Robert Dole photo

Interview on WHO Radio

February 12, 1996

MICKELSON: Big day. This is the focal point of your whole political career, comes down to this point. This is something you've been dreaming about, been thinking about, planning towards. What are your reflections the day of this caucus? What are you thinking about?

DOLE: Well, I've thought about a lot of things the last few days in Iowa because this is whore it all starts, or it could end for some people right here in Iowa. I did well here in '88 as you know and then I tripped up in New Hampshire.

But it's sort of — because I said it's like a football game. We're going to play the first half in Iowa and the second half in New Hampshire. And so all of us would like to leave half-time with a pretty good lead.

I feel good about it. I know the people here. I've worked with the people here, with Senator Grassley and members of Congress and the governor. So, you know, I'm ready for the people to make a judgment. I think they'll make the right judgment.

MICKELSON: The polls all have you ahead, considerably ahead. And the race seems to be revolving around the second place. Did you expect there to be this many Republicans in the race squabbling for this seat? I mean ...

DOLE: Well ...

MICKELSON: There's such an incredible crowd.

DOLE: It's a, you know, the most important job in the world, President of the United States, and a lot of people have different views on different issues. We've got a lot of good Republicans running. One of us will emerge as the Republican nominee.

And you know, I guess there are probably seven, maybe eight serious candidates. I don't think Congressman Dornan has an organization here. But yes, there's always a lot of interest. As I look back on '88, I think there were really four candidates, myself, Vice President Bush, Pat Robertson and Jack Kemp. Now we probably have seven who'll pick up, maybe even eight, who'll pick up certain percentages tonight in the caucuses.

MICKELSON: For years and years, you've had to deal with minority status. And now you're ...

DOLE: (OFF-MIKE), finally.

MICKELSON: A majority leader. What's it like being ... ?

DOLE: But I was a majority leader for a while in the Reagan administration, and then we went back into the minority. Now we're back in the majority. It's frustrating at times, but it's much better to be the majority leader. The problem is, as some people fail to understand, in the Senate you have to have 60 votes to shut off debate. You can't off debate, you can't pass a bill. We only have 53 Republicans, so obviously we have to reach out to Democrats from time to time, or in the alternative, we just can't pass the bill.

MICKELSON: From your point of view, a dream scenario, obviously, would be elected president with a majority in both houses.

DOLE: A filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Sixty Republican senators.

MICKELSON: If that would happen, it'd be your fondest dream, of course. What would your agenda be for the first 100 days?

DOLE: Well, the first thing I would do is be to send a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget to Congress and ask them to pass it and send it to the states for ratification. Secondly, I would hope to have this seven-year balanced budget. If we can't get an agreement, we hope to for the present, we hope to line up enough Democrats to get an agreement. Make certain that that's followed through on.

And then I think I carry one in my pocket, a copy of the Tenth Amendment, Constitution. It's only 28 words in length. But the whole thrust of Bob Dole's campaign has been to send power back to the people, back to the states, unless it's expressly in the Constitution vested in the federal government.


DOLE: That's like sending welfare reform back to Governor Branstad in the state legislature here, Medicaid. Very simple, wasn't some crackpot idea dreamed up at the Republican National Committee. It's been on the books a couple hundred years.

We think we ought to take a look at it, give more power back to the states and back to the people.

MICKELSON: What would be some of the pet things that you--well, that's not the right choice of words.


What would you like to nuke first, as far as programs ...

DOLE: Well, I — probably Department of Education. That'd be a good start.


DOLE: I didn't vote for it. And then you can finally go after HUD, former Secretary Jack Kemp says we don't need HUD anymore. And then you can probably take a look at the Department of Energy and downsize it and transfer some of its responsibilities.

And even the Department of Commerce — it's been around since 1903 — in my view should be largely done away with. And then also the IRS. Let's face it. We're going to have a flatter, simpler, fairer tax system when this is over. We've got the Kemp Commission that Newt Gingrich and I appointed, just reported three weeks ago, and we believe that it's going to be a good thing for the American taxpayer, a simpler system, a flatter system, eliminate much of the IRS.

They spend $10 billion a year and got 100,000 employees, spend more, twice as much as the CIA, five times as much as the FBI. And we think we can have a better system. One thing we will not in a Dole Administration is shift the burden of taxes from the super rich to middle-income Americans, and we will also retain the mortgage interest deduction and charitable deductions.

MICKELSON: Well, what we're doing here, folks, this morning on WHO radio, is we're in the process of speaking with all of the presidential candidates. You on the radio side are just joining us, and you are hitting the ground running a little bit, as we've already begun our conversation with the Majority Leader, Senator Bob Dole.

Later this morning, Senator Phil Gramm will join us, followed by Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes and Lamar Alexander. This will be one of those mornings where we'll probably pay you to be watching C-SPAN and listening to the radio at the same time because we are going to be continuing the interview process during the commercial breaks, so as we don't lose a scrap, even a morsel of time with, and waste any of the valuable time with these candidates.

We will take calls from listeners. Here's how we'll do this. Our radio address here in Des Moines, Iowa, local number is 284-1040, that's 284-1040.


MICKELSON: Our — you know, one of the ...

DOLE: Tax.

MICKELSON: I know, I thought of that, too.


My first day on the job, Senator Dole, here, I called the IRS in Washington, demanding that they change the number in the form. Actually, we had it first.

DOLE: Right.

MICKELSON: They promised to change the number. They lied.

DOLE: Yes.


MICKELSON: They didn't. They promised they were going to change the tax form number, but they didn't.

DOLE: Well, that's a number people can remember, I think.


MICKELSON: That's true.

DOLE: Not for long, though, we're going to change it.

MICKELSON: We have — want it to be zero?


DOLE: Well, not quite.

MICKELSON: Could be a (900) number.


We have within the state, (800) number too. It's 800-469-4295. And because we're a small-town here, Des Moines, Iowa, only has two lines coming in to the entire city from outside the state. So, those are already tied up.


DOLE: Both from Kansas, I think .


MICKELSON: So what we're going to do is in the second, first things you do as newly elected president is you would dismantle the Department of Education. Let me give you an example...

Morning. And this is from a school. You said earlier for those folks just joining us, that one of the first things you'd do as newly-elected president is you would dismantle the Department of Education. Let me give you an example of why maybe that's a really good idea.

There is a local grade school here, and I think this is a form letter being sent to parents all over the country, but this happens to be right here in the area.

MICKELSON: These people are asking parents for help to keep their reading programs going. Apparently, they get federal funding for reading recovery, title math lab and title reading lab programs. In order to qualify to get this federal funding, they have to have so many people that are taking subsidized lunches. So rather than go at this directly, they're inviting people who need or not to come and sign up for their subsidized lunches so they'll qualify for the federal funds for the academically challenged. Does that seem like...

DOLE: That sounds like a federal program to me.


And what we would do with the money you would save and abolish the Department of Education and send it back to the states and back to the local communities then you wouldn't have to go through some of these things. But that's how it works. The federal government never gives up. We want to subsidize more people. And if we subsidize more people, it means we can get more money somewhere else. And, of course, that is not the way we would approach it. It seems to me the taxpayers ought to be heard, too. And I think...

MICKELSON: And also the assumption is that if you're poor, You're also stupid.

DOLE: That's true.

MICKELSON: And I think that's a mean-spirited notion.

DOLE: And it's sort of a stigma, too, with subsidized lunches unfortunately. And some children do need those, don't misunderstand me. But to go out and recruit people in an effort to get more funds ...

MICKELSON: for a reading program for Pete's sake.

DOLE: Well, my view is it looks like another federal program.

MICKELSON: Is there something that could be done even without — this seems like an obvious and egregious...

DOLE: Well, I think that maybe the other program has merit. I don't know the facts, I haven't seen the letter but it seems to me is this going all over the country, not just Iowa?

MICKELSON: Apparently, I've gotten faxes of a variation of this from people who live elsewhere. I didn't know it had come to Des Moines, Iowa but this from one of the local grade schools. These are notes being sent home to the parents.

DOLE: Actually some of the parents can send those notes on to us, and then we can take a look at it, either Senator Grassley, myself or somebody in Congress and we would follow-up on. I think we might be able to be helpful. I mean I'm not certain what the outcome would be.

MICKELSON: You mentioned that we're going to see something, no matter what, you think that we're going to see some kind of a flatter tax. Is that moving towards an endorsement of the flat tax notion?

DOLE: No, it's — You know, we had hearings on the flat tax when I was Chairman of the Finance Committee back in the 1980s when Reagan was President. He didn't go for a flat tax. I think he was concerned about maybe the impact on middle income Americans. Low income will take care and upper income can take care of themselves, but everybody else is caught in the middle. We want to make certain we don't increase the burden on middle income taxpayers.

What we did, Speaker Gingrich and Bob Dole, the Majority Leader in the Senate, asked Jack Kemp to serve as Chairman of an Economic Growth and Tax Reform Commission. He's done that. He's given us his report. We've already started hearings in Congress. We think, certainly it'll be a flatter system, a fairer system and a simpler system, but we're not going to shift the tax burden from the rich to the middle class.

MICKELSON: All I need to do is take a short time out for a few messages here on the radio side. We'll continue with our in-studio guest, Senator Bob Dole, in just a few moments. Those of you who are on the line, we'll get to your calls in a moment as well.


MICKELSON: [audio gap] and for the Marriage Protection Act?

MICKELSON: Would you — they sent me over a couple of these. Would you be willing to sign that here? Now, you already signed it, but we...

DOLE: I've signed the letters. I think that's it.

MICKELSON: Would you be willing to...

DOLE: I don't think that's necessary.

MICKELSON: OK, that's fine, that's fine. Tell me about the understandings, or lack thereof, of people in the rest of the country for farm-related issues because one of the reasons why you're an attractive candidates for a number of people in this area is because we understand that you're from Kansas and you understand the farm economy better than most politicians do.

Talk to me about the hard work necessary to explain those kinds of issues to the rest of the country. How, as President, you will be able to do that.

DOLE: Well, it's not easy because a lot of people feel that those of us in ag-areas, which is all over the country — every state has some agriculture, some of them not very much. But out here in the Midwest where we have subsidized crops there is a feeling, you know, that we're out here in Kansas, Iowa, waiting for our federal check to come in, we don't work, we don't farm. But I can tell those people that we have the best food bargain in the world in America because of our farmers and ranchers. We spend less of our disposable income on food than any country, any industrialized country in the world.

And last Wednesday we passed the Freedom-to-Farm Act, with the help of Senator Lugar who'll be on later, Senator Grassley and others. It's the biggest, biggest change in agriculture since the days of Henry Wallace who was from Iowa back in the 1930s.

Freedom to Farm — Give the farmers, you know, let them plant what they want to plant. There's a transition payment to get us out of federal programs. And we believe it's a big step in the right direction, and we hope that the President might have said over the weekend over here that he would sign it. I'm not certain he did or he did not, but it's a good bill.

Farmers are the backbone of our economy; they're the backbone of our export; they're very important, and they're very important. And I think they understand that Bob Dole has been working on ag-issues for a long time in the Congress, and he's not going to stop when he becomes President of the United States.

MICKELSON: Tax reform?

DOLE: Tax reform.

MICKELSON: Primary thing with you. Farm policy, primary thing.

DOLE: Balanced budget, big time.

MICKELSON: Balanced budget, primary thing. Talk to me about your welfare reform notions.

DOLE: Welfare reform is, as I indicated earlier — I held up the Tenth Amendment — is to send that back to Governor Branstat and the legislature. We've had a lot of cooperation with governors, Democrats and Republicans. Remember, President Clinton said he was going to end Welfare as he knew it. Well, he hadn't ended anything. Welfare is the same as it was when he came in.

We would like to end it whether he wants to end it or not. And we would save $60 billion over seven years with the plan that passed the Republican Senate — or the Senate — by a vote of 87 to 12, which included a lot of Democrats. So, it's sending power back to the states and all in the course of the Tenth Amendment. We believe it's the right way to go. And we'll still take care — I don't want to be misunderstood — we'll still take care of the poor and those who need help. And Governor Branstat is just as sensitive and just as caring as anybody, any bureaucrat in Washington, D.C.

MICKELSON: I was watching, I think it was Dave Brinkley's show yesterday — and joining us here on 1040 WHO Radio, we're in the process of ...


MICKELSON: Oh, yes, here you are. DOLE: All right.

MICKELSON: I understand this is one of your favorite songs.

DOLE: That's one I played a long time ago when I was in the hospital.


DOLE: Yes, when I was bed-fast, that was my favorite song. I played "I'll Never Walk Alone" probably some days 30-34 times.

MICKELSON: Who's version?

DOLE: This one.


DOLE: Yes.

MICKELSON: Wow. You got shot up real bad in World War II, and it took a long time to get back together, didn't it?

DOLE: It took a long time. But, like anything else that happens, it happened for the best.

MICKELSON: We are in the process of speaking with Senator Dole here this morning, and what we'll do is to take calls from listeners.

DOLE: Great. I've got to get a copy of that song.


MICKELSON: Well, we had a list of the favorite music...

DOLE: Is that right?

MICKELSON: ... of the candidate, and we saw that...

DOLE: I'll be darned. Yes, that's the one that, you know, I guess is was sort of an inspiration because back at that time I couldn't walk.


DOLE: And spent every day, play it! Play it! Play it!

MICKELSON: Wow, I didn't expect that to have that kind of an instant response with you.

DOLE: Yes. I just think that it's easy to catch you by surprise there.

MICKELSON: Let's talk with some of the listeners who are joining US. Let's begin with John. You're speaking this morning, sir, with Bob Dole. Good morning, John. You're still there, sir. Just make sure that we're all cleared. And, we're talking with John. Good morning, John.

CALLER: Good morning, Senator Dole. It's an honor to speak with you, sir.

DOLE: Thank you very much.

CALLER: OK. I have a question. I would clarify your position on ethanol with Steve Forbes'.

DOLE: Well, my position on ethanol is that it's been tested. We don't need to think about phasing it out over the next few years, as Steve Forbes has said. Let me tell you why. It creates, in Iowa, it creates 12,000 jobs. It's clean. It's environmentally sound. You don't have to go to war in the Mid East for an alternative source of energy. It saves money in farm programs.

We were told — Senate Grassley and I wrote the Government Accounting Office. We were told it would cost an additional $2.8 billion if we ended the ethanol program. So, I would say to Mr. Forbes, you know, understand this program before you knock it; and before you try to phase it out.

We think we need to find additional alternative sources. Ethanol, in my view, in fact, we'd even take President Clinton to task because he promised in 1992 in Iowa he was really going to make this program work. Unfortunately, he hasn't done much since that time.

MICKELSON: Appreciate your call, John. We'll take another call from another John. Good morning, sir. You're talking with Senator Bob Dole.

CALLER: Yes, good morning, Jan and...


CALLER: ... Senator Dole.


CALLER: I have a question concerning the changes that apparently need to take place in Washington. It seems from what Jan and others have explained to me in recent years that the majority of the problems with our whole financial mess is that the entrenched and career politicians have created this because it is in their political interest to do so. I'd like to know what you're going to do as a career politician to dismantle all of these problems that have been created by the politicians over the last 20 to 30 years, especially.

DOLE: Well, let me explain, first of all, of course, that's been controlled by a democratic Congress. We now have a Republican Congress. We've already passed lobbying reform to take a lot of the lobbying interests out of legislation we passed and what we call a "gift ban," so no members are going to be tempted with gifts. We're going to be working on campaign finance reform.

But I think if I could just say this. Some of us have never gotten "Potomac fever." We know precisely where we're from. I'm from Russell, Kansas, a town of 5,500. I'm very proud of it. I grew up there. My father wore his overalls to work every day for 42 years and was proud of it. We grew up living in a basement apartment.

So, I've never forgotten where I'm from. If some people have done that, it's unfortunate. I've never been before the Ethics Committee; my integrity has never been questioned. So, we're going to do what we can. And I think I can spot the so-called "entrenched" politicians. But for those who would talk about politicians, remember, we have a two-party system. And some blame everything on the politicians and, in my view, that would do a lot of damage to the Republican party in 1996 in November.

We're trying to make our party stronger. We're trying to change some of these programs and the stranglehold of the Democrats. The liberals have had the last 10, 20, 30 years as you say. And it's going to be a better place because of it.

MICKELSON: Thank you for your call, sir. Appreciate it. Senator Bob Dole is here in the studio with us. You're welcome to give us a call at 284-1040 or 800-469-4295. That's our Iowa Network Services toll free line.

MICKELSON: This is Tim. Good morning. You're speaking with the senator.

QUESTION: Good morning. Thanks for taking my call, Senator.

DOLE: Thank you.

QUESTION: A lot has been said about the negative campaign.

DOLE: Right.

QUESTION: The commercials that have been run this year and you talked about taxes earlier, and I know Steve Forbes has been running a commercial accusing you of having raised taxes 16 times in the last 19 years. Isn't that, in fact, true. Haven't you raised taxes that many times?

And my second question is — Have you ever voted to increase the tax burden on the middle income taxpayer?

DOLE: I'd have to go back and check that. You know, I voted against tax increase 60 times. What — let me put this down...


DOLE: A lot of those tax increases were closing glaring loopholes where big, big business were getting hundreds of millions of dollars that they shouldn't have gotten and this followed after I pushed through the Congress with President Reagan the biggest tax cut in history in 1981, and we tried to stop the biggest tax increase in history in 1993 — President Clinton's tax increase.

But we have closed loopholes from time to time. I don't believe we've raised rates on middle income Americans. The 1990 budget deal included some changes that did indirectly raise rates, but President Bush — it was President Bush's package. I was Republican leader in the Senate.

But let's keep one thing clear about Mr. Forbes plan. It's going to add to the deficit — $185 billion according to one study; $210 billion according to another; $173 billion according to another; and it's going to take away your mortgage interest deduction, your charitable deduction, and it's going to shift the burden of taxes from the upper income — Mr. Forbes — to middle income, probably like the caller.

MICKELSON: One Steve Forbes's plan accomplishes, the flat tax, accomplishes — one of the things he put in his early campaign ads was he wants to use the tax code to regulate the power of Congress in order to reward certain policies and take away its ability to punish certain policies.

He thinks the tax code gives Congress too much power and therefore packs too much power to influence policy. That's one of his ...

DOLE: Right.

MICKELSON: ... original — if you want a flatter tax, which of the deductions that we now get would be gone? Or would you remove some of the deductions?

DOLE: Oh, you'd probably have to remove a lot of them. But you'd have to — that's why I think we ought to have hearings. Just to come out with some edict — this is going to be the tax plan — is an indication that somebody doesn't know much about how it works. I mean you've got to go through the Congress. You can't be, in effect, a dictator if you're president of the United States, say this is it, this is my tax plan.


DOLE: And you're going to find that people in Iowa and California and New York want to come in and testify. Maybe they're farmers, maybe they're businessmen or women or maybe something else. Maybe they're realtors — they'd like to keep the mortgage interest deduction. Maybe they got a sales tax in New York they don't want to give up.

So, we've got to hear all these disparate voices out there and then put something together. That's how democracy works. That's how the process works, and I'm just suggesting, we'd be happy to hear his plan or anybody else's plan.

We started on the Kemp plan and Jack Kemp's known to be pretty much of a supply side Republican, interested in lower taxes, probably like to have a flat tax, but he also knows in the real world, you're going to have certain deductions kept and certain exemptions, so...

MICKELSON: The deduction that you'd fight for would be the mortgage interest deduction?

DOLE: Yeah, I — you know, Speaker Gingrich said it's not going to happen without a mortgage interest deduction. It's probably not going to happen without charitable. Then you've got big states like New York — you have state and local sales tax. They've got a lot of power in Congress. You've got a lot of members — Democrats and Republicans — who are going to line up and say: Wait a minute. You're not going to let us lose that deduction, so I think it's an indication, you know, that you need somebody with experience as president of the United States, somebody who would recognize at the outset that it's not quite that easy. It doesn't happen that way. That's the difference.

MICKELSON: Everybody says you have a lock on Iowa.

DOLE: I don't have a lock on anything.

MICKELSON: For first place.


MICKELSON: You're a shoe-in here. You've got a popular incumbent Republican Senator Grassley putting his full faith and prestige behind your office. You've got the governor. You've got most of the ...

DOLE: Tom Latham and Jim Lightfoot and Jim Leach.

MICKELSON: The Farm Bureau and just about everybody else.

DOLE: But again it's because I've never forgotten Iowa. I don't come out here just at election time. I've been coming out here for 25 years and met a lot of nice people, and my wife's been a great asset. Elizabeth's done a great job. My daughter Robin's been out here, so it's been a family effort, but I — you know, I'll leave it up to the people of Iowa.

I hope to carry — I hope to win tonight, but I'm not going to be overconfident.

MICKELSON: The next step would be therefore the rest of the country. How will you approach other issues outside of the heartland?

DOLE: They're going to be the — I don't have one message for Iowa and a different message — I think that's how some politicians get tripped up. They try to tailor their message depending where they are. I've been around. I've got a paper trail, so to say. I've got a voting record. It's a mainstream conservative voting record.

I want to have English as the official language in America, have been voting that way for a long time, voluntary prayer in schools, pro-life...

MICKELSON: And we're at the end of our conversation with Senator Bob Dole as we're rejoining our radio audience, and we were talking about the other issues that are important to you.

In the closing minute, what do you want us to know about Bob Dole and this race?

DOLE: I think if I could just make it in the closing minute is that, you know, it all comes down — this is a very important election, a very important caucus tonight. The people of Iowa could tell decide the future of this country. You've got to think of it that way. That's how important this is.

And I think and I believe what they'll end up doing is to find someone, look at all of us very closely, scrutinize us, look at our records, and come down with some mainstream conservative with a lot of experience, somebody's who's made tough decisions.

I've been the leader of the Senate 11 years. I've been elected and re-elected six times by the Chuck Grassley's and others in the Senate because I'm honest, I listen, I'm a person of integrity and I want to move the country forward.

So, I feel good about our position, and I hope the people of Iowa will make the right judgement tonight.

MICKELSON: Thank you, sir, for joining us.

DOLE: Thank you.

MICKELSON: Appreciate it very much.

DOLE: Jan, thank you.

Robert Dole, Interview on WHO Radio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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