The following is an excerpt from "FOX News Sunday," May 2, 2004.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: The Bush and Kerry campaigns had a war of words this week over Vietnam. Democrats criticized President Bush's National Guard Service and Vice President Cheney, who got deferments and didn't serve at all. Meanwhile, Republicans questioned whether John Kerry deserved all of his medals and if he lied about throwing them away during an anti-war protest.
All this as the very moving World War II Memorial opened to visitors here in Washington. No one is more qualified to talk about the military in politics than our next guest, former Senator Bob Dole, a World War II veteran himself and national chairman of the World War II Memorial.
And, Senator, welcome. Great to have you here.
FORMER U.S. SENATOR BOB DOLE, R-KAN.: Thank you very much.
WALLACE: All right, before we get to the World War II Memorial, let's talk about Vietnam. Why, 30 years later, is it still such a hot-button issue?
DOLE: Well, I'm not certain it's that red hot of a button. I mean, I think it's OK to talk about your military service, but there's a fine line between, you know, too much and just about right. And I think — I tried to watch that in '96, I hope I did, and I think John Kerry has to be a bit careful too.
WALLACE: All right. As we've said, Senator Kerry is taking heat over his anti-war protests, including comments he made about atrocities by U.S. troops, and this week he had to explain once again whether he threw away his medals or his ribbons. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA): What I said was — and back then, ribbons, medals were absolutely interchangeable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: In your view, are ribbons and medals interchangeable, and does this matter when we're choosing a president?
DOLE: I don't think it matters. I mean, I don't know whether he threw away his ribbons, his shirt or his medals or — but I'm proud of mine, and I kept them, and I think most veterans are.
I don't know what possessed John to — I know he came back — came out against the Vietnam War, but he made his point, and he's going to have to live with it. I think some of the things he said were probably not very good judgment, but he was a much younger man then without much experience in public life. But that's the record.
WALLACE: And so, that's something people should take into account as they...
DOLE: Oh, I think so. I mean, when you come back and first you brag about all the medals you had and being wounded three times and things of that kind, and then you throw everything away and join the other side, it's going to be fairly hard to explain it, particularly to veterans.
WALLACE: As the week went on it got even uglier in Congress, with Republicans attacking John Kerry's patriotism and Democrats questioning the courage of some members of the Bush administration. Here's a sample of what they all had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE SAM JOHNSON (R-TX): What he did was nothing short of aiding and abetting the enemy. A person like John Kerry does not belong in the White House.
U.S. SENATOR FRANK LAUTENBERG (D-NJ): We know who the chicken hawks are. When it was there turn to serve, where were they? A-W-O- L.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
WALLACE: Senator, I know politics ain't bean bags...
DOLE: Yes, that's pretty tough.
WALLACE: ... but is all that fair game?
DOLE: Well, I guess it's fair game — it's almost — I didn't hear Senator Lautenberg saying that about Clinton when he was running for president, but, you know, it's a different party, different candidate, different time. I think the American people can absorb that. It's not going to make a big difference.
WALLACE: As a seasoned political observer, what do you make of this campaign?
DOLE: It's getting pretty hot pretty early. I mean, it seems to me that generally you wait until at least the convention time or Labor Day. It used to be the good old days when you had that campaign start on Labor Day, but this campaign started in, what, March.
And it's gotten very personal. And, of course, the Bush team wants to define Kerry. When you've been in the Senate, you've got a voting record, you're not hard to define, as I've learned and other people have learned.
But I think it's off to a hot start. It ought to slow down, cool off a while. The American people aren't going to listen if that's all they hear every day is criticism and name-calling by the Bush team or by the Kerry team.
WALLACE: And what do you think about that? Because sometimes there can be Senate votes that you took on a specific vote years and years ago, and it may not accurately represent where you stood — or does it?
DOLE: No, not really — well, in my case, I voted a lot, I'd just give my colleague a vote, and, you know, "Please help me out, Mr. Leader, I've got to have at least a few votes," and I didn't agree with them at all. But they're not going to explain that in the ad. I mean, Clinton ran these ads that I was opposed to Social Security, food — everything that I had worked for.
But — and it's fair game. I mean, they can take it as long as it's not distortion. As long as it says, "This is how he voted," then he's got to explain it. You know, can't expect the Bush people to explain it for John Kerry.
WALLACE: No, that isn't going to happen.
Let's turn to the main reason we wanted to talk to you today, which is that after 17 years in the making, the World War II Memorial finally opened this week. What do you think of it?
DOLE: I think it's great. I've been down there a lot, of course, over the period, but most recently the last three or four weeks. And last week, they took down all the surviving members of Congress, World War II guys who are still in Congress. There's only about 13 or 14, and 12 were there.
It's going to be an emotional, teary day on May 29th, the day of the dedication. Because I think some of these guys — and I've talked to hundreds of World War II vets — have just been kept alive by thinking, "Boy, we're going to be there, and we're going to see this dedication, either on television or we're going to be there in person."
It's not that they want a memorial, we don't need a memorial. Two-thirds of us are gone. You know, we've lost 11 million out of 16 million. But I think it's the message for the next generation. You know, sometime in your life you may be called on to make a sacrifice, and that's really what it's about: strength and peace, not about war and conflict.
It sort of — it doesn't impair the sight of the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial. And my view is it's going to be very well-received, particularly by the veterans, but I think by the public as a whole.
WALLACE: You know, I read a very touching statistic this week that World War II veterans are dying at the rate of 1,100 a day. What do you think this memorial is going to mean to the vets who get to see it and alongside young people, who will not only get to see the memorial, but also to see some of the men and women who fought and won this war?
DOLE: It's going to be very emotional. I remember being at the Normandy 50th anniversary, where some of the grandparents were taking their grandkids along, the grandparent having been part of the invasion. And you could see the bond, the emotion.
And particularly with the children and grandchildren, they're going to be here. You know, I don't know where we're going to put everyone. Two-hundred-thousand veterans, we don't have enough seats, but we're going to try to make sure everybody has a chance to sit if they're here.
WALLACE: And what about this veteran sitting across from me? How emotional is it for you to see the memorial and all it represents finally completed?
DOLE: Pretty tough. I can see, you know, Senator Hollings and Senators Stevens and Inouye, we were all down there the last week, and I can see all of us had a little wet (ph) — you know, because when you walk in, the first thing you think about is, you know, it's just an — it's sort of awesome. Then you start thinking about why it's there and who was involved. And you look at those 400 gold stars, each star representing 100,000 killed. And then you really begin to wonder — or 100 killed.
And then you can begin to understand what World War II was all about and how many were killed and how many were wounded and how it changed the world and how it preserved liberty and freedom. And then you're just a little part of it, but you feel kind of good.
When you recognize World War II veterans in a crowd these days, they stand up and they're proud. You know, and they're not many of us left, so we can tell about any war story we want. We can all be great heroes, because there's nobody around to contradict us anymore.
WALLACE: Well, in your case, you were a hero, sir. Is there one part of the memorial that's special to you?
DOLE: Well, the special part to me was standing by the little part that says "Po Valley, Italy." That's where I participated. And I think we had some pictures taken there. But yes, I think that's — but it's all very special.
And it's not just about those men in uniform, and women, it's about our generation — the farmers, the teachers. It's not just a memorial to us, to those — not everybody can wear a uniform. So it's about our generation, called the greatest generation, but now it's called the disappearing generation.
WALLACE: Well, we should point out, as you mentioned, that the memorial will be formally dedicated on Memorial Day weekend.
Senator Dole, please come back. Thank you so much...
DOLE: Thanks, Chris.
WALLACE: ... for your services. It's always great to talk to you, sir.
DOLE: Thank you