David Letterman Interviewing Bob Dole

LETTERMAN: We couldn't be more pleased to have our next guest with us tonight, folks. Do me a favor. Please welcome the five-term Senator from Kansas, Bob Dole. Bob.

(Bob Dole enters to a standing ovation)

LETTERMAN: The crowd goes nuts.

DOLE: The crowd goes wild. All right.

LETTERMAN: Have a seat, Senator.

DOLE: Thank you.

LETTERMAN: Welcome back to the Late Show.

DOLE: Thank you.

LETTERMAN: Bob, what have you been doing lately?

DOLE: Apparently not enough.

(Audience laughs and applauds)

But in any event, I had a question for the President.


DOLE: How about two out of three?

(Audience laughs)

LETTERMAN: You know, to me that brings up a question that I think everybody had. The last 96-hour blitz deal, how the hell could you survive that? How could you do that? You know, we're half an hour into this thing, and I need a nap.

(Audience laughs)

DOLE: Right. Yeah. I notice you were going to be in four cities in what, four weeks? That's great.

(Letterman and the audience crack up and applaud)

DOLE: That's a hectic pace, but somebody has to do it.

LETTERMAN: It makes me sound like a sissy, doesn't it?

(Audience laughs)

DOLE: We did everything. I jumped off stage in Chico, California. We tried to excite -- in fact, on the way down -- you know, I fell off the stage, I dove into the crowd, and on the way down my cell phone rang, and a trial lawyer said, "Bob, I think we've got a case here."

(Audience laughs)


DOLE: We had a lot of fun.

LETTERMAN: How long did the whole thing last? Is it a year and a half or is it closer to two years?

DOLE: The reason I came back tonight, because I unofficially announced on your program in February '95, and I want to know what went wrong.

LETTERMAN: You're not holding me responsible, are ya?

DOLE: You told me if I came on the show everything would be fine, (laughter) But at least I get 200 bucks for being here tonight. It's the first work I've had.

(Audience laughs)

LETTERMAN: Oh, boy, good for you. Spend it wisely. Take care of that money.

DOLE: Right.

LETTERMAN: You look great. You look like you're not tired. You look like you've already bounced back and ready to go.

DOLE: I'm ready, but there's no place to go.

(Audience laughs)

You can't leave town, the airport is closed, but in any event, it's good to be on the show. I really --

LETTERMAN: What do you want to do now? Are you talking about -- people are speculating that maybe you will take some
kind of position with the Clinton administration. Is that a possibility? Is that a likelihood? Is that anything you are interested in?

(Hoots and shouts of "no" from the audience)

DOLE: Well, if he wanted to give me his job, I'd think about it.

(Audience applauds)

LETTERMAN: Has that ever happened?

DOLE: Well, you know, I think Dole-Gore are two four-letter words you'd get used to, but I want to thank Jack Kemp. He's already found work. He's in that cab.

(Audience laughs)

And Jack's a real hustler. He doesn't wait long. He went out and found a job the first day.

(Dole is referring to a comedy bit earlier in the show that showed Jack Kemp driving a cab)

LETTERMAN: Knockin' down that big dough.

DOLE: That's right.

LETTERMAN: What was it like the night of the election and you have to talk to President Clinton? Had you talked to him much during the campaign directly? Probably not, I wouldn't think.

DOLE: Not a lot. We sort of talked past each other. We had two debates, but nobody showed up. But I called him -- collect.

(Audience laughs)

LETTERMAN: That's a nice touch.

DOLE: Yeah. Well, you know, our campaign's been broke for months.

(Somebody shouts something from the audience)

DOLE: Thank you very much.

LETTERMAN: Mom, will you go back to the hotel.

(Audience laughs)

DOLE: But we had a very good visit, you know, we had a good visit.

LETTERMAN: What do you say to him on the phone in a moment like that?

DOLE: I said, "I lost."

(Audience laughs)

But, you know, I said, "Congratulations, Mr. President. You won. It wasn't close. We both worked very hard." And I said, "You know, let's get together and talk about it, not talk about it, but talk about America sometime." My slogan was, "A better man for a better America," but I'm going to head for Florida, and my slogan is going to be, "A better tan for a better America."

(Audience applauds)


DOLE: But we had a good visit.

LETTERMAN: Does it make any sense, if you were still in the Senate, that this would be good for you, good for the Republicans, good for the Americans, as well as it would be good for Clinton if you were still in the Senate? Is there anything to that or not?

DOLE: I don't think so. I think there is a time to go, a time to leave. In fact, you know, if you left, I might try to get your job, but I've been in the Senate --

LETTERMAN: We'll see you Monday.

DOLE: Monday? I can't do it Monday. It's a holiday.

(Audience laughs)

We're used to holidays in Washington. But in any event, I think there's a time to go. Trent Lott is my successor. He will do a great job.

LETTERMAN: Is there something that you regard as unfinished business now, something that you think, "Oh man, I'd like to get back in there and mix it up on this"?

DOLE: Well, I think obviously things like Medi-care and campaign finance reform are serious matters, balancing the budget, and I still believe that a lot of working people out there need a little money back from the government through a tax cut.

LETTERMAN: How many states were you in in this campaign, do you know?

DOLE: We were in a lot of states. We had certain states that were targeted states, but in the last 96 hours we were in 30 different cities, and we didn't -- at 3:00 o'clock in the morning, Tuesday morning, in Independence, Missouri, the home of Harry Truman, there was 4000 people there. What do you do at 3:00 o'clock in the morning? It's too early to go to work, and it's too late to go back home and go to bed. So I kind of wondered when I left, what are all these other people gonna do? But it was exciting, it was an inspiration, and I think it gave -- it energized our campaign and I think energized a lot of other races.

LETTERMAN: What did you learn? What surprised you? What was the biggest revelation to you as you were in this 18-month campaign, about the country, about the people and also about yourself? What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about this country?

DOLE: I first learned how great the American people are, I mean, whether Democrats, Republicans or Independents.

(Audience applauds)

Even those who were carrying Clinton-Gore signs were nice people, and many of them joined our rallies, you know, and they were good people. I learned a lot about myself. Obviously, you like to win, but you have to accept defeat and look ahead. It's all about the future. It's about young people. It's about America. It's about moving ahead, and I'm excited about the future, and I want to play some role maybe in working with disabled Americans or working with young people, because they are getting better every day. We had a picture session yesterday in our campaign with 500-and-some young people who volunteered in our campaign, worked in our campaign. I think America is in good shape as you look ahead.

LETTERMAN: Well, that's good. That's a great assessment. That's a great assessment.

(Audience applauds)

Perot is nuts? What do you think? Is he not nuts? What do you think?

DOLE: He's rich.

(Audience laughs)

And I thought about, you know, maybe he'd adopt me, since I lost. (laughter) And, you know, we could share something, but in any event, he got ten percent of the vote, which I wish I'd have had. Then I'd have had 51 percent and Clinton 49, but it didn't happen. He had a right to run as a reform party. We had our little visit with Perot. It didn't turn out too well.

(Audience laughs)

LETTERMAN: You know, I can't imagine any visit with Perot turning out too well, for some reason.

(Audience laughs)

DOLE: Well, that was our thought going in.

LETTERMAN: And the talk about the voter turn-out being the lowest since the early 20's, is there a reason for that? Does that mean people just think by and large things aren't that bad right now, so we're not even going to waste our time going to the polls, or does it have another meaning?

DOLE: Well, I think there were a lot of very inaccurate polls out there. Some thought the election was over. Some were saying 21 points. It ended up at a little over seven. Plus a lot of negative ads. People do get turned off with negative ads, and maybe we weren't articulating issues that really struck a chord with people with working families and other senior citizens, but I think maybe campaigns are too long. I mean, I've been out there on the road literally for 18 months. That's a long time, and as I said in my concession speech, it occurred to me on the way down the elevator to make my concession speech I didn't have anything to do the next day. I had noplace to go, no suitcase to pack. But it was worth the effort. It was a great experience. I was proud to be the Republican nominee, and would I do it again? I'm not going to do it again. Don't misunderstand me.

(Audience laughs)

Unless Strom Thurmond will run with me.

LETTERMAN: He's like twice your age, isn't he?

(Audience laughs)

DOLE: They found his baby-sitter. His baby-sitter showed up.


DOLE: Yeah. She's a hundred and some, and still working, I guess. But Strom, you know, he's a unique person at 93 or 94, nobody knows, somewhere in that area.

LETTERMAN: Strom has no idea. You know, I heard toward the end of the thing, and maybe it was even election night, you used a phrase, and I said to myself, "Jeez, this is a very eloquent, very nice lovely thing for you to have said." I think you said, "I don't regard President Clinton -- he's my opponent; he's not my enemy."

DOLE: That's true.

LETTERMAN: And I thought, jeez, at the end of all of this, and just, you know, the highs and the lows and being slapped silly every time you turned around, to be able to say something like that, I thought it demonstrated a great deal of character and strength.

DOLE: It's true though. I hope he felt the same way.

(Audience applauds)

LETTERMAN: But he is fat. He's huge. He's very fat. 300 pounds, he's close to 300 pounds, Bob.

DOLE: Is he that?

LETTERMAN: Oh, yeah, easy.

DOLE: I never tried to lift him. I just tried to beat him.

(Audience laughs)

But I'm hoping that -- what are you gonna do with all those old jokes on old Bob Dole?

LETTERMAN: We've retired them. We'll send them down to Florida and you can fan yourself with them.

(Audience laughs)

DOLE: That might be helpful, but in any event, it's good to be on the show again.

LETTERMAN: It's good to have you here, and I can't tell you how much any appearance from you means to us, but especially tonight and especially under the circumstances, and congratulations on a great life and a great career. Thank you, Senator. Bob Dole, ladies and gentlemen.

(Standing ovation)

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Bob Dole
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November 8th 1996
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