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Hannity

Former Sen. Bob Dole Remembers Pres. Gerald Ford

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," December 28, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: America is remembering the 38th president of the United States today. Gerald Ford passed away last night at his home in Rancho Mirage, California. He was 93 years old.

Tonight, we'll hear from colleagues, advisers and friends, but we also want to hear your memories of the president. If you e-mail them to us at President Ford saying, "Would you come to the hotel? And would you like to be my running mate?" And I thought about it for about 10 seconds and said, "Certainly."

COLMES: What was your relationship like with President Ford? And what comes to mind? What came to mind initially when you heard the news last night?

DOLE: Well, I'd had an opportunity to see President Ford at the Mayo Clinic in August, and I had a chance to visit with him. His son, Mike, was there. And President Ford was not in very good condition at the time. He was able to hear me, but he wasn't speaking at the time. That was my last visit. And so I knew that he was in very fragile condition.

But, you know, he was just a -- just as everybody has said all day long and will continue to say, he was just a great guy. I mean, you could describe him in three words: a good man. And that's what you're — I'm not talking about politics. I'm just talking about the average person on the street who knew Gerald Ford and knew about Gerald Ford would probably come to the same conclusion.

COLMES: It seemed like he was universally liked. That's kind of rare in your business, isn't it?

DOLE: Yes, civility in those days was a little easier to come by than it is today, but, you know, I came to the House in 1961. Congressman Ford had already been there about a dozen years, so he was very senior to me. But over the years, we became very good friends. And I helped him get elected Republican leader in 1965.

And, you know, he just had a personality that I think would override many of the people who might not agree with him on issues. They never questioned his motives or his integrity.

COLMES: When you became the nominee at that point, when you were chosen, moments before the event you described him with my first question tonight, wasn't there a battle within the party between the forces who wanted Nelson Rockefeller, considered more liberal than yourself, and I guess the more conservative forces won out?

DOLE: I think pretty — Rockefeller was pretty much out of it. In fact, I remember calling George Hinman, who was the national committeeman from New York, to see if Governor Rockefeller would put in a good word for me with President Ford. I don't think Rockefeller was in the running.

So, you know, I thought there might be an outside chance that I'd be chosen. Many people thought it would be John Connally. And I had a good relationship with Vice President Rockefeller at the time.

MIKE GALLAGHER, GUEST CO-HOST: Senator, I'm always struck by the significance of the fact that he was probably the only person in history to have achieved the office of presidency without seeking it or really even wanting that. Knowing that, what was his enthusiasm level for running in 1976? Was his heart really in it?

DOLE: Oh, no doubt about it. He never sought the office, which I think was one of his strengths. He didn't owe anybody anything, any group or any individual, any corporation, any labor union, whatever. And he was, you know, he was a free man. But then after he'd been there a while — I don't know how long — when he decided he would try it again in '76, I think he was — you looked at a man like Congressman Ford, the Vice President Ford, then President Ford. He had confidence. He had confidence, but he also had this — I don't know, this way about him, his personality that attracted many, many people.

So he decided to give it a shot in '76, and the economy was in the dumps. The war in Vietnam had not ended. He had pardoned Richard Nixon. We'd had the Helsinki Accords, which many people were critical of, believing at the time had favored Russia. As it turned out, it was a very good thing for the United States and those countries who wanted freedom.

So it was a tough — and then he had this big battle with Reagan for the nomination. And you talk about a tough [road] going into an election, 30 points behind in '76, you know, it was tough.

GALLAGHER: Sure. You and Alan were talking about his ability to find common ground, and he was able to reach across the aisle. Some say that President Bush tried to do that, has tried to do that during his first six years in office, but has come up a bit short in that arena, some say. If that's true, what made Gerald Ford a different type of president or politician than President Bush?

DOLE: I think not many members of Congress get elected to the office of president, but I think, in Gerald Ford's case, where he became vice president and the president very soon thereafter, he had a vast knowledge of Congress. He knew how the government worked. He was a ranking Republican on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. He had all that information.

And as Republican leader, he'd been involved in foreign policy in nearly every program. He had a good record. He'd be considered a moderate Republican today, but one thing about President Ford, he was an old- fashioned Republican. He believed we ought to watch spending.

And he vetoed, I think, 66 bills, and all but 66 of those vetoes were sustained by a Democratic Congress. So, you know, he was competitive. He was a good Republican, but he knew the limits of partisanship. He was a principled partisan, and he knew when it was time to reach across the aisle and work with his friends on both sides.

GALLAGHER: Absolutely.

COLMES: Senator Dole, we really appreciate your being with us tonight, and giving us your perspective.

DOLE: Thank you, Alan.

COLMES: Thanks so much for your time this evening. Good to see you once again.

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