The following is a transcript from an oral history interview the Richard Nixon Foundation conducted with Senator Bob Dole on November 9th, 2019
Project: Oral History with Senator Robert J. Dole
Date: Friday, November 9, 2018 at 1PM
Interviewed by: Jonathan Movroydis and Frank Gannon
Jonathan Movroydis: This is a Nixon Foundation Oral History with Senator Robert J. Dole. We’re in Washington, D.C. It’s November 9th, 2018. Senator Dole, thank you so much for joining us.
Senator Dole: Thank you.
Jonathan Movroydis: First question, you got into politics around the time of the 1960 election, national politics, running on the same ballot as President Nixon. When you got in, how did you feel about his politics?
Senator Dole: Oh, I liked his politics. And in fact, I first met him when he came to Pratt, Kansas to campaign for me, and I’d never met Nixon before then. Seemly, that’s been a long time, 1960 maybe.
Jonathan Movroydis: During that time, did he advise you at all during your early career or campaign with you?
Senator Dole: He campaigned for me in Kansas. He was on his way to the Herbert Hoover Funeral, and he stopped in Kansas to do an event for me on the way.
Frank Gannon: Did you think he was going to win in 1960?
Senator Dole: Oh, I thought so. But I was a strong Nixon supporter because we got along very well, the two of us.
Frank Gannon: Do you think he did win in 1960? There’s a lot of people who feel that the votes in Illinois and in Texas kind of nudged that into a different column.
Senator Dole: Well, that’s been a long time ago, but I thought Nixon won, and he did win.
Jonathan Movroydis: During the 1964 election, when Goldwater became the nominee for the Republican Party, President Nixon was an advocate for party unity, and then he campaigned for congressional Republicans in 1966. How did this period of time, especially Nixon’s campaigning in ’66 and his coming back as a national figure after the losses in ’60 and ’62…Did that impact your career in politics in any way?
Senator Dole: I don’t believe so. You know, the thing about Nixon, a lot of things I liked about Nixon, but personally, when we shook hands, he’d extend his left hand because he knew I wasn’t using my right arm. Just a little thing, but it was important to me that he recognized the problem.
Jonathan Movroydis: Were you at all surprised when he came back to politics and ran in 1968?
Senator Dole: Not really. No.
Jonathan Movroydis: Were you at the Convention, the Miami Convention in 1968?
Senator Dole: Oh, yes.
Jonathan Movroydis: Do you have any memories?
Senator Dole: I’d just been elected to the Senate, and I was in Miami and up on the stage with Nixon at his request, which I was happy to do.
Frank Gannon: You are well-known and rightly known for your sense of humor. Did Nixon have a sense of humor?
Senator Dole: No. I don’t think…I never him even try. Now, maybe when he was with the family or whatever, but I don’t remember any jovial moment.
Frank Gannon: Well, he was a serious man.
Senator Dole: He was a serious man, and he had a lot of good ideas too about welfare reform and our defenses. Yeah. If it hadn’t been for Watergate, he’d have gone down as one of our great presidents.
Frank Gannon: What do you think, what was the mistake he made? And how would you tell a young person today who knows nothing about him, what was Watergate and what did Nixon do wrong?
Senator Dole: Well, it was a third-rate burglary, and apparently Nixon was involved in some way. I don’t know how.
Frank Gannon: In the cover-up?
Senator Dole: “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up,” that was popular during Nixon’s presidency.
Frank Gannon: You didn’t know him then. I’m sorry, did you want to go on about Watergate?
Senator Dole: Yeah. Well, as I said earlier, I met him as he was on the way to Hoover’s funeral, and he agreed to stop in Kansas to campaign for me, which I appreciated very much, which made me a strong Nixon ally.
Frank Gannon: And then did you see him again during the ‘60s when he was…He calls those his “wilderness years.”
Senator Dole: Oh, I’m certain we had contact. I, you know, can’t remember. That’s been 60 years ago almost.
Jonathan Movroydis: Do you recall in 1968, in October, during the campaign in 1968, when President Johnson called a bombing halt of North Vietnam?
Senator Dole: No.
Jonathan Movroydis: Okay.
Frank Gannon: Did you know Mrs. Chennault, Anna Chennault?
Senator Dole: Oh, yeah.
Frank Gannon: There’s a controversy surrounding Nixon at that time that some claim that he used her as an emissary to convince the South Vietnamese government not to send a delegation to Paris. That essentially, he traded blood for votes. He allowed the war to continue in order to be elected. Do you remember anything about that at the time as a controversy or just as an idea?
Senator Dole: No, I don’t.
Frank Gannon: What was she like?
Senator Dole: Pat?
Frank Gannon: Mrs. Chennault?
Senator Dole: Oh, Mrs. Chennault? Well, she was…
Frank Gannon: Very glamorous [sounds like], I think.
Senator Dole: …very, I wouldn’t say “domineering,” but she was always in control. And she had a lot of influence with members of Congress, as well as the President.
Frank Gannon: What about Mrs. Nixon? What do you remember of her?
Senator Dole: Well, I remember Pat pretty well, because I’ve went to New Jersey to visit Nixon and Pat was there. And I remember, I think at the Convention, I wanted to give somebody something and she said, “Well, I don’t think we ought to do that.” I think it looked like it was two democratic or too flexible. But she was a very nice lady, and we had a good relationship. And she was not the most active first lady, but she did her job very well.
Frank Gannon: She had a great sense of humor.
Senator Dole: I never got to share that with her, except maybe at the Convention when I wanted to give somebody a sweater, I think it was, but she for some reason didn’t think that was a good idea. So I put the sweater away.
Frank Gannon: What about the girls? Did you know Tricia and Julie?
Senator Dole: I knew Julie, especially. I remember her being in Salina, Kansas campaigning for me. And then I’ve known, of course, Tricia, but not as well as Julie, because we contact Julie or did contact Julie now and then. And she’s a good friend of mine and really a wonderful lady.
Frank Gannon: Do you know…Well, I know you know, but do you know David Eisenhower well?
Senator Dole: Oh, I know David Eisenhower fairly well.
Frank Gannon: Has he been active…Because I know, one, he wrote an award-winning book about his grandfather in the war.
Senator Dole: Right.
Frank Gannon: Have you been…I know you’ve been active in the WWII Museum. Has he been active as well?
Senator Dole: I don’t know.
Jonathan Movroydis: You had mentioned that President Nixon did great things in the areas of defense and welfare reform. Can you touch upon any of those?
Senator Dole: Pardon?
Jonathan Movroydis: Can you touch upon any of those, his work on welfare reform?
Senator Dole: Let’s see. Well, I’ll put it this way, I thought it was very enlightening that he would support welfare reform. And he did and did some reform, but that’s about all I remember.
Frank Gannon: As a conservative, he was controversial because, although he was very strong on defense, a lot of conservatives, Bill Buckley, really never forgave him for the opening of China or détente. They felt that he was soft in that way. And then his domestic, he created the EPA, OSHA, welfare reform, the first health care reform bill. Senator Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, three months before he died, he said that a great regret was that he didn’t vote for the Nixon health care reform, because they didn’t get anything that good for another two to three decades.
Senator Dole: Right. Well, I don’t remember the details of the health reform. But Nixon, he was a hard worker, and he worked hard with calling senators and all this stuff. And, you know, he was a good president, except for that one mistake.
Frank Gannon: Do you remember the Nixon Congressional Relations operation, Bill Timmons or Tom Korologos?
Senator Dole: They’re both my friends. I haven’t heard from…Well, Korologos is still able to get around. I saw him recently. But I haven’t heard about Bill Timmons for a long time.
Frank Gannon: He’s had some health problems.
Senator Dole: I think so.
Frank Gannon: What about Bryce Harlow?
Senator Dole: Oh, Bryce was my buddy. When I was the national chairman of the party, Senator Scott didn’t like that because I had a bigger megaphone than he had. And as I remember, we had to call Bryce Harlow in, and he spent several hours with me that night and keeping everything on track. He was a great guy. Served Nixon well.
Jonathan Movroydis: Do you recall the time when President Nixon appointed you head of the Republican National Committee?
Senator Dole: No. My appointment was controversial with Scott, and we had a big wrangle before I finally became the chairman. We won.
Jonathan Movroydis: And you helped re-elect President Nixon to one of the biggest landslides in presidential history in 1972.
Senator Dole: He deserved it.
Frank Gannon: Did you campaign…I know you campaigned during that time. Do you have any memories of that ’72 campaign? He was blessed in a way by his opponent, by Senator McGovern, who was not a very dynamic personality.
Senator Dole: Oh, he was a good friend of mine. We did a lot of work together on food programs, helping the starving young people in Africa, school lunch, the whole works. But McGovern was a wonderful guy, just far too liberal for America. And I think he recognized that after the election. He got clobbered.
Frank Gannon: He came out years later, after President Nixon had died, Senator McGovern came out to the library and made a very gracious speech. So just as Hubert Humphrey and Nixon and George McGovern and Nixon reconciled after the election, those were the days in politics when you could be friends across the aisle.
Senator Dole: That’s right. And you could…Well, that’s true. When I was a Republican leader, I did a lot of work with Democrats, and we got along fine. I don’t know why they don’t get along today, but that was a long time ago. But we had Democrats supporting us in certain bills, and we got a lot done.
Frank Gannon: That was one of the things, Nixon was the first president since Zachary Taylor in 120 years not to have at least one house of the Congress supporting him during his first term. Of course, he never had any during. But it’s remarkable given that it was such a close election. Humphrey almost won. Ted Kennedy was ready to run in ’72, so the Democrats had no interest in helping Nixon. But that first term in the Congress was so dynamic in the things that Nixon could accomplish. So that was across the aisle that there was a concept of the national interest.
Senator Dole: Well, he had a Democrat Congress. And so Nixon was a pretty good compromiser too. If they had a view and he had a view, they’d end up in the middle, compromise. He didn’t believe “compromise” was a bad word, that sometimes it’s very helpful, and sometimes it’s necessary. So he was a very bright person, and he understood everything he presented to Congress. And I don’t know, I liked him.
Jonathan Movroydis: We recently had a Supreme Court confirmation, President Nixon appointed four justices to the Supreme Court. He calls it “one of his greatest legacies as the President.”
Senator Dole: Oh, it is. I don’t remember who the four were, but…
Jonathan Movroydis: Among them, William Rehnquist.
Senator Dole: Rehnquist, Warren…
Frank Gannon: Rehnquist, Powell…
Jonathan Movroydis: Burger.
Frank Gannon: …Burger, and Blackmun.
Senator Dole: Huh. Yeah. Well, Blackmun was a conservative.
Frank Gannon: Rehnquist wasn’t a slouch.
Senator Dole: No. No, he was really conservative.
Frank Gannon: Did you get along with the White House staff, Haldeman, Ehrlichman?
Senator Dole: No.
Frank Gannon: No? Why not?
Senator Dole: Well, I always thought they were sort of arrogant. And they felt they had all the power, the two of them, they didn’t need Congress. And so they weren’t very much one of much help to Nixon, I didn’t believe. I just didn’t like either one of them. Not because it’s personal, but because what I thought they were doing.
Frank Gannon: Were there people on the White House staff that you knew and/or dealt with, or felt if you wanted to get to the President, you could through them?
Senator Dole: Well, yes. I would never call Haldeman or Ehrlichman, because they wouldn’t pass it on. I can’t remember, I had a friend there. I would call him and say, “I’d like to see Nixon,” and the next thing, I was in the White House. I think I mentioned the one thing person was his left handshake, and he never failed. And as I said, it was kinda of important to me that he recognized that.
Jonathan Movroydis: Did you work at all with Don Rumsfeld when he was in the White House? He had served with you in Congress before that.
Senator Dole: We were office neighbors, and he was a good man. But he lost his job when, what, Bush ’43 came in. I may not be right.
Jonathan Movroydis: I think that’s right.
Senator Dole: Yeah.
Jonathan Movroydis: How about Henry Kissinger?
Senator Dole: Oh, Henry was a legend in his own mind, and in my mind too he was a legend. Which if you open up China, that’s a pretty good start. But Henry Kissinger was, I think, Nixon’s biggest asset getting things done in foreign policy.
Frank Gannon: How about John Mitchell?
Senator Dole: Well, John Mitchell, and he had a wife too, you remember? She liked to call in and heckle. Not heckle, but she had quite a mouth, and she was always talking. And John Mitchell was, I thought, kinda quiet. I can’t remember, I had a problem with him. Anyway, it wasn’t important in the scheme of things.
Jonathan Movroydis: How about Daniel Patrick Moynihan when he served in the Nixon White House?
Senator Dole: He’s my buddy, was my buddy. The two of us, I think at Rutherford’s saving Social Security, when it was about to go belly up in, what, 1983 I think it was, and Pat and I were on a commission, and Alan Greenspan was the chairman. But I remember, we tried to agree on a program, but we had to delay it until the first of the year. And I remember Moynihan walking on the Senate floor, and I was there. And we sort of agreed, “We can’t let this happen.” They, including my mother, lived solely on Social Security.” And so Pat and I worked out a little program and went back to Greenspan and with some changes, we saved Social Security.
Frank Gannon: What about John Heinz?
Senator Dole: So you mean the Senator?
Frank Gannon: Heinz, Pennsylvania.
Senator Dole: He was a good friend. He wanted to be president. And he might have been, but fate…You know? But I liked John Heinz. Some thought he was a little too elitist, but I could always count on him for a vote.
Jonathan Movroydis: What about the Secretary of Agriculture Cliff Hardin?
Senator Dole: Oh, he was a good man and I think did a good job. I was on the Senate Ag Committee, so we had quite a bit of dealing with Hardin. And I think he did an excellent job.
Frank Gannon: You talked about the first time you met Nixon and when he campaigned in Kansas in ’60. Do you remember the last time you saw him?
Senator Dole: Well, let’s see, he got…I thought I took over his rehab program. I invited Nixon to come and speak to the Republican senators, and he gave us a trip around the world without a note. I mean, he knew it. It was up here. We were all kinda stunned, but that was Nixon. He was always prepared. And, you know, I think he did a lot of good things, except for that one big one.
Frank Gannon: Your eulogy of him, in which you talked about the Age of Nixon…
Senator Dole: Right.
Frank Gannon: …his justly famous, our library, the words are in bronze right in the entryway.
Senator Dole: Oh, really?
Frank Gannon: Everybody sees them, first thing they see when they come in. How did you go about writing that? Because also, you delivered it in a very powerful and emotional way.
Senator Dole: Emotional.
Frank Gannon: Yes.
Senator Dole: I couldn’t help it. And just something took over, and I think a theme of that song was “How American was Richard Nixon?” And I almost got through the speech. It was the last minute, I guess. But, you know, I was speaking in the service of a friend of mine. Not a president, but a friend and a good friend. So it was pretty hard to do.
Frank Gannon: It was much appreciated and much remembered, and also there’s a video of it in the library.
Senator Dole: Oh, really?
Frank Gannon: So people, young people, new people, can come and see it, and the words are still powerful. You talked about his mark on the last half of the 20th century. The 20th century, that part will be known as the Age of Nixon. How do you think about the 21st century and beyond? How has Nixon…What’s his memory now, and what will the legacy of his accomplishments be into history?
Senator Dole: Well, Supreme Court nominees, welfare reform. He didn’t get it passed, but he at least had a program. He was strong on defense and foreign policy with Henry Kissinger. That was a good team.
Jonathan Movroydis: In September 1971, you went on a trip to the Far East…
Senator Dole: I did.
Jonathan Movroydis: …visiting Japan, Cambodia, and Thailand. Do you remember what you reported to the President after that trip?
Senator Dole: I may not have reported anything.
Jonathan Movroydis: Or the context, do you remember the context behind the trip?
Senator Dole: Well, it was what they call a “codel,” when you don’t need the White House. If you’re a leader, you can get a plane and invite senators, and take off. And that’s what happened on the Far East trip.
Frank Gannon: If Nixon had stayed in, I think one of his regrets in his later life was that because of Watergate, and because of the way he’d mishandled it, and because he had to resign, he felt that if he had still been president, carried out his term, if the North Vietnamese had broken the Paris Peace Accords, which of course they would and did, he would have reacted. He would have bombed them as he had said he would.
Frank Gannon: And similarly, with the Shah, that if he would have…Somehow the results might have been the same, but he would have urged the Shah to lighten up, to moderate.
Senator Dole: Right.
Frank Gannon: If Nixon had stayed in office, how might things have been different?
Senator Dole: Well, a lot of good things. Because I can’t remember, he never had a Republican Congress, so he had to work with Democrats and in those days, we were able to work together. And I don’t remember his total program, but a lot of it got passed because he was prepared, and he had good Cabinet officers who could testify. And then he had Eric…No.
Frank Gannon: Ehrlichman.
Senator Dole: Yeah, Ehrlichman. He was the worst, I think.
Frank Gannon: We’re in your office here, in Downtown Washington, and there’s a picture on the wall of you with presidents, every president going back to Eisenhower and up to Clinton, but I know you’ve known the ones beyond. There’s another picture of you with President Obama in Normandy with your wives. How do you compare Nixon with all the presidents you’ve known, a cavalcade of presidents? How does he stand in terms of personality and accomplishment?
Senator Dole: Well, he’d be right with Eisenhower, the two of them. They were a great team. But I thought Nixon was a great president. So he would rank pretty high among presidents.
Frank Gannon: We have a lot of young visitors coming, a lot of school groups to the library. What would you want them to know? For them, Nixon is ancient history.
Senator Dole: Right. They don’t know who he is probably.
Frank Gannon: They don’t know who he is, which in a way is bad, but in a way is good, because they’re a level playing field in terms of…So what would you tell them that they should know about Richard Nixon?
Senator Dole: Well, first, they should know he was the president, and probably go over some of the legislative goals that Nixon had. And I’d tell them my opinion of Nixon was very high, and I could tell them the reasons that we had a good relationship. Or you could tell them most anything. I mean, it has to be true, but they didn’t know who Nixon was, most of them.
Jonathan Movroydis: I was asking about the impact of ending the military draft. When Nixon Administration ended the military draft, what do you feel was the impact of that on our society?
Senator Dole: I don’t really know the impact. I never was a student of the draft. But it had to be good news for a lot of men that age. You know, if they enlisted, they might get a better deal. And a lot of us enlisted, and of course Nixon had war service too. So there were a lot more veterans in Congress than today. And there’s something about military service, you learn to work together. Whether you’re a D or an R, you can, you know, get things done by going to your friends on the Democratic side, and they would come to us on the Republican side.
Frank Gannon: Were you a supporter of the All-Volunteer Armed Force with Nixon?
Senator Dole: Right.
Frank Gannon: You were?
Senator Dole: Yes.
Jonathan Movroydis: Did you work at all on the POW/MIA issue…
Senator Dole: Oh, big time. I remember, when I showed up at a group of women from all over the country whose husbands were either listed MIA or POW, and I sort of helped organize the League of Families. And I’m trying to think of the lady whose husband ran for office.
Jonathan Movroydis: Was it Denton or Stockdale?
Senator Dole: Who?
Jonathan Movroydis: Was it Sybil Stockdale?
Senator Dole: That’s it. She was a good friend of mine, and we did a lot together in getting the League of Families off the ground, and they became quite a political force because they had something real they could talk to members about. And if they needed legislation, they would get it done after these ladies descended on Congress.
Jonathan Movroydis: How was the administration…Did you work at all with the Nixon Administration?
Senator Dole: Me?
Jonathan Movroydis: In terms of the POW/MIA issue?
Senator Dole: Yes. In fact, I helped organize the POW/MIA effort with Sybil Stockdale and others. And I think they started off with 8 or 10 ladies and ended up with hundreds. And so I was proud of myself in that effort.
Frank Gannon: Jonathan conducts podcasts for the Nixon Library. Do you listen to podcasts?
Senator Dole: No.
Frank Gannon: Well, you’ll want to listen to Jonathan’s. And he’s going to start a series of interviews with POWs…
Senator Dole: Oh, good.
Frank Gannon: There are now a little more than 250 survivors still, and we had a reunion dinner two years ago at the library on May 24th, 40th reunion. But Jonathan and we’re going to do, weekly, an interview with each of the survivors that we can get to, and I think it’ll be a very powerful series.
Senators Dole: Oh, yeah. When’s it start?
Frank Gannon: In a couple of months.
Senator Dole: Oh, okay. Well, somebody let me know.
Jonathan Movroydis: During your years as the Republican leader in the Senate, did President Nixon counsel you at all in terms of politics, or give you any sort of advice?
Senator Dole: I don’t recall. I think he felt I could do the job, and he could do his job. And I tried not to bother Nixon very much.
Jonathan Movroydis: Do you have any other stories about President Nixon that you can recall?
Senator Dole: Well, the big part of Nixon, you know, after he resigned, he kind of went into seclusion. And I invited him to come and speak to the Republican senators, and Robert Byrd heard about it, and he was a big Nixon fan. So Nixon then spoke to all the Democratic members of the Senate. Without a note, he took them around the world, and they left, some of the Nixon haters left there stunned, that this man could do that after all he had been through.
Frank Gannon: Why was Bob Byrd a big Nixon fan?
Senator Dole: Who?
Frank Gannon: Bob Byrd, Senator Byrd.
Senator Dole: Oh, he was a Nixon. In fact…
Frank Gannon: Why?
Senator Dole: …I think Nixon wanted to mention him one day about the Supreme Court, and he was willing to serve. I don’t know how Nixon played it, but he was a big Nixon fan.
Frank Gannon: Do you have any dealings with John Dean?
Senator Dole: No, thank goodness.
Jim Byron: Senator, you said that you and President Nixon were good friends. Why was that such a good friendship? Why did you get along so well?
Senator Dole: Well, he campaigned for me. And in ’68, when I was elected to the Senate, we had a convention in Miami, and Nixon paraded the new senators and I was one of them. So I don’t know, we just seemed to hit it off.
Frank Gannon: How do you account…In many ways, he was a very shy man, did not have a lot of easy banter, small talk. In many ways, he was a man not qualified, except for his intellect and his discipline and his drive to be president. How do you account for someone…What drove him? Because he wasn’t interested in money. It really was pure service that drove him. Or what do you think drove him?
Senator Dole: Well, he had a taste with Eisenhower, and he probably learned a great deal from Ike. But then he was more or less a student of government, and he understood it, and he could relay it to everybody who would listen. And that was a big plus for him, his intellect.
Frank Gannon: After he lost the governorship in California, did his famous last press conference, did you think he was finished?
Senator Dole: Well, I took his word for it, yeah.
Frank Gannon: And it was Pat Buchanan has just written a book called “The Greatest Comeback,” that it really was remarkable that from having lost to Kennedy in ’60 and then Brown in ’62 and moved to New York, left his base and moved into the apartment below Nelson Rockefeller, six years later, he’s raising his hand and being sworn in as the 37th president.
Senator Dole: Not bad.
Jim Byron: I think to close, Senator, you wrote a piece last year in POLITICO, in which you said that, “Washington could use a man like Nixon again.” And that, “While the second half of the 20th century,” your line, “would be known as the Age of Nixon, the 21st Century is very much also shaping up to continue that age.” What do you attribute that to? Why was it the Age of Nixon? And are we still in the Age of Nixon?
Senator Dole: Well, because he was sort of brought back into the fold when he addressed the Republican senators, and then when he addressed the Democratic senators. And I think, of course, that was quite a while after he left the White House, but I remember taking five senators up to New Jersey to visit with Nixon, and he knew all about each member. I think he’d studied a little before we got up there. But, you know, a just delightful visit. Pat came in and stayed a while.
Frank Gannon: You remember who you selected, who you thought would be interested to meet Nixon, or might be helped or improved by meeting Nixon?
Senator Dole: Well, Al Simpson was one, Senator Simpson. He liked Nixon, and he was my whip, you know, my deputy, whatever. And I think Jim McClure was in that group from Idaho. And who else?
Jim Byron: Bob Michel, is he in there?
Senator Dole: Who?
Jim Byron: Bob Michel, is he in there?
Senator Dole: Who?
Jim Byron: Bob.
Frank Gannon: Bob Michel, but he would have been in the House.
Senator Dole: Oh, he was in the House, but he probably took a group up himself. He was a wonderful member. They don’t make any more like Bob Michel.
Frank Gannon: Why don’t they make them? You look at, in your day, people had biographies instead of resumes. I mean, you went through things and you did things, and you accomplished things. And today, I mean, people are great, but it’s a…
Senator Dole: It’s different.
Frank Gannon: It’s thinner. But why is that, and why didn’t you change it?
Senator Dole: Well, we changed it when I was there and had a lot of democratic friends. Well, not a lot, but enough to help us, people like David Boren from Oklahoma and others. And I don’t know, we had a good time and got a lot done, and Nixon helped.
I really got to know Nixon during…I knew him when he was President, but I really got to know him when he sorta made a comeback. And as I said, the senators in both parties, you know, they thought this was an awesome presentation, and it was. So Nixon had regained some stature, and senators wanted to hear him. And I think it helped him a lot, and it certainly helped us a lot.
Frank Gannon: Did you ever go up to see him in New York during that period from ’62 to ’68 or…
Senator Dole: No.
Frank Gannon: You’re 95. How old do you feel?
Senator Dole: About 60…
Jonathan Movroydis: That’s pretty good.
Senator Dole: …on a bad day.
Frank Gannon: That’s the way you act and sound, so it’s good on you.
Jim Byron: Anything else, Senator?
Senator Dole: I don’t know. I had met Nixon in Yorba Linda before he was no longer a president, and then he went to New York and we visited him there. I thought he lived in New Jersey?
Frank Gannon: He did.
Senator Dole: Yeah.
Frank Gannon: He lived first in New York, and then in New Jersey.
Senator Dole: Yeah. Right.
Frank Gannon: Did you ever visit the Casa Pacifica in San Clemente?
Senator Dole: No.
Jim Byron: How about the Nixon Library? [inaudible 00:51:25]
Senator Dole: Oh, I’ve been there, and I’ve spoken at the library, and they’re still going strong.
Frank Gannon: Very strong.
Senator Dole: We have a good program, right?
Frank Gannon: Yes. .
Frank Gannon: And two years ago, there was a complete renovation. So we hope you’ll come out and see the…Now, there’s lots of interactive things and movies, and films, and videos.
Frank Gannon: You would enjoy it.
Senator Dole: How many visitors do you have?
Frank Gannon: About 200,000 a year. But we’re also very active online. So, you know, hundreds of thousands a week go onto the website. You know, if we weren’t here, and I met you in your office and said, you know, “What do you think of when you think of Richard Nixon?” is there an image of him, of an event? What’s the first thing that comes to mind when somebody just mentions Nixon?
Senator Dole: Well, he was my friend. That’s the first thing I think of. And I thought he would have been a great president, but he goofed it up. You know, it’s just too bad we never had the full Nixon.
Frank Gannon: There’s no doubt he goofed it up. How much of what happened to him was a result of a partisan feeding frenzy? It was the first time the hearings were on television. I mean, did the punishment fit the crime. How serious was…You said it was a third-rate burglary, so he did screw up.
Senator Dole: Yeah. He did and…
Frank Gannon: What should have happened?
Senator Dole: Well, I don’t think he could have gotten out of resignation. I mean, he was pretty well-involved. And I remember being at the White House the day he left, he invited, I don’t know, a couple hundred people. And we saw him get on the helicopter, wave goodbye, and he was gone. And it was big to us.
Frank Gannon: But in those remaining 20 years, he came back. He almost died, but he came back, ended up as an elder statesman, an advisor to president, to senators.
Senator Dole: Oh, yeah.
Frank Gannon: And so it was an exemplary later life.
Senator Dole: Oh, no doubt about it. I mean, I think back, I can remember clearly when he spoke to the Republican senators. And as I said, Bob Byrd heard about it, and he wanted him to speak to the Democratic senators. So he’d sort of completed his rehabilitation on Capitol Hill, and he went on to be, as you said, an elder statesman. And he had a lot of brains, and he could help people. If you asked him, he’d help you.
Frank Gannon: Right up until he died, a month before he died, he had had an exchange, and then at the White House with President Clinton to report on his, Nixon’s, trip to Russia, because he was trying to work for Yeltsin. And so right up until the end, he was engaged.
Senator Dole: Well, that’s the way he was.