David Rogers of Politico interviewing Bob Dole

Roundup: Talking About History

[David Rogers is Senior Congressional Reporter for Politico]

Former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) spent five terms in the Senate, serving from 1969 to 1996, including more than 10 years as majority or minority leader. He sat down with POLITICO’s David Rogers to discuss the chamber. Here are edited excerpts.

Senate temperament

When I first came, it was more subdued: A member didn’t rush out on the floor the first day and make some flaming speech or get up and take on the leadership and stuff like that and, in effect, say somebody’s a liar without saying the word. I don’t think there was any rule. It was just the way you treated your colleagues. That’s changed over the years. Some people would say, “Well, that’s what you get for putting television in.” I don’t think that’s the case. But there are so many other outlets that if you want to make the nightly news, you get up and attack a colleague.

Playing tough and cutting deals

You can’t play ring around the rosy up there. [Former Democratic leader George] Mitchell and I used to tell each other, “They don’t elect nonpartisan leaders.” I mean, he would catch hell from his conference that “you’re always doing what Bob Dole wants to do,” and I would catch hell: “Why are you always doing what Mitchell wants to do?” And we knew what we were doing, but nobody else did, because we didn’t tell ’em. I mean, there wasn’t any need for it; we’d worked it out. But we agreed that if you don’t want to carry the flag for the party, there’s 20 guys behind you that would grab it. But then it gets back to, when you’re in a bind, who can I go to on the other side that maybe will bail me out or something? And we had pretty good success with it.

Florida’s sun and Democrats: Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern and Tip O’Neill

Humphrey invited me to go down to the Sea View Hotel in Florida with Tip and McGovern. I think I was the only Republican. He said, “You ought to take a weekend off and go down to Florida and get a little sunshine.” When Tip would go down, they’d play cards, but Hubert just would lap up the sun and eat, same as McGovern. They weren’t big party boys. We’d sit around and shoot the breeze. I don’t know whether there was more of that then, because there’s quite a lot of across-the-aisle connections now, with people who are really friends below the partisanship...

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