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Dole remembered


Bob Dole died this week. Another “elderly” elephant in the GOP herd who’s gone but will not be forgotten by a lot of us.

I interviewed him a few times in Washington D.C. about 1970. He was a difficult interview for a young reporter from Idaho. Dole, of course, was world famous. And I was filled with false self-assurance and too young to be nervous.

The difficulty with Dole was, as the camera rolled, he would give me a thoughtful answer, pause about three seconds, then hit me with a zinger about somebody he knew in public life or had met at a cocktail party. The camera crew and I cracked up, laughing repeatedly as he did so. Dole could be a very funny man. He waited those three seconds because he knew that would give us enough time to edit out his zingers. And our laughter.

Dole was a pro in every sense of the word. He had straight answers no matter the interview. He always “cut-to-the-meat” of things with truth, a bit of wit and a gravelly voice.

Barry Goldwater was another such person. Wham! Bam! The answers came quickly and left some reporters – including me – struggling to come up with a follow-up question. The action was that quick.

The period between 1969 and 1972 was one of the best in my life. So long ago. A kid from Idaho, loaded with a background for a good local reporter’s job in Idaho, which amounted to nearly nothing anywhere else. But, there I was, diving into national politics and dealing with people I’d heard about only on national television.

I had quit my Idaho TV job “cold turkey,” drove to D.C. in two very long days and started a search for a reporting job which required a whole lot more education and experience than I had. And I got very, very lucky.

All-news radio. The first station in the country to try it. And it worked! But, 24-hours of news meant a large staff and a lot of work. Filling those hours with news stories and features was a tough job.

But, as I said, I lucked out and landed a “vacation relief” position filling staff shifts and assignments for others taking time off. When summer ended, a couple of guys had found other jobs which created some openings. So, with three months of work – and a lot of luck – the “kid from Idaho”got a full time job.

And, there they were. Dole, Goldwater, Humphrey, Dirksen, Sam Ervin, Howard Baker, Daniel Inouye, Kissinger, a Kennedy or two, Robert McNamara, Sam Nunn, Lowell Weicker and dozens of others. And, of course, Nixon.

Though there were a couple of Congressional investigations of Nixon going on, it was pre-Watergate time. Access to news-makers was easier to get than now, both at work and informally. Many of the famous of the time were a lot different when not “on stage.” Bourbon and branch-water, scotch and cold martinis often showed a different side. Many of the Massachusetts Avenue embassies were open for after-work cocktails for ambassadors and staffs, politicians and even the media. Even the Soviets.

But, the several times I was fortunate to be around Bob Dole, I count as most memorable in that time of many memorable people and events. In person, he came across as someone you’d like to get to know better. The terrible wounds of war he survived – more than three years in rehab – seem to have made him realize how fragile life was and he was determined to make the most of it.

Bob Dole was a man to reckon with. And, if he entered your life – no matter how infrequently or momentarily – he was someone to be remembered. A very good man.

Please pardon an old desert rat’s carrying on about his own life in the process.

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