Robert Dole photo

Remarks to the Society of Newspaper Editors

April 19, 1996

Ed, thank you very much for that very kind introduction. I'm honored to be here for the third time. I'm trying to think of something funny to say, but Ed has taken all my lines. I only had four.


But maybe something will come to me as I look around the audience.


Sorry my wife can't be here, but she's home cleaning out the storeroom. We haven't done that in several years. And I'm sorry I can't be with her.


Well, I know this is a very prestigious group and I'm, as I said, honored to have this opportunity. I've stood here a couple of times before thinking about the White House. And I'm standing here today not really thinking about the White House. I did drive by there this morning. We always check it out.


See if anything's changed. It looks pretty much the same. I know the President wasn't there, so I didn't stop. But today is also another very important day which you observed this morning, I understand, with a moment of silence. This morning, the Senate joined with much of the nation in 168 seconds of silence in memory of the 168 men, women and children who died in Oklahoma City one year ago today.

Newspapers educate, inform and sometimes they inspire. And many of your papers have provided inspiration this past year as you reported on the rebuilding process and shared with Americans the tremendous grace and grit and courage of the people of Oklahoma. It's a story that will continue to deserve coverage in the months to come.

I know that most speakers who address this audience — I know Speaker Gingrich has been here and the vice president, Al Gore's, been here — I'm not certain they started with a discussion of freedom of the press and the vital role of the Fourth Estate in defending the most precious of our constitutional guarantees.

But, as important as the press's constitutional contribution, there's much more to your place in our economy and society and much that makes this industry a good snapshot of what my campaign for President this year will be all about because, in the coming months, I ill talking about entrepreneurship and economic growth and the opportunities that the new global economy will open to all of us, if the right policies come from Washington.

I will also be talking — Ed mentioned values and Russell, Kansas values — I'll be talking about reaffirming America's core values - respect for the rule of law; reverence for our faiths; devotion to integrity and reason in our national discourse; dedication to the family; optimism about the future; belief in hard work; and personal responsibility and honesty in our dealing.

DOLE: One thing I have tried to do over all the years, and maybe don't get it done all the time, just as you try to do — you try to do the right thing.

Whether you have a Democrat in the White House or a Republican or a Republican or Democratic Congress, there are certain times when you ought to do the right thing.

We can be very partisan and very political, and I guess as we should be from time to time, but there have been times when I supported President Clinton whether it was GATT or NAFTA or Bosnia because I thought it was the right thing to do. It may not have been the politic thing to do, but in my view, it was the right thing to do.

And when we talk about reaffirming the values of our national life, newspapers, of course, are among the prime transmitters of our values. And the character of reporting in the open forums for serious debate that so many editorial pages have become, in a medium driven by respect for ideas and rational discourse. And I believe that this campaign that takes place, as probably most others do for president, is a defining moment in our national history.

And the choice the American people make this November, in my view, cannot be more profound.

Will we have, as our founding fathers intended, a government controlled by the people? Or people increasingly controlled by an ever-larger, more arrogant and more intrusive government?

The President says — and I listened to him carefully — that the era of big government is over. But two years ago, he hit American families with the largest tax increase in the history of America, and as a result, our economy limps along at substandard growth rates, barely half the average rate of the 1980s.

A growing national debt eats away at our future and our children's future. Yet the same president chose to veto the first balanced budget in a generation. We've tried and we've tried and we've tried to send the President a balanced budget. We finally got it done. It wasn't to his liking, and he vetoed it.

A liberal education establishment leaves 25 percent of our high school seniors functionally illiterate, and a seemingly perpetual welfare bureaucracy assaults the values of self-reliance and breaks families apart by driving fathers away. And that's something I think we all agree on — whether it's Pat Moynihan, who probably knows more about it than anybody in the United States Congress, or maybe in America — or whether it's Bob Dole or whether it's someone else.

And we've tried serious welfare reform. In fact, we've sent the President two proposals. One passed the Senate by a vote of 87 to 12, and there were only 53 of us, so we had a lot of help, and the President indicated publicly he liked it. We made minor changes in the conference, and we thought the President who said he wanted to end welfare as we know it would sign it, but he vetoed it.

So these are some of the issues that we'll be talking about in the campaign.

And obviously, the campaign, I don't think has begun yet. Maybe it has. I read little signs or hear things on the radio or television that would indicate that at least some people are focusing on the campaign. But it's about — there are other things that I want to talk about very briefly today.

Perhaps none is more important than the one we used to take for granted — America's confidence in their courts and trust in the rule of law. We hear a great deal about the sense of uncertainty that so many Americans feel. And as we know, corporate layoffs are among the sources of this anxiety, together with a sliding of aftertax incomes, which have begun declining again after their steady rise in the 1980s.

But I believe there is reason beyond economics for the concern so many of us feel. And that's the lowering of what the editors of the Wall Street Journal called some time ago our social "guard rails" -in quotes, "guard rails" — the standards that guide day-to-day behavior, that make for a sense of civility and fairness and right and wrong in our daily lives.

Our courts and our legal system were intended to be the most secure of those guard rails. They are supposed to set predictable standards of what is fair and unfair, what is right and wrong, and what the law says and what it doesn't say.


DOLE: They should be the glue that holds our society together, that helps guarantee all Americans a right as precious as any other the right to live and to raise our families in peaceful, law-abiding communities, to send our children to school without fear of violence and drugs, and to feel safe in our homes and our streets.

That is how it should be.

But America today is a society in which law-abiding citizens feel increasingly at risk. You know the figures. Each and every year), some 43 million Americans are victims of crime. Some 11 million Americans are victims of violent crime.

Most Americans surely share the concerns of FBI Director Louis Freeh, who said that crime remains, quote, "at intolerable levels," and warned of the disturbing skyrocketing violent crimes by juveniles.

No society that considers itself civilized can accept an annual death toll of almost 24,000 murders — an annual death toll of almost 24,000 murders — no matter how bad the previous year's carnage might have been.

And there are many reasons for the crime explosion — the proliferation of drugs, the almost-total obliteration of the family and the welfare culture of the inner city, where as many as 80 percent of all children are born out of wedlock and too many into a life of neglect.

And maybe — and I certainly believe it to be the case — a popular culture that in movies and television glorifies violence and casual sex and anti-social behavior.

I have spoken on all these issues and I will continue to do so throughout the campaign.

But today I want to address another issue, one that is also devastating. And if we're looking for root causes of the crime explosion, this is clearly one of them. I am speaking of the crisis in our courts, the crisis in our legal system, and the crisis of confidence this is causing in America.

Now maybe this audience — you don't think there's a crisis, but you go across America and you mention the courts, and you mention conservative or liberal judges, I can tell you that people respond.

The legal guard rails that protected our society, that insured a certain fundamental level of security and safety for American families — those guard rails have, in many places, been knocked down and even dismantled often by the very judges and jurists who have been entrusted with the sacred duty of upholding the rule of law.

Now I'm, of course, aware that when anybody focuses on the spotlight of criticism on the actions of some of our judges, a hue and cry is raised about the, quote, "independence of the judiciary."

And judicial independence is a basic, vital, constitutional principal, one that every elected official is sworn to uphold, as we are sworn to uphold the Constitution. It's a principle that I take very seriously as a senator.

But there is nothing in the Constitution — not one word in the Constitution — that says judges should be above criticism, that they cannot or should not be held up to scrutiny for their actions, actions that often have a huge and immediate impact on American life, on your business, and actions that can help shape the character of our nation.

Our founders intended our judges to be independent, not untouchable.

All of us in public life are subject to criticism, and as I've said, it's possible to even — probably by November, even I might come in for a little criticism.

Haven't had any yet, of course, but it may happen.

It's all part of the vigorous debate of the ideas and policies that make democracy work. And I believe that the kind of judges we appoint and the basic philosophies they hold should be an important issue in this campaign for the presidency of the United States.


DOLE: Because in the long run, the federal judges the president chooses may be his most profound legacy. Think about it. Legislation comes and goes. If we pass a bad law this year, we can repeal it next year. We can modify it.

But judges remain. And long after the president leaves office, if he's appointed all these judges, they will still be on the bench, and the rulings they make stretching out over a lifetime, affecting the lives not just of one generation, but their children, too.

And let me make it very clear at the outset. Not all the Republican-appointed judges are perfect, and not all the Democrat appointed judges are bad. Don't want to make that point at all. I'm just talking about the judiciary. As we talked about the executive and you talk the legislative branch, but seldom we focus on the judicial branch of government.

Most judges, and I know a lot of judges, are fine public servants. And out of a deference to a president's constitutional prerogative, I have not opposed most of President Clinton's judicial nominees.

But the fact is, when it comes to what kind of judges we want to appoint to the federal bench, President Clinton and I fundamentally differ. It's no secret where I stand. I've said it before and I will say it to you now. I will appoint justices to the Supreme Court who

know how to read and respect the clear language of the Constitution as it is written — as it is written — and don't search to find rationalizations for their liberal agenda in so-called emanations and penumbras never intended or imagined by our founding fathers.

I will appoint judges who respect the rule of law, who understand society is not to blame for crime, criminals are — judges who protect the rights of crime victims, not invent ever newer and more expansive rights for criminal defendants.

In fact, I recently visited a state prison in California, where 400-and-some inmates are on death row. I don't want to get into the death penalty question. But as you probably know, more are dying of natural causes than are dying from the death penalty.

Now we've changed the habeas corpus in a bill we passed in the Senate a couple of days ago, and I think the President will sign it, that will end some of these eternal appeals, frivolous appeals, and appeals and appeals. And while I was there, I met a father whose son had been murdered 15 years before. He had waited 15 years for justice, 15 years. And it seems to me there has to be an end sometime.

And Dole judges will hand down strict sentences to criminals in order to protect law-abiding citizens from further violence and harm. And I find it shameful that law-abiding Americans are often locked behind bars — go to any city in America — the security bars on the windows of their homes, while criminals are left free to roam the streets.

Now President Clinton may talk the same language as I do on many of these issues. I know he does. But as I'm sorry to say, on so many things, his actions profoundly depart from the meaning of his words. And many of the judges Mr. Clinton has appointed to the federal bench are precisely the ones who are dismantling those guard rails that protect society from the predatory, the violent and the anti-social elements in our midst.

His appointees to the Supreme Court have been among the most willing to use technicalities to overturn death sentences for brutal murders. They frequently vote to grant last-minute stays of execution, even when the death row inmates claims are plainly frivolous.

And a startling number of Mr. Clinton's lower court judges have demonstrated an outright hostility to law enforcement.


DOLE: You've all heard about, and you've probably written about, he infamous decision of Judge Harold Baer in New York, who found that it was perfectly reasonable for a man to run from police because he said, residents in the area regard law enforcement as "corrupt."

He added that he would have been suspicious, quote, "had the men not run when the cops began to stare at them." Now, based on this, quote, "reasoning," and I put the word in quotation marks, Judge Baer suppressed the physical evidence the police found — 75 pounds of cocaine and four pounds of heroin — $4 million dollars worth of poisonous drugs.

He even suppressed the defendant's voluntary confession. Of course, as you know, Judge Baer's decision received some notoriety. And he even reversed his decision when the criticism mounted, finally coming from an embarrassed White House itself. But the appalling fact is Judge Baer is hardly an exception among some of President Clinton's judicial appointees.

Let me give you a few more examples from Bill Clinton's judicial hall of shame. Take the case of Clinton appointee Judge Leonie Brinkema of Virginia, who disregarded U.S. sentencing guidelines to go easy on a man who was convicted of three counts — convicted of three counts of murder-for-hire — saying that the defendant was naive and unrealistic and undeserving of the punishment required by law.

Or Judge Rosemary Barkett, who previously served on the Florida Supreme Court. And while on this court she joined a dissenting opinion that exemplifies the liberal view of the criminal as a victim of society. This is how Judge Barkett described a brutal, racially motivated killing, and I quote: "This case is not simply a homicide case. It is also a social awareness case. The murder...," the judges declared, "... was motivated by the pervasive illness of racial discrimination and the victim was, in the murderer's eyes, only a symbolic representative of the class causing the perceived injustices."

Now when judges make decisions like this, they don't so much as wield a gavel as wield a sledgehammer against the delicate structure of the rule of law. Now this judge was rewarded with a seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, where she continues to press her liberal agenda. For this decision, Judge Barkett wins a leading role in the judicial hall of shame.

But in many ways, she is outdone by yet another Clinton pointee, Judge H. Lee Sarokin. Judge Sarokin first attained national fame as a federal district court judge, ruling in favor of a homeless man who had been evicted from a public library in New Jersey because he harassed library personnel, talked loudly to himself and emitted a body odor sufficient overpowering to drive away patrons and staff.

Judge Sarokin, in a decision of liberal self-righteousness, lectured, and I quote: "If we wish to shield our eyes and ears from the homeless, we should revoke their condition, not their library cards." End of quote. The judge attained additional fame when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals took the extraordinary step of removing him from a tobacco case for blatant bias.

The New York Times applauded the removal, saying that the judge had flunked an important test of credibility. Even more startling, the same judge, in a West Virginia Law Review, suggests that pre-trial and pre-conviction detention of violent criminals is somehow unconstitutional. Now if this radical position were to prevail, vicious criminals would be free to roam the streets before their convictions or flee until they get caught again — if they are caught again.

So this judge who twists the Constitution to impose his liberal views of social policy, whose bias in the courtroom was so blatant that he had to be removed from the case, this judge was handpicked to sit on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the land and the very court that he had been removed from for bias earlier. I voted against confirming this judge and I have profound questions whether such a man should be sitting on the federal bench, let alone on one of the highest courts in the land.


DOLE: And I believe it is a profoundly important question that the American people have to ask this November — if our society can afford to keep in office someone who consistently appoints such liberal judges to the federal bench. That will be an issue in the campaign. As it stands now, President Clinton has appointed about 25 percent of all sitting federal judges. In another four years, this could likely go up to about 50 percent or more.

So I think we have to ask ourselves — the American people are already asking themselves — do we want a majority of judges on the federal bench to think like Judge Barkett, Brinkema, Baer and Sarokin, an all-star team of liberal leniency, judges who seem intent on dismantling the rule of law from the bench?

And then there's the Supreme Court. Since Bill Clinton took office some of the high court's most important rulings on issues ranging from affirmative action to private property rights to religious expression in public schools were decided by just one vote. And, of course, one vote sometimes is very important.

So I say to people as I travel around the country, one vote is important. And if President Clinton has four more years and appoints just one more justice to the Supreme Court, we could have the most liberal court since the Warren Court of the 1960s.

We can lock in liberal judicial activism for the next generation.

And the social landscape could be dramatically changed — more federal intrusion in the lives of average Americans; more centralized power in Washington; less freedom of religious expression; more rights for criminals; and more arrogant disregard of the rights of law-abiding citizens.

Now I want to be clear. Obviously, federal judges have a right to protect the rights of the accused. They have a duty; they have a responsibility; they have an obligation. Judges should have the power to strike down laws that are contrary to the Constitution. But the power of the courts to override the sovereign will of the people comes with a very heavy responsibility and must be used with the utmost restraint. And without that restraint, judicial review becomes nothing less than judicial tyranny.

And I believe it is vital to America that in the coming months of this campaign, President Clinton and I should debate in a forthright manner our two very different visions of the federal judiciary. He has a clear record. Let him explain to the American people the principles that guided his appointments of the judges I have named and so many others like them.

And I will forthrightly and candidly lay down my principles because I believe the American people certainly have the right to know. This is the third branch of government. It's very important.

For me, as I have said, foremost among those principles, is respect for the clear and evident meaning of the Constitution, which includes the much neglected and abused 10th Amendment. Dole judges will know the 10th Amendment by heart. It's only 28 words in length, so it shouldn't be too hard to learn. And it says the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by to the states are reserved to the states, respectively, or to the people.

In other words, unless the Constitution gives the power to the federal government or denies it to the states, it belongs to the states and to the people.


DOLE: So the federal power grab will end in my administrations.

The judges I appoint will also share the American people and the Constitution's vision of a color-blind society free of discrimination. e are a nation built on the principle of individual rights and responsibilities, and laws that divide our citizens by race or group strike at the heart of what America is all about.

After 30 years of liberal experimentation, America knows that state-mandated discrimination caused only bitterness and division, and undermines the foundation of fairness on which any society must be built.

Americans deserve fairness, not favoritism. Now I've always been a big believer in public discourse. The more the American people know about what government officials, including federal judges, members of Congress, whoever — are doing in their name, the stronger our democracy will be.

As president, I will respect the public's right to know by requiring my attorney general to publish an annual report collecting and summarizing the decisions of our federal judges in the area of criminal law. And thanks to the members of the Fourth Estate, we learned of Judge Baer. But how many similar decisions go unreported, unknown to the public at large?

I also intend to stop the harassment of our legal system by convicted criminals, who last year filed more than 65,000 civil lawsuits against the government in federal court, most of them entirely frivolous. The cost to the taxpayers was about $81 million.

Over the same time, the Justice Department initiated only about 45,000 prosecutions. In other words, convicted criminals outscored our Justice Department by 20,000 lawsuits.

I introduced a bill to shut down this waste of taxpayer money. President Clinton vetoed it. As president, I will make certain it not only passes, but it's signed.

And finally, let me conclude by saying it's time to remove the American Bar Association from its role in reviewing potential judicial appointees. Originally founded to insure competence and integrity in the bar, the ABA has become nothing more than another blatantly partisan liberal advocacy group. In fact, I brought along some of their information here — their lobbying registration.

Now some of you might be shocked to learn what they're for and what they against.

It lists many of their positions on many of the issues that have come before Congress, and here are some of the highlights. Mandatory minimum sentences for dealers who sell drugs to children the ABA is opposed. A constitutional amendment to protect the flag the ABA is opposed. The religious equality amendment allowing voluntary school prayer — the ABA is opposed.


DOLE: Meaningful habeas corpus reform, real product liability reform, prison litigation reform.

So America has a choice this November. We will continue down the path this administration has set us on — a liberal experimentation in our courts — or we regain the common sense and common wisdom contained in the very clearly written prose of our Constitution. All you have to do is read it.

Will we restore competence in the rule of law? Will we restore the American people's trust in the fairness of our legal system? Will the law once again become an expression of our deepest values as a nation? Will it support the guard rails of individual responsibility, of a civil society that itself is truly civil. And I am determined to make the rule of law the rule in America again, and I am in turn going to do all that I can as president to establish the integrity of our courts, and restore safety and fairness and civility to our land '

To establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility are two of the primary objectives of our Constitution. And they will be my sacred objectives as president.

Thank you very much for this opportunity. I'd be very happy to respond to questions if there should be questions.


MODERATOR: Please move to the microphones for questions, and normal rules apply. Members of the society shall ask questions and please identify yourself by name and by your newspaper.

As we assemble, Senator Dole, I'd just like to ask one question. You mentioned that 25 percent of all the sitting judges were appointed by President Clinton, and you mentioned three in particular — Judge Brinkema, Judge Barkett and Judge Sarokan. I think you indicated you voted against Judge Sarokan. I'd like to know how many of that 25 percent that you voted against, and specifically whether you voted against Brinkema and Barkett.

DOLE: I voted against Barkett and Sarokan. Most of the judges come up in what we call en bloc — we have eight, nine, ten judges. d of course, the president, normally as I said earlier in my remarks, when the president has a nominee — whether it's a judge or whether it's somebody else — the Judiciary Committee has a hearing. Sometimes they're sort of perfunctory and you never really learn about he judge until, in some cases, they've — they've written decisions or you've found out after the vote, or after there wasn't any vote -most of these are voice votes — what that decision was.

But my point is this — it's not the judges President Clinton's appointed. That's the problem. It's what Bob Dole will do — the judges I will appoint as president of the United States, and I've tried to make that clear in my statement.

QUESTION: Senator Dole, we appreciate your support of the public's right to know. I'd be interested in where you would stand on the public's right to know how the U.S. Congress would vote on the billion-dollar-a-year ethanol subsidy. It has been asserted that the — that you persuaded House Speaker Gingrich not to hold a vote last September on the subsidy because you felt that it had no chance of passage in the Senate.

Even if it does not, would it not be instructive given the efforts of the Republicans — yourself included, I assume — to discipline spending by the U.S. government to have an up or down vote in the House and the Senate on ethanol?

DOLE: Well, it's not just ethanol that might affect one or two companies and I know what you're alluding to. I've been on the Finance Committee. I started talking about ethanol when I first came to Congress. We thought we could make some fuel out of wheat. That was back in the '60s, long before anybody was in the ethanol business, so I've been out front on that issue for a long time.

Some of the companies that — I know the company that you're alluding to didn't get into the business until '81. I've been talking about it for 15 or 20 years. But I was on the Finance Committee when efforts were made to increase the subsidy, which I opposed.

And in 1986, when the last tax law was written, I felt it ought to be made possible for smaller producers to become — to get some of the market share. So it was my amendment, the Dole Amendment, that made that possible.

And keep in mind this — we're told by the Government Accounting Office — it's supposed to be sort of an arm of the Congress, an independent agency — that removal of the subsidy would not save money. Right now, we save money in farm programs because farmers get some of their income because of the ethanol industry.


DOLE: We're talking about corn producers for the most part. In addition, we need alternative fuels. We've been looking for — we don't want to go to war in the Mideast over oil. We've done that in the past. We'd like to have clean alternative fuels. Ethanol's clean. It's environmentally sound and it has broad support.

But I'd say this, like anything else, we can look at all the spending. And I don't think that was a very accurate — I did sit in n a meeting with Speaker Gingrich and the Iowa delegation early this ear. And I did indicate that I thought the ethanol program was a good program. It ought to be scrutinized. Maybe it ought to be modified. I'd be prepared to do that.

QUESTION: You mentioned the word, penumbra and I believe emanation as well, which are legal terms of art from decisions on privacy that eventually led to the Rowe versus Wade decision on abortion. Is it your hope and expectation that if you have a couple of appointments to make, you will help to produce the overturning of that decision?

And secondly, will members of pro-life groups be asked to serve on this new screening panel you want to erect for the consideration of judicial appointments?

DOLE: The answer to the latter is no. I don't believe in litmus tests. I'm trying to expand the Republican Party. And I don't give tests before you can enter. I stayed up all night one night trying to think of somebody I didn't want to vote for me. And I couldn't think of anybody.


And I feel pretty much the same about the party. We're a big party. We have diversity in our party. That's certainly one issue where we have a division. But I've said to the chagrin of some that I don't believe in a litmus test. I refuse to sign a pledge earlier this year, last year in the primaries. But I'm pro-life — have been — proud of it.

But I'm not going to use that as a test for anybody I appoint to the court.

QUESTION: I want to ask you a question that I asked you during the New Hampshire campaign...

DOLE: Yeah, I've forgotten about New Hampshire. Yes ... [laughter]

DOLE: At least I try to forget about New Hampshire.

QUESTION: What you dodged at the time, for good reason, is about Justice Souter who happens to be from New Hampshire. In light of your remarks, I'd like you to talk about what you thought you were getting hen you voted for Justice Souter, talk about what you think of his record since being appointed to the Supreme Court. And talk about ether he is the kind of justice you would appoint.

DOLE: I'm not certain what I thought I was getting with Justice outer. I relied a great deal on what my friend Senator Rudman said at the time. I thought we were getting and I think we did a strict constructionist who may be his own person. That doesn't bother me.

And I'd be looking for someone, as I said — I'm going to try make it clear — I mentioned it twice in my statement — somebody who's read the Constitution, understands what it means, knows what the 10th Amendment's all about, and is not trying to be a judicial activist. Our view is, if you want to be an activist run for Congress or run for the legislature, run for governor, run for president. But don't apply to be on the court.

So that will be my criteria.

QUESTION: Senator Dole, how are you, Senator? I don't get back this way very often but I noticed in the papers this week that you and our other senator, Nancy Kassebaum, are in a little ruckus over health care reform.


DOLE: Oh, don't believe it.

QUESTION: Well, that's my question. is this true? And if it is true, I'd like to hear your side of it.

DOLE: It's not true.


No, I think it's fair to say that Senator Kassebaum and Senator Kennedy — she's chairman of the Labor Committee, and he's the ranking Democrat on the committee — they reported a bill out, and I've done this myself as chairman, and I said, I don't want any amendments on my bill.

That's perfectly legitimate. That doesn't mean you're not going to get any amendments on your bill. So we offered amendments yesterday totalling $8 billion. The one we lost were the medical savings account, which I happen to think is a pretty good idea.

It's still in the House bill. I'm a conferee on that issue, and Nancy is not. And so who knows what will happen in the conference, who may have the last word.

But we get along famously, and if I was as popular as Nancy Kassebaum, I know I'd win in November.

MODERATOR: A question over here, Senator.

QUESTION: Senator Dole, under a Dole presidency, would you refer to protect the flag or to protect free speech? Can you have both?

DOLE: I think, well — I'm not certain you have to make that choice. In my view, there are certain cases, like yelling fire in a crowded theater, I think that the flag is very symbolic of this country, of America, of sacrifices made by Americans the past 200 years.

And so I sided with protecting the flag, but I didn't do it with the thought in mind that I was somehow abridging somebody's rights in the First Amendment. I mean, it seems to me, when people do what they do to the American flag, there ought to be some recourse.

MODERATOR: A question over here.

QUESTION: How are you?

DOLE: Like Kansas day, yes.


QUESTION: This is on foreign policy. You've been a voice of popular discontent on American foreign policy for many years. On Bosnia not so long ago, you did what seemed a presidential thing by supporting President Clinton's tough decision to deploy troops.

I'm curious to ask you now whether or not you feel that with respect to the delivery of Iranian arms to the Bosnian government, do you agree with New York Times columnist William Safire that, in fact, President Clinton standing aside while that happened was simply dumb?

DOLE: Well, I wouldn't characterize it, but I — well, let me just tell you where I come from because I did support the President. When he said troops are going to Bosnia, I stood up on the Senate floor and I said I support the President. He's made that decision. They were on their way. They were already on the ground.

And a lot of my friends didn't like it. But that was beside the point. I think it was the right thing to do. Now we knew that arms were going to Bosnia. We didn't know where they were coming from. Some guessed Iran. We didn't know that to be the case.

And we stood on the floor I don't know how many times, myself and Senator Lieberman, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Bob Dole, the Dole-Lieberman amendment — the very thing that candidate Clinton advocated in 1992, lift the embargo. In fact, he went as far as saying we ought to have air strikes.

We should let the Muslims defend themselves, and it was our view, my view and Joe Lieberman's view and 67 other senators — we had 69 votes — that had we done that, had we lifted the embargo, because Bosnia was an independent nation, a member of the United Nations and under Article 51, they had to right to self-defense. Except they couldn't defend themselves, they didn't have the arms.

And we thought the better part of wisdom was to send the arms and not send American troops. So we learned later — in fact, 10 days ago - that during this time there's sort of a wink and a nod at Iranian arms shipments through Croatia. And we also know the Iranians are now supplying the Hizbollah, who are creating havoc in northern Israel, and in turn creating havoc in Lebanon.

It seems to me that we picked the wrong partner.


DOLE: My view is that it's a mistake. It was our view that if we shipped the arms, we would be able to control what kind of arms went to Bosnia in the first place, and it would have been a much better situation.

So I think the President made a mistake. I wouldn't characterize it as, maybe, Mr. Safire did.

MODERATOR: One last question, Senator Dole.

QUESTION: I want to ask you about something that may not be a very popular type of question — or rather Texan — or very popular with other Texans, but when you mentioned the causes of crime, you spoke specifically about drugs and violence and movies and TV. You didn't say anything about guns or the easy availability of guns. And it seems to me, you also — and I know you also said that crime is conducted by criminals.

And on the other hand, many of the really serious situations involving guns in this country have happened at the hands of people who are not considered normally criminals. They were family members or people with a grievance of their own.

So I'd like to know how you feel about the availability of guns to the American people, and then specifically, what is the role of the NRA and the feelings of yourself and other members of Congress about this?

DOLE: Well, I can't speak for the NRA. They supported somebody else in the primary. But, you know, I know a lot of good NRA members in my state.

I've got a better idea that 16 states have already adopted that we'll be spelling out in detail here, maybe in the next 30 to 60 days. It's called the instant check.

I've had a feeling for a long time — it's not something I reamed up election year. I've been working on this for five or six ears.

We have about, I think, 20 million names now in a computer right ere in Washington, D.C. of people who should not have guns — hand guns, shot guns, any kind of gun. They're convicted felons. They're dishonorably discharged. They've been adjudged legally insane. There are eight different categories already in the law of people who should not have weapons.

And what we need to do is to have a national instant check. And how does the instant check work? It works like any other you go in to buy something in a store. You put the little card in there and it says tilt, you don't get the merchandise.

There isn't a waiting period. It's about 30 seconds. And we will have an instant check system. We've already started it several years ago but it's been slowed down. Yet 16 states think it's a good idea. That's up from nine just a year and a half ago.

Why shouldn't we do it on a national basis? Why should you have a shotgun? Why should you have a handgun? Why should you have any gun? if you're in any one of these categories?

And that will be my effort. Having felt the sting of a gun, I'm not so anxious for anybody else to feel the sting, and I'd like to make handguns inaccessible to people who should not have them. I think law-abiding citizens are different.

But certainly, the things we can do, things we should have done. I mean, in this age of technology, to say that we can't have an instant check on weapons when somebody buys a gun — you go into a hardware store or a gun store. All they got to do is the same thing they do now when you go into a clothing store. They put the little card in there, and you don't get the gun if you're in one of those categories.

It's an instant check with a system in Washington, D.C., a central computer system where you've got millions and millions of names of people right now who shouldn't have a weapon and probably have a weapon.

I mentioned earlier, I visited California — I visited the LA police there, too. The weapon of choice now among gangs is a nine millimeter pistol. Ninety-some percent of the gang members use a nine millimeter pistol. They don't use the so-called — some of the assault weapons because they're hard to conceal.

And I know the press just loves assault weapons. You love the an. I bet you don't know that ten of the 17 or 18 weapons that are in the ban have been modified and are back on the street. The ban is not the way to do it. We need to make certain that the people who shouldn't have a gun don't get a gun, any gun. Might even include a pop gun, who knows?

So let's have an instant check. Let's have it national. And et's reduce the rate of crimes committed with guns, whether it's family members or whether it's somebody else. That will be my suggestion to the American people. And I believe it's a good one. I believe it will have bipartisan support.

QUESTION: Thank you.

DOLE: Is that it?

MODERATOR: One last question.

QUESTION: Senator Dole.

MODERATOR: This is the last question. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Senator Dole, I'm from the Virginian-Pilot in Virginia, where states rights was a big issue 130 years ago.


There's a growing body of evidence that implicates both political journalists and politicians of being engaged in a political discourse that's badly disconnected from the real troubles in people's lives. The troubles in Virginians' lives, when you sit down to listen to them, have to do with job security, have to do with the future of the children, have to do with prudent use of government funds, and a little bit to do with the end of partisan bickering.

They don't spend a lot of time talking about federal judges. Could you speak to your responsibility as the chief spokesman for the Republican Party in getting this discourse reconnected to the troubles in people's lives?

DOLE: Well, maybe I should take you with me. Maybe you ought to get on our campaign plane. I'll take you out where they talk about federal judges — most anywhere in America — but I think you're right on the other count.

I don't believe many Americans, regardless of their party, and this is why the Perot phenomenon developed in 1992 — most Americans want us to get things done. That doesn't mean everything, but the right things, we ought to get done. The other things we ought to forget.

And I find most Americans concerned about their jobs — somebody, the neighbor's lost a job, they've had a downsizing of a corporation, whatever — and they're concerned about jobs. They're concerned about heir families. They're concerned about their children — real concerns in America.

They want us to address these concerns. So we're going to address the concerns. And my view is that whether it's Virginia or whether it's Kansas, or whether it's California, most people have pretty much the same concerns.

Some — you go to California, it's defense contracts. You go somewhere else out in the Midwest, it's — maybe it's ethanol or maybe it's the price of corn or the price of wheat, or somewhere else it's small business.

But I think what the American people — hopefully, what they're searching for are members of Congress, a federal establishment if you will, that understands their concerns and will live the way they have to live. Now to some people in the media, a vision is more federal spending. That's not my vision for America.

My vision for America is a balanced budget, tax cuts for families with children, reforming welfare, downsizing government, making America a better place to live, having a strong defense — something that you can touch and feel and I think has a lasting impact.

So I don't disagree with the question, and I hope we can provide the answer. But there are always going to be some — I mean, I've been in politics for a while. I've learned that there are some people who are never going to be quite satisfied with anyone — Democrat or Republican or Independent. They're going to find something that they disagree on. That's certainly a right we have in America.

But for the most part, I believe the American — I have a lot of trust, and I think that's one of the things we'll stress — I happen to trust the American people. Others trust the government more. I trust the people. I trust the states. I trust governors — Democrats or Republicans, legislators — Democrats or Republicans. I want to return more power to the states — welfare reform, Medicaid, all in accordance with the 10th amendment.

And in my view, that resonates with the American people. As long as they don't get tied up in all this Congressional jargon, the inside-the-Beltway talk that doesn't make any sense to anybody.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Senator.


Thank you, Senator Dole, for sharing your views with us today, and please stay seated as Senator Dole leaves the room.

Robert Dole, Remarks to the Society of Newspaper Editors Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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