10 Questions For Bob Dole

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Retired Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole ran for vice president in 1976 and for President in 1980, 1988 and 1996. He came up short each time but collected a lot of punch lines along the way. Watching this year's race from the sidelines, he talked with TIME's Michael Duffy about the Democratic field, his latest activities and a famous former neighbor.

The candidates are moving on to New Hampshire. What's the secret to the place? I don't know—I lost twice. I shouldn't have gone there either time. I met a lot of nice people. I just never met enough nice people.

Here's a multi-parter: Give us a quick take on some of the Democrats. Howard Dean? The most pessimistic man in America. But he's very bright, very articulate. Wes Clark? Outstanding general. Probably be a great president of West Point. Joe Lieberman? He's my buddy. Nice guy. I just wish him well. The numbers don't look too good. But he'd be a good President. John Kerry?He's taller than me. Richer too. When I think of him, I think of a tall, rich guy. John Edwards? Very attractive guy. He'd be great in The West Wing. He can take Martin Sheen's place anytime. But not down Pennsylvania Avenue. Dick Gephardt? He's president of Iowa. I am too. We were both inaugurated together, and we're never going to let anyone forget it either. Good guy, really respect him.

Do any of these guys have a chance against Bush? Well, it's gonna be tough. Bush is gonna be hard to beat. Those Bushes are always tough to beat. The economy is probably gonna be O.K. I'm a little concerned about what happens in Iraq and Afghanistan, and American casualties. The thing I've learned, after it's all over and having lost, you don't get there unless you've got a lot on the ball. You've got to be smart, got to be quick, you have to have a good mind. Experience counts, but other qualities matter too. You don't win those primaries unless people think you've got them. That's why the polls show Dean may be slipping.

Your wife is now a Senator. what's it like being a Senate spouse? I get to go to the bank more often. And I don't have to go to all those nighttime meetings.

Who are your three favorite presidents? Well, Ike is first. He's my hero. Roosevelt, of course. He was my Commander in Chief. And then the most underrated is probably Gerald Ford. Great ticket too, as you remember.

What happened to that 60 Minutes gig you and Bill Clinton had? They wanted to see more blood on the floor. We weren't combative enough. I'm not sure it's dead, but it's certainly on life support. President Clinton may decide he wants to do it again when the campaign heats up. I'd be happy to. We get paid the same amount.

One of history's great footnotes is that while you were running against Bill Clinton in 1996, Monica Lewinsky was living in the apartment down the hall from you. Does that amuse you? Yeah, I didn't realize all the potential for excitement in the neighborhood.

Bush wants to send a manned mission to Mars. What do you think? I say, send Paul O'Neill instead.

What do you miss most about campaigning? Mostly the subzero weather. I really miss that. I miss getting out and talking to people. I like people. I like to go to the farms and the factories. I did tell a guy in New Hampshire once to “get back in your cage.” But I was mostly friendly. It was a great experience.

What else are you up to these days? No Super Bowl ads this year—nothing came up. A lot of traveling, a little speaking around the country. Thinking about doing a real book, a growing-up-in-America-type book. I probably won't run for anything again, so I can tell the truth now.