Transcript: Elizabeth Dole on 'Late Edition'
January 6, 1999
SPEAKERS: ELIZABETH DOLE, OUTGOING PRESIDENT, AMERICAN RED CROSS; WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR
BLITZER: Mrs. Dole, thanks for joining us on "LATE EDITION."
DOLE: Yes, indeed.
BLITZER: Do you want to be president of the United States?
DOLE: You know, right now I am wrapping up at the Red Cross. I feel I have accomplished my goals. I love this organization, the mission field that it is, but after eight years, I think it is time to consider a new challenge in the new year.
So I want to look at a number of options, and certainly one of them will be a run for the presidency. But that means that I need to be outside the Red Cross because obviously we are very nonpartisan. We are not involved in politics, and so...
BLITZER: So when will...
DOLE: ... in order to be able to talk with people, to really assess the situation, to listen, to look at the feasibility of a run, I need to be outside the Red Cross. So that has to be done.
BLITZER: But it is a -- it is a, just to make it clear, it is a very, very serious option that you are looking at.
DOLE: Yes, it is, definitely.
BLITZER: And to really look at it seriously, you would have to form what they call an exploratory committee, even before you formally announce, to really see if there is the option out there. Have you started thinking about that exploratory committee already?
DOLE: My focus right now is on my resignation from the Red Cross, which I decided just a few weeks ago, and then I will be outside the Red Cross where I can talk with people. I am not at a point of an exploratory committee.
BLITZER: You know, there is a lot of grass roots support out there.
We have already been bombarded with these kinds of buttons, "Elizabeth Dole for President -- 2000." You know there a lot of people who want you to run.
DOLE: I am very honored by that and humbled by it. And certainly I want to talk with people. I want to -- you know, right now, if I made call into Iowa to say, how does it look or have you made a commitment yet? Or maybe to someone in New Hampshire to say, keep your powder dry, that would absolutely be something that would be inappropriate as president of the Red Cross.
BLITZER: You are going to wait until...
DOLE: So once I am outside, I will have an opportunity to make those judgments and then to decide if there is going to be a next step.
BLITZER: You have served in the cabinet twice.
BLITZER: You have been president of the Red Cross, but you have never been elected to public office.
BLITZER: How much of a setback is -- how much of a downside is that?
I don't think at all because I have had an opportunity to be involved in a number of campaigns with my husband. And of course, most recently, the '96 presidential campaign, where I had almost 14 months on the campaign trail, and it was one of the highlights of my life.
I like to communicate, you know, and I enjoyed being out there talking about a person that I believe in, an agenda that I believe in, carrying the vision, and it was a wonderful experience, really. You kind of forget the frustrations. There were those.
BLITZER: But if you want to be a first-tier presidential candidate, you have to expose yourself to all the politics that are out there. You have a lot of talk lately on the politics of personal destruction. Are you sure you want to get into that kind of potential mess?
DOLE: You know, what I want to do is to determine how I can best serve my country because it is important to me. The Red Cross has been a mission field. I felt passionately about what I was doing there, as I did in my government positions.
Now, you know, I think this is an important time in our nation's life. I want to take a look at how I could best serve. Public service has been my entire life. So I am not stepping down from public service. It is just a matter of how I can best serve, how I can best make a difference.
BLITZER: You know, a lot of religious conservatives will be looking to see what issues you want to promote, if in fact you decide that you want to be president of the United States. How important of an issue is abortion rights for you?
DOLE: Well, at this point, I really don't want to get into political issues. As you know, Red Cross is based on tradition of trust, and that trust involves with the American people not becoming involved in politics, in anything political. So it's an important issue. There are many other important issues, but I do feel that's for another day, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right.
DOLE: Today is for the Red Cross -- the resignation.
BLITZER: We can respect that, but speaking on an issue you probably often don't want to discuss, the impeachment of the president, as a private citizen -- forget about the Red Cross -- you must have views about what the House of Representatives did and what the Senate is about to do.
DOLE: Well, once again, I do feel we are in the political arena, and I feel that, obviously, I am just another sad and distant observer. And certainly my prayers are with all those involved, but this is very much a matter for the Senate now to handle. So until I leave the Red Cross, I really -- I don't feel that I can comment further.
BLITZER: Well, in the next two weeks.
Now your husband, of course, has given some advice to the Senate.
BLITZER: Do you share his opinion? Can you tell us that?
DOLE: I really -- I am sorry, but you know, we did indicate that I would not be able to talk about political issues.
BLITZER: All right.
Let's then talk about how Bob Dole feels about potentially your running for president. He would obviously have to be very supportive of that position.
DOLE: Well, I think he is supportive. I don't think it's a secret that he's indicated from time to time that he thinks I would be a good candidate, and I think he feels that he would make a great first spouse. He would be supportive.
BLITZER: Is that the name he wants to use?
DOLE: Well, that's an interesting question. You know, what do you call the first man to be in that position? I don't know. First man sounds like a wedding, doesn't it? I mean it's a...
BLITZER: First man.
DOLE: Yes, somehow that doesn't quite fit.
BLITZER: He has already said, you know, he would be the first, first man. So he's got a great sense of humor, but...
BLITZER: ... but he would obviously be someone who could be a tremendous asset to you, if in fact you decide to do this.
DOLE: But it's -- but it's very much my decision. You know, obviously, you talk with your spouse along the way, but it's such a personal decision, both my decision to leave the Red Cross and to seriously consider a run for the presidency.
That's something that only I can decide, but yes, indeed, with his experience through the years and having been a candidate, certainly he would be an asset.
BLITZER: You are one of the most accomplished women in America. There's another accomplished woman out there -- the first lady, Mrs. Clinton. As you have seen her behavior over this past year in the midst of her husband's problems, how do you relate? How do you feel about the way she's conducted herself?
DOLE: Well, I think that first of all, she's a very bright person. She is committed to the issues that she believes in. I don't always agree with her position on issues, but certainly she's a committed person.
And I think she's handled herself with dignity, and she's been through a very tough time, and she's handled it well.
BLITZER: OK, Elizabeth Dole, this is an unauthorized -- Elizabeth Dole for president 2000 -- but when you make that decision...
DOLE: Oh, my.
BLITZER: ... we hope you will come back and join us on "Late Edition."
DOLE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Once again, congratulations.
DOLE: I look forward to.
BLITZER: See you at the Red Cross, and good luck to you.
DOLE: Thanks so much.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.
DOLE: Yes, indeed.
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