Bob Dole: GOP ought to be 'closed for repairs'

6:40 AM, May 27, 2013   |    comments
Former Senator Bob Dole in 2008.
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(CBS NEWS) -- Former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole doesn't think much of his party these days.

Dole, who ran against President Bill Clinton in 1996 and was the leader of Senate Republicans for much of the 1980s and 90s, slammed the GOP for excessive obstructionism and for failing to convey a forward-looking agenda during an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

Never one to mince words, Dole did not absolve President Obama of the blame for the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., but he directed the lion's share of his criticism at his own party.

"I think they ought to put a sign on the [Republican] national committee doors that says 'closed for repairs' until New Year's Day next year and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas," Dole said.

Asked whether Republicans of years past, many of whom had a more diplomatic approach to compromise and governance than today's Republicans, would be able to make it in the modern GOP, Dole said, "I doubt it."

"Reagan wouldn't have made it. Certainly Nixon couldn't have made it, because he had ideas," he explained. "We might have made it, but I doubt it."

And much of the blame for the gridlock, Dole said, rests with a fractious Congress that seems more interested in partisan drama than doing its job.

"It seems to be almost unreal that we can't get together on a budget or legislation," Dole said, comparing today's Congress unfavorably with the institution in which he served for decades. "We weren't perfect by a long shot, but at least we got our work done."

The Senate, Dole said, is in particularly dire need of a fix.

While it's not quite broken, it's "bent really badly," he said. "As [former Senate leader] Howard Baker said, 'Running the Senate is like herding cats.' But it takes leadership. Somebody has to stand up and say, 'We're going to do this.'"

Dole said there is "no doubt" Republicans have abused the filibuster by erecting a record number of procedural hurdles during President Obama's tenure. "There are some cases we can probably justify it, but not many," he said.

Despite Dole's acerbic commentary on his own party, he said that President Obama, who has been criticized as aloof and detached, must shoulder some of the blame for the toxic stew of partisanship that D.C. has become.

"I'm not a critic of the president, but I think one mistake he's made was not getting together more with Congress earlier on, in his first administration," Dole said. "There's nothing like knowing the person you're talking to on the telephone if you've had an opportunity to sit down with that person and visit, not about anything, but just visit."

"I think, as a president, he lacks communication skills with his own party, let alone the Republican Party," he added.

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