Dole on coming elections, social security reform
Washington — Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, who was involved in presidential politics in both 1976 and 1980, says it is ''conceivable'' that he will seek the presidency in 1984 - but only, of course, if Ronald Reagan decides to step aside.
''I think he will run again,'' says Senator Dole. ''I take him at his word when he says his job isn't up for grabs.''
On the previous morning the former GOP national chairman, Bill Brock, had said he felt Dole had vastly improved his prospects as a presidential candidate by his work on the budget and tax legislation.
''Before Dole did it,'' said Brock, ''nobody thought anyone could put that tax-increase package together.''
In a post-breakfast interview, Dole assessed his qualifications to run for President, should that opportunity arise. He sees his present legislative work as a definite plus: ''Ninety percent of the things people are vitally interested in these days - taxes, spending, social security - are handled by my (Senate Finance) committee.''
Social security, particularly, is a Dole target issue. Asked at breakfast about the special session of Congress he has proposed to deal with the sticky question of social security reform, the senator said: ''I'm hoping that it will be called for the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but for one purpose only: to deal with the problem of saving social security.
''The President hasn't indicated whether he would favor it yet. But it's important that before such a session is called that there is agreement that social security alone will be dealt with. There are always temptations to bring in one more piece of legislation.''
He added that he was hoping for ''enough of a bipartisan flavor in the legislation that the decision wouldn't fall on a few - and that the lame ducks would simply be lined up with a lot of others.''
What are the Dole proposals for social security?
''First, we will have to hear what the recommendations are of the special commission looking into it. But I would think that we would have to look at the COLAs (cost-of-living adjustments). Also we might look at providing less to those who retire early. But anything we do would have to be phased in - so no one would feel he is losing something he is expecting to get.''
At the breakfast there were several questions on why the President recently vetoed the supplemental appropriations bill when there was ''only'' about $1 billion to be saved.
''Well,'' said Dole, ''you can't expect the President to raise taxes one week and then let something like this stand the next. However, he may be swatting at a gnat.'' The senator added that he expected the veto to be sustained by Congress.
The senator sees a continuing effort to pare the federal budget. ''We will have to look at everything,'' he said, ''including defense.''
What about Republican hopes this fall?
''Things are looking up. But the Democrats gained by redistricting. And there are a lot, some 30 to 40, marginal seats.
''But if the stock market keeps improving, interest rates keep coming down, and General Motors cuts its prices on cars, there will be a lift, a psychological lift, that will help the Republicans.''
Returning to his own political fortunes, Dole said he is well aware of the ''hatchet-man'' image acquired during the 1976 campaign.
But he thinks this perception of him now is fading - that he is becoming widely known as a ''doer'' in the Senate, the senator who can get things done when others can't.