WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2001 -- -- Former President Bill Clinton and former Sen. Bob Dole have come together in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept.11.
This unlikely partnership came together to form a new scholarship fund, the Families of Freedom Foundation. The fund, which has raised $25 million in the last few weeks, is dedicated to pay for college educations for the children and spouses of every victim of the terrorist attacks.
ABCNEWS' Claire Shipman spoke at length with Dole and Clinton Thursday at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. They talked about their new foundation and their feelings since the attacks.
The entire transcript of the interview, some of which aired on Good Morning America today, is posted below.
ABCNEWS' CLAIRE SHIPMAN: Why don't we first start on a lighter note, which is the last time I checked, you guys were political enemies in 1996. What happened?
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Well, we were opponents. I don't think we were enemies. But, you know
SHIPMAN: A fine distinction in a campaign!
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Actually, we work together pretty well, and I like Senator Dole very much, but we got together here because we wanted to do something of long-term benefit for the families of the victims, and he and I both were approached about supporting this Families Of Freedom Scholarship Fund, to give college tuition grants to the spouses and children of all the victims of this tragedy, and it seemed like a good thing to do to us. It did seem like a positive thing.
DOLE: No, it wasn't part of [inaudible] and it's not about Bill Clinton or Bob Dole. It's about these children and the spouses. I've had a few nasty e-mails, he probably has, too — "Why are you doing this with Bob Dole?" This is not about us, and if we can be an instrument to help these families, that's good enough for me.
SHIPMAN: Who called who first?
DOLE: Well, I think we
CLINTON: We, we got called at the same time, I think. They asked us, and, you know
DOLE: And we're volunteers.
CLINTON: Yeah. We jumped at the chance, and, and the people who are administering this for the Families Of Freedom Fund--it's a great, reputable organization, it's been doing it for 40 years, and they're not taking a single penny. They're giving all the, all the money to these people.
DOLE: All the principal. If there's any spent, it comes out of the interest, as I understand it, so
SHIPMAN: Why a scholarship fund? Why did you think that was important?
DOLE: Well, you know, the President knows better than I — well, I think we both know — education is probably the greatest challenge we have in America, and this will give these young people, and the spouses, in some cases, or those that are disabled, an opportunity for a full educational program.
CLINTON: Also, one of the things that appealed to me about it is that it being — I think every American has been overwhelmed by the generosity of feeling that has embraced the victims of this tragedy. People all over the country, all over the world, sending money, often little towns in Appalachia, sending money they could hardly afford. It's been amazing. But three, five, ten years from now, people will be thinking about other things, and yet there'll still be children of those victims who need an education. An amazing number of the widows of young men who died at the World Trade Center, or on the airplane at the Pentagon, were like you — they're pregnant.
DOLE: [inaudible] for example.
DOLE: So this is 20, 25 years, we're looking down the road, when all the lights are out, and people have moved on. But I've tried to think--that's why I was particularly interested in it, because there's gonna be, as the President said, a lotta money out there to help people right now. But what about two years, three years, five years, ten years, and this is gonna have a lasting impact.
CLINTON: We felt we could do this now, while people want to do it, and because it'll be well-administered, in ten, fifteen, twenty years from now, when the young people need it, young people that will make a profound, positive impact on our country, they'll be able to get an education.
SHIPMAN: And you just got word of a major donation?
DOLE: Right. I guess we can confirm that [inaudible].
DOLE: 17 million.
SHIPMAN: That's extraordinary!
CLINTON: Sandy Weill, the Citi--Citigroup people, all their people together had--they actually had the idea, too, more or less at the same time, of giving scholarship money. They, they got $17.5 million in commitments, and they decided they wanted to put it in with this, so we would maximize the impact of our gifts, and we're very grateful.
SENATOR DOLE: So that's upwards of about 25 million now. There are a lotta people hanging out there with offers and opportunities and I had a fellow call me from Cleveland. Of course he'd like to have an event, like to have us come out, said I'll, I'll put a million dollars in and we'll make it successful. We'll raise a million dollars. He'll put in 100,000.
SHIPMAN: I can see the two of you will be traveling around the country together-- [Simultaneous conversation.]
PRESIDENT CLINTON: We, we [inaudible] together a road show; you know. And we got--also, we got a 9-year-old girl send us $20 that she made babysitting. We've also received a lot of very moving small contributions.
SHIPMAN: Uh-huh. Terrific.
DOLE: And I think one group which maybe we're gonna have to team up to help, and that's the poor Afghans, too. I mean, you see this, nightly, on TV. I know it's separate from what we're doing now. It's a sad, sad situation.
SHIPMAN: Let me ask you both, you've both held positions of enormous power in our Government. Should we have been more prepared for September 11th? What happened?
DOLE: Well, I think we did the best we could. I mean, you can always second-guess and Monday morning quarterback but--and, again, the President has more information than I have, but we can fault the CIA, we can fault someone. But I don't know how you could--maybe in your imagination, you could see this new weapon, this airplane loaded with innocent Americans going into the twin towers. It had never occurred to me, but the President obviously made the effort, in 1998, to get bin Laden.
CLINTON: I think the--first of all, I think there will come a time when we will want to have an impartial inquiry into that, that whole question. You know, was there an intelligence breakdown? If so, was it on this side of the ocean, or beyond our borders, or what else could we have done? [Simultaneous conversation.]
SHIPMAN: Do you have a "gut feeling" about that?
CLINTON: Well, I think I know quite a bit about it, but I think--what I think is important, now, is that we stay united and focused on where we are. The President I think is conducting this campaign in Afghanistan in a very prudent and intelligent way, and I think we need to support him. I've been there, where everybody second-guessed your every move, including Bob. But not, not when we were doing things like Bosnia or Kosovo.
CLINTON: He was always there, and this is, this is an attack on us. So who cares if he or I have a slightly different opinion or something? It's irrelevant. We don't get to make these decisions. Right now, we gotta all report for duty and support the President, get through this, this time. Then we've got Governor Ridge, a man I have a very high reward for, who's gonna led--lead the domestic defense effort. There are several specific things that I think we can do to improve there, and there's a serious effort undertaken, now, in the Congress, to deal with this biological terrorism issue, which is difficult to do, but profoundly disturbing. So they're dealing with that, and I think the important thing, right now is, there'll come a time, we can look back and say, "Well, who should have done what when?" and it ought to be done, but now is not the time. Now is the time for us to stay together as a country an! d see this thing through.
SHIPMAN: And what —
DOLE: And I'd just add as a legislator, it's great to see the, the four leaders coming out of the White House with their arms around each other.
DOLE: And saying, "Let's go forward." They're gonna have differences, they should have--we have different ideas, but it, it's a joy to watch the former Majority Leader
SHIPMAN: Well, let's talk about that for a minute, because there's been a little bit of a controversy in the last few days about just how much the President trusts the law makers with classified information. Now you were a President; you were Senate Majority Leader. Should the--
SHIPMAN: — members of Congress be trusted and does the President have a right to withhold information?
DOLE: I'd say it's 99.9 percent of the time, but there are always a few around who have a contact in the press they'd like to help, and I, I think he has to hold it pretty tight, and I think they've worked out some agreement. Certainly, the Armed Forces chairman should know, in both bodies, and the Intelligence, and the leaders, and maybe others, but as a need on a need-to-know basis. I think that's how you did it. When I wanted something, as the Majority Leader, I could always call the National Security Council and they would come to my office and but I didn't tell anybody!
CLINTON: I think, you know, first of all, we all know that leaking is an art form in Washington. We know that people in the White House do it as well as people in the Congress. Or if this White House doesn't do it, it's the first one in all of American history, that doesn't have any leaks. We know that sometimes it's an individual acting on his or her own because they like someone in the press, or they wanna look good. Sometimes, it's actually a strategy that comes out of the White House or out of a congressional caucus. When you're in conflict, and you have people's lives at stake, and you could blow a whole strategy, and have to go back and start all over again, you have to keep the information a little tighter, and so I think that there are a select number of people in Congress that really need to know things before they happen. But there's a small number. Then, after that, I think you can talk candidly about what needs to be done. If the Congress needs to exercise its oversight function, evaluate what was done, look to the future, after an operation is over, then more should be shared with more people. But the real problem is here, we live in this sort of global world of instantaneous information and no secrets in Washington, it means that, that Mr. bin Laden knows as much about what we're doing as, as Bob Dole and I do, as former leaders of the country.
DOLE: And as you know, [Simultaneous conversation.]
SHIPMAN: We have to take one break.
SHIPMAN: Let me just, again, this controversy in recent days about whether the president trusts lawmakers, and you, as a former president, and you, as Senate majority leader, I think you're in a fantastic position to answer this question. Can lawmakers be trusted, and should a president withhold information?
DOLE: I think 99.99 percent of the time you can trust lawmakers, but the president has a special obligation. He is the commander in chief, and he has to be concerned about something that might be leaked that might cause somebody bodily harm or put someone in harm's way. But as a general rule, if there's a need to know and you notify the key people, I think that's adequate for now. If you want a secret session of the Senate, you can have it, if you want to talk about inside information. We used to complain that we'd go to these briefings, and we saw all that in the paper this morning. Well, that may have been all right, but some people in that audience probably knew more than others.
CLINTON: I think, first of all, I agree with the Senator, and it's also important to note that it's not just members of Congress that leak. People on the White House staff and the Executive Branch leak too. It's an art form here. A lot of times people do it to maintain their own relations with the press. A lot of times they do it as a part of the strategy coming from the top. But in the moment of combat, when we have instantaneous global communication, we have to be quite careful here because the lives of our young men and women could be at stake. Also, the lives of the Afghans could be at stake. Suppose, for example, some operational fact was leaked and Mr. bin Laden deduced from that where we were going to bomb--and Saddam Hussein did this, and he dragged 2- or 300 civilians there that we know are not there, based on our intelligence, and then we wind up killing innocent people so that he can have a PR issue. This is not fanciful. This is--Saddam Hussein did this. So the president has to be somewhat careful. Now it looks to me like they've worked out an agreement. I don't think, you know, I believe the leaders can be trusted, the leaders on the Intelligence Committee, you know, have to be included in this, and then afterwards, after an operation is over, I think you've got to--you shouldn't hide anything because then the Congress has oversight functions, and they have to evaluate how well we've done.
SHIPMAN: You think the president was right to be mad.
CLINTON: Oh, absolutely. Now, but what I'm saying is I got mad a lot, and it turned out sometimes the source of the leaks weren't where I thought they were. And I agree with Senator Dole, often--this is like repeat offenders in criminal law. It's the same guy over and over again. You don't have it — t's not like there's a wide problem. There's a few people who are repeat offenders. [Laughter.]
DOLE: Congress does have a constitutional responsibility too. So they're entitled to information, and they are the people's representative. But I think the president in this case, the president of the United States is the commander in chief. He has the responsibility for that man or woman who may be on the front line somewhere.
SHIPMAN: How much do you sit and think these days about in my 8 years could I have done anything to prevent September 11th? Just, personally, do you think about that?
CLINTON: Well, I think that everybody who is in a position of responsibility does that. But I had someone who, a prominent member of one of the networks say to me, you know, you were talking to us about this for 7 or 8 years, and we just [inaudible]. I mean, I think what happened is we did a lot of work, and when I say "we," I don't mean primarily my administration, I mean, the public servants, the career people that work for America through Democratic and Republican administrations alike. They stopped an attack on the Holland Tunnel, they stopped an attack on the pope, they stopped an attack on the L.A. airport, they stopped attacks on planes flying out of Los Angeles to the Philippines, they stopped a dozen attacks around the millennium here, and in the Middle East and Europe. So and a lot of action was taken. But, you know, when something like this happens, you think, well, by definition, you didn't do enough to stop this. So you ask yourself these questions. But the important thing is that I just want Americans to know that there are a lot of good people there who have worked very hard to prevent that day, and they've prevented a lot of days like that. And our defenses will get better, our ability to take offensive action against someone will get better. And no terrorist strategy in all human history has ever succeeded, and this one won't either, unless we give in to fear of each other and fear of the future.
SHIPMAN: I guess this is a little bit more philosophical, but do you--do you think it would have been possible without an event as catastrophic as what happened on September 11th to actually declare a war on terrorism? In other words, for example, if you look at the Khobar Towers in 1996, and at the East Africa bombings in 1998, and even the Cole, would those events have been enough to pull together and say to the public we should actually declare a war on terrorism right now?
DOLE: Well, in my view, they declared war on us, the initial act. Now I don't know whether it's necessary for us to do the same, but, you know, as you think back over the years and what's happened the last 10, 15, 20 years, going back to Lebanon and the Reagan administration, the loss of the Marines, I think now that we've had this horrific attack, our primary obligation is, you know, instead of trying to second guess, is to be patient. This is going to be a long, drawn-out process. And today everybody is united, members of different political parties are united, people everywhere are united, and if we're sitting here 6 months from now, I hope we can say the same because this is going to be a long, drawn-out affair.
CLINTON: The attacks that occurred until this one were basically variations on what happened 18 years ago in the suicide attack on our Marines in Lebanon. They were attacks on military targets like Khobar, for example, or on African embassies, at least American official targets, and they were physically away from us. What has happened here reflects the increasing radicalism, wealth and capacity of the terrorists, plus the increasing interdependence of the world. If you think about how wealthy Americans have gotten compared to most of the rest of the world, and Europeans, the Japanese in the last 10 to 15 years, from open borders, open trade, open travel, open communication, explosion of information technology, the wide dispersal of knowledge, if you collapse distances and tear down walls, and you benefit from it, when the walls and the distance aren't there, by definition, you're going to be more vulnerable at home than you ever were before to people who mean you harm. They finally got it done after all of the things that had been stopped. We had, you know, we had the first World Trade Center bombing. Those people were caught and arrested. We had the Oklahoma City. He was caught and executed. But this happened, and what I think that the real answer to your question is not whether it could have been a declaration of war, but the real answer to your question is whether we could have completely mobilized the country, everybody is focused, everybody's ideas. I know this is happening. You can't imagine how many people call me, just private citizens who are in various kinds of business dealing with pieces of this. They think they can make a contribution. Everybody is focused on it now, and I think this hit at home did that.
SHIPMAN: Do you think what do you think the answer is? Could we have mobilized the country or the world earlier?
CLINTON: Well, I think the I think the forces, I think, to a great extent, we were spending a lot of money on this. For example, for the last 3 years, we've been working on this bioterrorism issue. The question is are you spending enough, are you spending it in the right way, is it a high enough priority within every bureaucracy? There are all these thousand questions when you talk about mobilizing. I think the answer is this has concentrated us as never before and as nothing else could have because. Otherwise, you know, you keep thinking, well, something else could happen too. Now we know that this is the something else that everybody is thinking about.
DOLE: You know, you go back to Pearl Harbor, everybody remembers where they were on that day if they were alive, and the same on September 11th. But when it happens to innocent people--a military installation, even Pearl Harbor is one thing--but these are innocent people, I think it--I don't know if you could have mobilized before. You might have, if this president, and the Congress and everybody else would have gotten on board, but this did it in an instant. I mean, we were mobilized within an hour after the attack.
SHIPMAN: Have the two of you cried much or at all since September 11th?
DOLE: Well, I've shed tears, and I think and anybody who's watched this closely and hasn't shed a tear, I think they've, I don't know where they, where they live.
CLINTON: I mean, I, you know, I spend a lot of time, considering I live in New York, obviously, so I was down there a lot, and I--the stories are breathtaking. But the thing that I will never forget is all these little people holding the flyers of their loved ones. For days and days, they couldn't even be sure that a lot of these people were in the World Trade Center when, in fact, they had been dead for several days. So they're all going around with their little flyers, you know.
DOLE: Particularly when you see the little children, 2 or 3 years old, with a mother trying to, you know, "What happened to my daddy?"
CLINTON: There was one 6-year-old girl that went to work with her mother on the morning of September 11th at the World Trade Center who just wanted to see what her mother did for a living, and Mr. bin Laden believes that child, because she is not a Muslim and a Muslim that agrees exactly with his interpretation-let's point out that I mean, he hates all of the Muslims that don't agree with him, too, that she was a combatant, and her life was not significant and she deserved to die. People have got to realize this is not — as awful as these deaths are, these people don't have the same view of truth, the same value of life, the same notion of community we do. We're fighting for the whole soul of the 21st century here. This is not about warding off terrorist attacks. This is about defeating people who would like the world to look like the Taliban. It would be a dreary world, indeed.
SHIPMAN: Tell me a little bit more about how, specifically, your scholarship fund will work. Who is eligible, what will they be eligible for.
DOLE: Well, they're working on eligibility rules now. I mean there's, obviously, some people who may be fortunate enough to have a pretty good sum of money, and their children may not qualify, but it will be, not just a 4-year college, but if you want to go to a junior college or you want to go to a trade school or barber college, beauty college, whatever, everybody has an opportunity. And I was just discussing with the president, I think it's 4 years it will be 4 years.
CLINTON: Any post-high school opportunity.
DOLE: That's right, post-high school.
CLINTON: Yes, and it's for the spouses and the children of people killed or disabled, including people from other countries. And this is something that was important to us because we had people, I mean, I've met, you know, I went to the memorial for the British [?] [inaudible], but I met Germans, and Italians, and Chinese, and Japanese, I mean, a lot of people from Latin America, and a lot of these people they come, even if they have good jobs here, they didn't have a lot of family money. And we think it's an important thing to make those children eligible for these education funds.
DOLE: And there's one thing we needed to resolve there because, in the discussions I had, is you had to attend an American college. Well, if you live in Gambia or Great Britain or somewhere, you ought to be able to attend school in the country you're.
CLINTON: We're still working out some of the details.
SHIPMAN: It sounds like you're still working out the details.
CLINTON: But he and I have agreed on everything.
CLINTON: We've agreed on everything. We've just got to convince everybody else.
SHIPMAN: Who would have thought.
DOLE: I think a lot of people would have thought. I mean, this is about, this is really, I look on it as an opportunity to be of service to someone. And they may never know about us because they're only young children, but ƒ
CLINTON: We'll be gone when some of these kids go to college. We probably won't even be around. There are literally an awful lot of woman who will give birth to children, after you give birth, who will be eligible for this fund, and I think that's really important because, you know, the negative effects of this day are going to continue years into the future. So the idea that 20 years from now a kid will walk through a college graduation line and go out and change the world because Americans cared enough to be able to give at this moment of agony and grief
DOLE: A living tribute, a living memorial.
SHIPMAN: If you could both give advice right now to President Bush, what would it be?
DOLE: I'll let him go first.
CLINTON: I'll tell you
DOLE: He's been president.
CLINTON: First of all, I think he's making good decisions, and I support him. And if I were giving him advice, I would give it privately. I think that even publicly given advice is often translated as second-guessing, and I have been there. And when you're in the hedge rows here, when it's really tough, we all need to hang together. So I'm for him. He's my president, too, and I'm supporting him. If ever I think of an idea I think would be helpful to him, I'll call the appropriate person and I'll tell him. But I don't — I don't want to be giving public advice now. We need only be giving public support.
SHIPMAN: Do you have a channel that you could pass things on to
CLINTON: No. I've talked to several people in the administration, and they've all been very nice. And I just tell them what I know or if somebody calls me with a good idea, I [inaudible]. But they've been very responsive, and they're working at this. They're working hard at this, and I think that if we have advice, any of us, we ought to give it to them and just be supportive. We've got a tough patch here to get through. I can tell you this: I've been facing several of the tactical decisions he's now facing in Afghanistan, and none of them are easy, and I think they're handling it well, including the dropping of the humanitarian aid, something you mentioned earlier.
SHIPMAN: A lot of people wonder about the missile attacks in 1998, which came close, according to a lot of National Security Council officials, to betting bin Laden, but didn't. Why didn't we do more after that point?
CLINTON: Well, the National Security team was under clear instructions, and they tried to find opportunities to do more, but we were never absolutely sure where he was, and one place he often was, but we didn't know he'd be there if missiles shot[?] there, he would go and spend the night in a compound of 200 women and children because he knew Americans well enough to know that we wouldn't kill 200 women and children. And so we tried to retrain the commandos, but they, the people in the Pentagon and the National Security team never thought that we had a good enough shot to go in. And it's now been in the press that we also made a strenuous effort to [inaudible], and they had a change of government which rendered that plan moot. But I think the important thing now is he's got a, President Bush has a wider playing field and a wider bullet, and it seems to me that they're doing their best to make good decisions in a very careful way. One of the things they haven't done that bin Laden wanted them to do which is go right off and start bombing people, kill as many civilians as he did, so then he could say we're no better than him.
SHIPMAN: And you think that makes sense.
SHIPMAN: If you could give advice to the president, what would it be?
SENATOR DOLE: Well, first, I would compliment him on the great job he's done. You know, my only advice would be there's a saying in this town, if I'm not there on the take-off, don't ask me to be there for the landing, and I think they've done a good job of that. Just keep your arms around these members of Congress, the leadership, and make it totally nonpartisan, and you'll have a great success. And that's happened so far, and I think it will continue.
SHIPMAN: Have either of you been disappointed at all by our allies, for example, the Saudi Arabians? There's been a lot of--there's a lot of criticism that they weren't that helpful throughout the '90s when you were in office, and that they're not necessarily.
SENATOR DOLE: The president is better equipped to answer this. But every country has a little different problem, and their cooperation may be different degrees with different countries, maybe let us overflights or whatever. But so far, this is not about a coalition. We were attacked, the U.S., and we're going to decide what to do, but we'd like to have our friends with us. And I think so far, you know, it's early, it's holding pretty well.
SHIPMAN: Mr. President?
CLINTON: I think they've done a good job of putting together the coalition. I think that we don't have enough time to talk about all of the variations here in the country. There are things I would like to say, but again I'm afraid that anything I say about that will make the president's job harder, not easier. I think at the appropriate time we need to look and ask ourselves what kind of Middle East would we like to see, consistent with their faith, and their traditions, and their interests 10 years from now. What should we be doing to create that? But now is not that time. Now we're in the middle of a fight, and we need to stick together.
DOLE: I think the president and I would agree on one thing. We have a good track record with Muslim countries. Take Kosovo, for example, take Bosnia before that, and Kuwait before that, and I don't know the total amount of money spent, but it's hundreds of millions of dollars. American troops were there. And so I think if people looked at the way we've reacted and acted in direct support of Muslim countries …
CLINTON: And, you know, President Bush launched a--former President Bush launched the Madrid Peace Talks. I worked for 8 years to make a comprehensive and fair peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, including a Palestinian state and protections for the Muslim religious rights. America is not against Islam, but we are against fanaticism and terror. We don't, we don't believe anybody has got the absolute truth in this world.
SHIPMAN: If you each had one sentence to describe what you hope people understand about your scholarship fund, what would it be?
DOLE: I would hope they would see it as an ongoing, living tribute to the victims or particular[?] victims of September 11th, whether it was at the Pentagon or whether it was in New York or whether it was in the fields of Pennsylvania.
CLINTON: I would hope they would see themselves as standing in the shoes of the victims, caring for their families and their futures, and in so doing, building the future of our country and the world.
SHIPMAN: Thank you both very much. I appreciate your time.
Claire Shipman is the senior national correspondent for ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.