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Graham answers a few questions

By BILL ADAIR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 4, 2003


Sen. Bob Graham has said plenty about tax cuts and terrorism. But what does he say about the last time he cried? About the '72 Dolphins? About heaven and hell? About whether he's still afraid to see his own blood?

He answered questions last week during a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa:

If you found yourself in a room with Osama bin Laden, what would you say to him?

Turn yourself in.

Anything you'd want to know from him, or understand about him?

Since my command of Arabic is limited, and I do not believe he speaks very fluent English, our opportunity to have an extended conversation in English would be limited. So I think I would just give him the direction to turn himself in.

Who would you invite to be your first guest at the White House?

My 10 grandchildren. And if they were good, I might invite their parents.

What do you think would be the coolest thing about being president?

I know what my grandchildren think: the motion picture theater that's in the White House. They are already lining up their friends to come and see movies.

Who's the smartest person in Congress?

That used to be an easy answer - Pat Moynihan. Now there is not a person who stands out intellectually. There are a lot of smart people in Congress, in the House and the Senate.

Do you believe in heaven and hell?

Do you believe there is a system where some people go one way and some people go the other way?

That's what the Bible says. What I hope is you can go to heaven and then in some form return to Earth. I have a lot of things that I want to do in the rest of my life which I'm not going to get to with my current life expectancy, so I'm lining up my reincarnation experiences.

And what would those be?

I would like to be an architect. I've always been very interested in design. I would like to be a singer and songwriter for a country and western band. I would like to be an evangelical minister and I'd like to be a short reliever for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Just come out in the ninth inning and throw smoke; 10 balls and then go home.

Do you want former President Clinton to campaign for you?

I want anybody who can help our victory and to avoid another four years of George Bush. I think probably Al Gore made a mistake by not using the prestige and the campaign abilities of Bill Clinton.

How about Gore himself? Do you want Gore to campaign for you?

Anybody who can help me get elected and avoid another four years of George Bush.

You once acknowledged having a fear of seeing your own blood. Do you still have that fear?

I did, up until a series of workdays, specifically one in Tallahassee where I was working for the police department. We got a 1 a.m. call to where there had been a shooting. There was a lady slumped behind the wheel of a car. She was alive at that time. I called 911 to send out the emergency ambulance. Unfortunately, by the time she got (to the hospital) she had passed away. That experience of having to take specific action in what was a very bloody scene - she had been shot four or five times - overcame whatever reluctance or difficulty I had.

Who would win: the 2002 Buccaneers or the 1972 Dolphins?

The state of Florida would win.

You're dodging the question.

I thought I answered the question. (To aide John Provenzano) Didn't I answer the question?

Provenzano: I thought it was a terrific answer.

Graham to the interviewer: What the hell - are you going to grade my answers?

Who's the worst president we've ever had?

Some people say Franklin Pierce. I don't know enough about Franklin Pierce's administration. He also happened to come from New Hampshire, so he had a lot of good things going for him. (Graham laughs.)

The presidents who in my judgment tended to be categorized as the less desirable were those who tended to be president during a highly partisan period, when it was difficult to get things done and where there wasn't some event that united the people, such as a war or other tragedy. So you had a string of presidents during the end of the 19th century, people like Rutherford B. Hayes, Grover Cleveland, James Garfield, who were not particularly distinguished. Maybe they were victims of their time.

In your speech just a few minutes ago to the Izaak Walton League, you described yourself as an avid hunter, which I didn't realize. When is the last time you went hunting and what did you hunt?

A couple of years ago. We have at our farm in Albany, Ga., an area where we purposely did not cut the trees down and put into pasture. It's very good quail hunting.

So you went quail hunting?

Why do you have your staff call you "senator" rather than "Bob"?

That's an interesting question. I never was really aware of that. It's not by my direction. (To Provenzano) Why do you call me senator?

Provenzano: Respect.

Graham: Respect for the office, right?

Provenzano: No, out of respect for you.

(Graham laughs.)

What's the biggest mistake you've made in your career?

Can I come back to that one?

Sure. There are only two more. When was the last time you cried?

At the service that was given for Congressman Danny Fascell shortly after his death (in 1998). The service took place at the Biscayne National Park, which Congressman Fascell had made happen. He was an extremely close friend and my political mentor. I was extremely moved by where we were, what it meant in terms of his career and the legacy that his political career was making possible for generations to come.

Back to biggest mistake in your career.

I'd say - and I'm using the word career in a broad sense - a big mistake was not learning Spanish to a higher level of fluency. Another is that I have several books inside of me (Graham has often said he wants to write a civics book titled All I Know About Politics I Learned in the Florida House of Representatives) and I've never been disciplined enough to convert them to typewritten pages.

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