: Is it true your classmates when you went to Washburn were dependent on you for their class lessons because you had a little metal box that you recorded, the man that told me that was Jack Quinlan?

Who? Oh Jack Qunilan was a good friend of mine. Yeah, I had trouble with my left hand, I couldn’t write, and my right arm didn’t work. So I had a recording machine called a sounds grabber, and I would take it to class and put it on the professor’s desk and it had a little round disk you put on the machine and when he started talking I’d turn it on so I could listen to the lecture two or three times. And when we got home at night I could write slowly, so I would transcribe the record and write it down so I could read it. So at exam time I was pretty popular to people who had slept through the lecture or otherwise didn’t understand. I tried to be helpful, Jack Quinlan was great guy.

Man in audience: Names names of people who send birthday wishes.

You must be familiar with the Dole Institute. We’ve got, where’s Clarissa?

Clarissa Unger: I’m back here, senator.

Clarissa’s with the Dole Institute and she’s been kind enough to travel around with us. She’s on the development team, which means she raising money, so you’ll want to keep your hands on your wallet. Yeah, those are all good people you mentioned, and Clarissa does a good job. She’s from Colby, Kansas, Clarissa Unger, and so were happy to have her with us and if anybody wants to unload a couple million, she’d be happy to take five minutes of your time.

Loud man in audience: On behalf of myself as a veteran and other veterans here, thank you for your support of veterans and also what you’ve done to support our armed forces … I don’t think machines will ever completely replace soldiers and it appears there’s a trend to have a lot less soldiers, like to hear your thoughts.

Question, in case you didn’t hear in the back, is about our military and whether or not we’re spending too little or cutting too much from our military, I think that’s it in effect, and I think we are. I mean you know we have liberty and freedom in this country and everybody wants to come here, look at the Mexican border, you can see that almost every night on the news. Well you can see it on Fox news.

But, we’re greatest nation on the face of the earth, we’re stronger than Russia militarily and economically, I think we’re stronger than China. China’s got more men in uniform because they’ve got so many people over there, they’ve got to put them in something, so they put them in uniform.

We’ve got trouble spots all over the world. and I’ve been saying if you had a map of the world and threw a dart you’d probably hit a country where we’re adding to the problem, it might be North Korea, it might Russia, it might be Egypt, it might be Syria, it might be Iraq, it might be Iran, it might be Venezuela, it might be China, even though we borrow money from China they’re not on our A list as friends. They want to be the powerhouse of the world and I don’t know maybe they will some day.

We’ve got to watch our monetary policy, we’ve got to watch our military. There is probably some waste in the military that ought to be eliminated. Some of the weapons that Congress approves, the generals, chiefs of staff, and the people who really understand the big picture, they don’t want these weapons, but they’re forced to go ahead because Congress voted the money for them. So I always had the theory if a military bill was before us, I’d rather vote for a little more than a little less because I don’t know what’s going to happen next year or five years from now.

We don’t need to send any more young men, as we did in Iraq where we lost 7,000 young men and women and now the country is in effect a terrorist state, and it’s filled with corruption. We spent billions and they took millions. Who knows where they hid it, probably in a Swiss bank somewhere. So we’ve got real problems with our foreign policy and nobody seems to be doing anything.

Lady: What do you think about sending out pink slips (to service men and women) telling them they will not have a job when they return from the war zones?

Question was what do I think about the pink slips they’re handing out to our service men and women while they’re still in uniform saying you’re not going to be able to stay in this service? I can’t think of anything worse as far as mental attitude, being deployed somewhere and somebody looks you up and hands you a pink slip and says when this deployment ends you’re finished. Somebody made a big goof and that happens now and then in Washington if you haven’t noticed.

Loud man: Somebody made a big goof and sent them to Washington.

Probably right. Reminds me that some people in Washington, particularly an elected office, think that once they’re elected, you know, think that’s their right, you know, that’s my state, I don’t have to go home, I can just stay back here and go to the embassy parties every week or whatever you want to do. And that’s how they lose their seat. Once you forget where you’re from, and start thinking you’re in some big hotshot place with a lot of rich lobbyists around, well the people forget you, you forget them and they got long memories. They don’t expect to see you every time you come to your home state, but they like to know you’re at least interested in the state and interested in the people. That’s what you’re supposed to be: representative government and representative means we represent you, we’re your face in the Congress.

I said another thing, it’s the little things that count, but the biggest thing is you voting for me. That was my greatest achievement, I got elected.

But I’m in good health now, but got a bad right knee that’s supposed to be getting better, but been supposed to be getting better for over a year now. But had it operated on, but apparently the operation didn’t work. Worked on the left knee but not on the right one. I imagine there’s several in the audience that have had partial knee replacement or total knee replacement, and I hope you’ve got along fine.

I told my doctor about it and he said there’s nothing I could do about it, and he’s probably right, he did all he could, just wasn’t enough.

Loud man: And that was before affordable health care.

And now we have Obamacare, our worries are over. Watch your premiums go up.

(Audience comments.)

Oh they already are? Aye, yi, yi.

Loud lady: What do you think about United States government lack of support of Israel and the fact we’re still giving money to Palestine when Hamas is part of that government …

First thing is, we need to support Israel. It’s our only ally in the Middle East and they will fight for every inch of ground. Right now Netanyahu is the leader, and people know he is the leader and because they know it, they follow his leadership. And about everybody in Israel is in the reserves, every man and many women, because they’re surrounded by enemies. And the fact that we’re giving money to Palestinians, which gives money to Hamas, just boggles the mind, I can’t understand why this would happen. I think it’s going to be cut off by Congress, but it’s a little late. There are terrorists all over, even terrorists coming across the border with Mexico, slipping through with all these poor young children who’ve got all kinds of infectious diseases. It’s not their fault, don’t know how we’re going, we need to send the National Guard to secure the border.

(Applause.)

Everybody wants to come to America, as I said earlier it’s a great country.

Loud man: We applaud you.

I used to say if anybody wants to leave this country, I’d be glad to help you, but never got anybody to take me up on it. We like to complain sometimes, and sometimes we should, we not a perfect country, but I don’t know of another one that matches the U.S., whether it’s highways or whatever. Any more questions?

Man: Senator, how is Senator Elizabeth?

Senator Elizabeth Dole, you know she ran once and then was defeated by a lady who’s going to lose this time. So we had a fundraiser for this lady’s opponent … just to help her along, help her out.

But Elizabeth is working on a program for caregivers for veterans. Some of these veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, they’re really seriously injured. Some can’t move a muscle and require almost 24/7 care, and their spouse can do it and their children can do it, but after a while they need a break, they need a little respite, just to get their mind off of how bad their father or son may be or daughter. So Elizabeth has been working on that. She met 10 days ago with Tom Hanks, in California. His father was a Navy veteran, so he wants to do all he can to help. He’s going to make a TV spot for her, and he’s serving on her advisory board, and he’s going to give her some money, and he’s got quite a bit of that. So she’s now watching all of his old movies, so she’ll be sure … I think she had David Gump on when I left. But, he made good movies. Anyway, she’s doing the Lord’s work. And she’s got caregivers now in each state, each state to be sure to find volunteers to help out.

Man: You know David Morissey, Kansan from Topeka who’s fought his handicap?

Well that’s another bill that I was very proud of that and that was helping to get the American Disabilities Act passed. For people in wheelchairs and people with white canes and veterans and other children and adults with disabilities in wheelchairs. You know we’ve put elevators, ramps, cutouts in curbs, just small things can make a real difference.

Now we’re working on a treaty. I’m cooperating with the White House, it’s not a partisan thing but something I’m interested in. You need 67 votes for a treaty, and what this treaty does is say if David goes overseas you can’t discriminate against him. One hundred and thirty-nine countries have ratified the treaty, and we’re the greatest example of taking care of disability issues and we haven’t ratified it. Last time we brought it up we lost by five votes. This time we’re about two votes short and unfortunately the trouble is on the Republican side. And there’s no politics, it’s not liberal or conservative, it’s just saying that people who have a disability, you know we’re going to provide that you won’t be discriminated against. I want to thank David for all his help. They don’t have any high-powered lobbyists in Gucci loafers back there, they’ve got to do it all – David does in Kansas. And I could use a couple of votes from Kansas, come to think of it.

And I think what we’d like to do, it’s only $100 a piece, and that’s to get some pictures. If you want two, you can get two for $150, but singles are $100, and enlargements we can’t even estimate the cost.

Crowd stands and applauds; line forms for photos.

Photos of the evening are available here.
See also On Windy Hill: Spending an evening with Bob Dole at the Osage County Senior Center.


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