Terms Of The Dole-Gingrich Loan (4/17/97)
Analysis: Dole Takes Political Play Of The Week
Establishment bailout of an upstart makes Dole a winner
By Bill Schneider/CNN
WASHINGTON (April 18) -- When you leave Congress and then lose an election, you give up power, right? Not in Bob Dole's case. If power is the ability to influence events, Dole proved this week he's still a very powerful man.
The question on everyone's mind is why did Dole do it? What kind of calculation was behind it? Some people remembered what Dole said at Harvard University earlier this week:
"And then there is my wife Elizabeth: a proud alumnus of the Harvard Law School and the School of Education, the Dole who may yet reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."
"Aha!" said the cynics. "He's plotting to make his wife president." But by helping out the most unpopular man in American politics?
Perhaps Dole was just trying to make some money. "Maybe at those rates I could borrow some at eight and loan it to you at 10," he offered to reporters. But wait a minute. Dole is 73. Is this smart financial planning?
Some Democrats saw sinister motives. "Mr. Dole works for a large lobbying firm with interests before Congress," said House Minority Whip David Bonior of Michigan. "Isn't that a conflict of interest?"
The GOP response: "How dare you question this man's integrity?"
Dole's own explanation? Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party. "I wanted to help the Republican Party, to help Newt Gingrich get this behind him and behind the party and move ahead with the Republican agenda," he said.
Dole's a charter member of the GOP establishment. Here was the establishment once again bailing out the young upstarts who had gone too far, just like in the government shutdowns.
"It seemed to me it was a sort of a responsibility for the party elders, the senior party leaders, because this was having some impact on the agenda," Dole says.
As a Senate leader, Dole built a legacy. But then he ran for president and blew it. When you run for president and lose, you become ... well, a loser. Especially if you run an embarrassing campaign, like, say, Michael Dukakis or George Bush.
Dole is determined to avoid that fate. "When you lose, you can go off in a corner and say, 'Life isn't fair,' or 'This wasn't fair,' Dole told his Harvard audience. "Or you can get up and go do something else. And so I'm in the process of doing something else."
What Dole was doing was making news, bailing out the Republican agenda. This guy who suffered a lifetime of struggle and deprivation is now a big-time power broker, the savior of his party, a winner. Dole's move was a power play from a man who's not supposed to have power any more. And it was the Political Play of the Week.
Put it this way: Newt Gingrich is the highest ranking Republican leader. And he owes Bob Dole. Literally and figuratively. That makes Dole a very powerful figure indeed.
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