February 24th, 2006

Bob and Liddy — Sad, Sad, Sad

by Philip Baruth

So Bob Dole is brought in as the closer for the Dubai Ports World deal in the Senate. Looks pretty good for Bob Dole. Nice chunk of change, yes sir. Kind of a change of pace. Good to get some respect again.

But when he gets home to the Watergate, Liddy isn’t pleased. Damn article in the Washington Post, talking about conflict of interest:

“The lobbying of former Senate majority leader Robert J. Dole on behalf of the Dubai-owned company set to take over management of terminals at six major U.S. seaports is creating a political problem for his wife, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.).

“The chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Jerry Meek, yesterday called on Sen. Dole to remove herself from ‘any congressional oversight’ of the Dubai port deal. ‘The fact that Dubai is paying her husband to help pass the deal presents both a financial and ethical conflict of interest for Senator Dole,’ Meek said.

“Former senator Dole (R-Kan.), 82, said in a written statement yesterday that he is not going to lobby his wife or members of Congress.

“Dole’s statement said he will confine his lobbying to the Bush administration. ‘I have not nor will I lobby Members of Congress on this issue, not even at home,’ he wrote.”

You know, for me, the Doles’ marriage has been an icon of the dismal for as long as I can remember. The thought was already all but unbearable: the two of them puttering around their Watergate condominium — she all steel and no magnolia, he famously erectile dysfunctional — watching Wheel of Fortune, then C-Span, maybe having a brief caustic argument over the rules of cloture, then calling it a night just before eight-thirty lights out.

All but unbearable.

But knowing that now even their last tiny sclerotic vein of companionship — Senate shop-talk — will be forbidden, I feel myself almost moved to something like genuine pity.

Liddy: Robert? Robert, dear? [She turns to Bob in the Craftmatic Adjustable bed but, since her half is prone and his cranked up to reading height, she encounters only mattress. The symbolism strikes her powerfully enough to bring tears nearly to the surface, but she holds them back. Liddy reaches for the wireless remote and brings her half of the top-of-the-line Craftmatic Monaco even with his. Dole is brooding over a dossier marked “Dubai Ports World.”] Robert, we need to talk.

Dole: [After a long pause] Call Bob Dole Bob Dole.

Liddy: Robert, I will not call you Bob Dole. You know that. We agreed on that long ago.

Dole: [Eyes still on the file, but clearly no longer focused, as though it is the past — rather than charts showing DPW’s US assets — passing before his eyes] You used to call Bob Dole Bob Dole. When he married you. Another story then. The condo in Florida. I remember a margarita with no salt, maybe more than one. And I remember you calling Bob Dole Bob Dole that day. That night. [Dole turns to look at her, a hard look, one that reveals deep hurt, a hurt that’s scabbed over, and maybe a little blackish at the edges.]

Liddy: Robert — [Her voice drops to a whisper although they two are the only ones in the hermetically sealed condominium] Yes, you’re right, there was that one night when I thought, well, that helping you live out a dream, a fantasy, might . . . enliven things. Romantically between us. I called you Bob Dole in the heat of that one moment. But it never felt right. And you said you understood that.

Dole: [With intensely biting and deeply bitter sarcasm] Oh, sure.

Liddy: Robert. Let’s turn to something a little more pleasant. [Desperately, as though a new subject, any subject, might be the only thing between the Craftmatic and divorce itself] What about that folder? What is it you’re reading? May I look on, Dear?

Dole: [Almost savagely] You’re not allowed to see. Bob Dole can’t share it with you. He has ethics, see? Want to start an investigation? Leave it alone. [Pulling the folder back from her, like a half-gnawed bone]

Liddy: All right then, darling. [Lying back, all hope drained from her, lacquered hair holding her finally an inch or two above the pillow, and beginning the fall into a deep sleep that will be interrupted only several times by dreams of the White House.] All right then. I’ll just leave it alone.