Monday I was in San Diego moderating a debate—really a discussion— between former Vice President Al Gore (search) and former Senator Majority Leader (and war hero!) Bob Dole (search). Both of course ran for President and lost.
Prior to the "debate" before an audience of more than one thousand, the three of us sat alone in a room and just talked about all sorts of things. Actually, the two men were so engaging that I mostly listened. It was apparent to me that despite the different political parties—and their race against each other's ticket in 1996—there is deep respect and admiration for each other. Yes they had fun disagreeing, but it was also apparent that they are on the same team - the USA team. They were talking about world problems, domestic problems and even old times when both served on "the Hill". I felt like a voyeur listening and watching two men who had been so intimately involved with every major political issue of my time. In short, they were fascinating to listen to.
Later during the "debate" before the audience, Senator Dole said that he thought if discussions began with North Korea (search) that President Bush ought to send former Vice President Gore and him to North Korea to represent the President and to talk to the North Koreans. I think Senator Dole's idea stunned everybody in the audience. It is rare that one party member suggests an opponent but Senator Dole thinks this too important an issue not to have both parties involved. The earnestness of Senator Dole's remarks made his idea seem like a good idea if we were ever so lucky to get the North Koreans to talk— and not lie or play games. It might be fanciful to think the North Koreans would ever show a willingness to talk candidly.
I realize this country can be very divided on politics but if you sat in a room or on a stage listening to both of these men talking about world issues, you would be impressed with their mutual passion for this country and respect for each other. It seemed to me— despite some political differences—that both really wanted to see if they could help in an increasingly unpredictable world. I did not understand Senator Dole to be saying he wanted to step on the President's toes—Senator Dole had praise for the President— but rather that he wants to help and that perhaps his stature and the Vice President's— along with their mutual years of experience— might be an untapped resource for the President in a dangerous place like North Korea (search). What are the chances? My guess: none, but I love that Senator Dole wants to help and that Vice President Gore said he would gladly help, too. I like it when candidates can "bury the hatchet" and work together for the common good.
Some other odds and ends. They both served in the House and the Senate and I asked which they preferred. They both immediately said the House—there is more opportunity to be with your colleagues there. Apparently in the Senate the work load is different and each Senator works pretty much alone. Both men are extremely funny and in between serious remarks got some good laughs out of the audience. They were also gracious—they stood around getting their pictures taken with hundreds of people.
Finally I wish there were a way that TV could truly capture what so many of our politicians are like. I got a good look at them when they are hanging around the FOX News "green room" getting ready to appear on TV and we can just talk.
Ordinarily, you see and hear the politicians in TV sound bites, or six minute segments...or read comments about them—usually not flattering—in the newspapers. Neither the TV nor newspapers compare to sitting around a room for a couple of hours and just talking. It is at these rare moments—whether you agree with them or not—that you really see how much many politicians care about their constituents' problems, and the problems facing our country. Plus, you would learn that some work extremely long hours.
Watch On the Record with Greta Van Susteren weeknights at 10 p.m. ET