tv Oral Histories Women in Congress - Susan Molinari Interview CSPAN October 14, 2021 12:44pm-2:34pm EDT
did you know that all of c-span's programs can be watched online? go to the history and type the show you would like in the search box. all available online at c-span.org/history. susan molinari served as a republican congresswoman from new york. the u.s. house of representatives office of the historian conducted this
interview. >> we are very pleased to hear from one of the representatives, susan molinari from new york. this project we're working on is to recognize and celebrate the 100th anniversary of jeanette rankin to congress, the first woman. we have a bunch of questions we want to ask you today. first off, when you were young, did you have any female role models? >> no. i never thought about that question before, but i don't think so. i remember looking into the little autograph book that you have when you're really little and you ask your grandmother and mother and father to sign it and the kids in your class. it would say, what do you want to be when i grow up, and i
remember looking back, and when i was in maybe second grade it was flight attendant, which we called stewardesses at the time, or ballerina. that was sort of my notion of what women could be. so no, it never occurred to me, certainly never, to enter into politics or be front and center. i cannot think of too many role models when i was really young that were females. that changed along the way, gratefully. >> so how did you first become interested in politics? >> i come from a long line of politicians. my grandfather was in the new york state assembly, my father was in the new york state assembly, then a member of congress, then borough president. i'm an only child and very close to both my parents, and we would have sunday breakfast and we would have elections for who was going to be the president of the day. and so he would say, if i'm elected president, i will take us all to the zoo, and whatever you promised, you got to fulfill, so you really learned a lot about making deals so that you could get that extra vote. we would have elected officials
come to our house all the time. so it was an area in which i felt very comfortable. my dad didn't run for office until i was in high school, but there was always that constant discussion of politics. he was always involved in campaigns. then when my dad did run for politics, i continued to follow and nip at his heels and just found the debates, the protests, so much of campaigning. my friends and i would go door to door with him and stick letters from him into doors. it just sort of became a natural, though i remember at the time going back to the question of whether female role models, whether i thought i would ever run for office. i just enjoyed being a part of the world. >> do you have memories about your dad's congressional office or attending any special events here on capitol hill? >> oh, absolutely. i do remember my dad allowing me to come to the inauguration of
ronald reagan and going to some of the great events that surround any inaugural, so i have fond memories of that. i remember going to the house floor. he came to the house floor to watch me be sworn in. so yes, i have very fond memories, both in going to albany. i was a toddler that needed to be torn away from my father. when he was in the new york state assembly in albany, i went to the state university of new york in albany and would meet him for lunch and would find every opportunity i could to go down there and watch a debate. oftentimes he lived with two other members of the assembly and he would invite my roommate and myself to dinner, which if you've eaten college food, that was a big treat. while we were cleaning up, we would listen to them calculate the debate they were going to have the next day. sitting by the fire, drinking sambuco or something, and engaging in the topic of the next day and the roles they were going to play. it just left an impression. >> do you have a favorite memory
of your dad serving in the u.s. house? >> oh, there's so many great memories. my father is very quixotic in that he does not see walls. he just knocks them down and gets things done. he took on newt gingrich. he threw a party for sylvio conte when he got in trouble for a party on the house floor. my dad was very bipartisan. he believed very much in the institution as opposed to the political party. so a lot of memories i have of my dad is sort of teaching me lessons. he worked closely with congressman chuck schumer. he worked closely with a hospital that was about to close as a freshman member because he didn't know any better, that he wasn't supposed to be able to have that kind of clout and figure things out. those are the memories i have of my dad.
my dad just -- he saw walls but he just -- he didn't walk around them, he just took them down and still does. >> why did you decide to run for congress in 1990? >> i was in the new york city council. that was my first elected >> i was in the new york city council. that was my first elected office. that was really more just an opportunity that came up. because i was always with my father and was raised -- you grow up in my family and you'll go to a republican convention at a county hall, and they would say, guy molinari is going to be -- who is going to nominate guy molinari for the new york state assembly? and my dad would say, my daughter. so i learned to speak publicly before i knew i was supposed to be afraid of it, and so it's just -- so because i was always active in his campaigns, people came to me and asked me from a very young age to consider running for office. and when this position opened up
for the new york city council, i thought, well, i had been working in washington, d.c. it would give me a chance to go back to new york city. there was no way i was supposed to win this race, but it would give me good exposure to figure out what i wanted to do next and get to know the right people in new york city for a job in public relations. once you go out there and start to meet the people and once you start to shake hands and hear about what their concerns are, and once you start to figure out maybe i can actually do this and fix their problems, you become so convinced that you have to win. so i ran for the new york city council when my dad decided to run for borough president. mayor giuliani asked my dad to run for borough president to increase the participation of republicans on staten island. my mother was diagnosed not that long before that with a muscle disease, so it was kind of wearing on my dad to be away from home, so this fit the right
thing. he ran for borough president and won which opened a congressional seat. this was a dream come true for me after watching him and following him and following the discussions and the debates. to have an opportunity to serve in the united states house of representatives was about the highest honor i could think of. >> what was his reaction when you told him you wanted to run? >> all for it. although when i told him i was going to run for the new york city council, he took out a card that had a quote, the man in the arena, and he said, you know, take this and keep it in your bag because you will need it. it's a tough business but it's a beautiful business. my father always, i mean, he is the true public serve nlt, right, so he always thought this was just, for his daughter, or anybody who would ever say i would like to run for office, he would never discourage, even though he would warn you sometimes it would be rough and tumble.
but the ability toserve your neighbors is something if you had the opportunity to do it, you had to. >> and what role did he play in your campaign? >> you know, it was interesting, he was more my emotional adviser, if you will. of course, i had his campaign -- i mean, i was so blessed, right, because i had his campaign manager, his fundraisers, a really great political apparatus. my dad was the guy that would say, oh, you've got two hours in the middle of the day, let's hit the train stations. onward, onward, onward. he was more the campaign cheerleader or the person who would come to me and say, i know it was a rough day but you did really well. he had the perspective of being that candidate that stands up there sometimes when you're faced with that emotional uncertainty of how you did or how it's all going, so he could be a place of calm, a little oasis for me.
>> i think every member of the house has very distinct memories of that first election to the house. for you, were there any key moments or turning point moments in that 1990 special election? >> it was just -- it's a jumble, particularly being in a special election. interestingly, i followed ileana ros lehtinen, who came in on a special election. because you're in a special election, you're given all the intensities of your political parties. they send people in from out of town. everybody offers to come in and speak in your district, maybe do a fundraiser. it became a wonderful but heavily watched. the media focuses much more on those special elections, so the intensity, i think, is just something i remember. it is when i first took up running because i needed to -- showing how old i am -- plug in my walkman.
my kids say now, mom, what's a walkman? and just go for a run because it was the only time i could be by myself without everybody telling me what to do, what to say, how to dress. it was more commotion. >> you mentioned you were on the new york city council so you had that prior political experience. >> yes. >> how did that compare with your house service? >> interesting question, because i was in the new york city council, i was the only republican in city government, so i was the minority leader. i was 27 years old, and so all of a sudden i became ex officio on all the committees, including somebody who had to negotiate new york city's entire budget. i had a car and a driver. i was one of four people who had an office in city hall. i was really fortunate to serve under mayor ed koch who taught me about politics also. i had some great mentors along the way. very, very fair even though i was the only republican.
and gave me access to his staff, his teams. so i had to grow up fast in terms of that, right, because you would have a debate on the floor over something president reagan would say. one democrat would start and i would have to stand up and defend him. another democrat, i would have to stand up and defend. you got a great opportunity to hone your debating skills because there was no one else there to do it. the issues that you handle in new york city government, as much as it was great and it was a thrill, it didn't carry, i guess, the national and international, of course, importance of being in the united states congress. i was privileged to serve for at least my first year under george bush xli and really get to sit at another master who had such respect for members of congress. we were in and out of the white house all the time negotiating things like a civil rights bill, transportation bill, the
americans for disabilities. he really put forth some amazing pieces of legislation and we were all very active in that as members of his political party. the issues just took on a bigger stage. of course we were all there for the first gulf war. >> you mentioned the fact that you were just 27 when you joined the new york city council, but you were in your early 30s when you campaigned for the house. >> yes. >> was age an issue? >> i got sworn in on my 32nd birthday, which was pretty cool. age was very much an issue, particularly when i ran the first time. for those who can't see me, i'm 5'2", so i looked shorter. nobody told me to dress better than i was, so i dressed in a less mature fashion. and so i think age was. in my first campaign, the gentleman who ran against me would constantly mention the fact that he was married, he had children, he had a house, he had a mortgage, so he tried to bring
in his life experience to say, and now here's this -- at the time when we were running -- 31-year-old who has really only known public life. so it did come into play, and of course at 27 being in the new york city council, i was a bit of a standout as the only republican and being so young. there was a significant amount of women in the new york city council who were very strong and very smart, so ironically that was not an issue in my first job in politics. >> was gender an important issue in your house campaign? >> it wasn't for me, but it was for my opponents. gender, yes, always was an issue where there would be the whisper campaigns. again, once the younger female who is going to try and tell people what to do was always sort of the whisper. on the other hand, the voters are pretty cool people and the people that i represented in staten island and brooklyn, i think.
you know, to the older people, i was almost their granddaughters or their daughters, and so i did not feel it from the voters at all. >> can you describe the district for us geographically and demographically as well? >> sure. it's changed a lot. the district was staten island and part of brooklyn. bay ridge, bensonhurst, i my logo was the bridge because it connected the two parts of the district. at the time it was predominantly italian american, irish american, a large and growing jewish population. very ethnic, very second and third generation. probably second generation of brooklyn and maybe third generation by the time they moved to staten island. really lively, really loving, just a terrifically warm place where everybody assumes they know everybody and usually does.
there is one degree of separation in the district as it was then. so it was a really great and gracious place to live and serve and have my first babies. >> we asked about your dad and the role he played in your campaign. what about once you were elected? did he offer you any advice? >> my dad and i worked together a lot, less on advice in coordinating. again, starting off, he was in congress, i was in the city council. we would talk about needing a new ferry. i would say, look, i can get such and such, can you match it? when we switched, i was in the midst of building a senior citizen club in the basement of a church, which i was getting a hard time for. i made dad promise that he was going to take that up. my dad always fought for the staten island home port, and it became my job before the base closure commissions. so yes, my father would give me advice. my father has an amazing political acumen. he's 87 years old and he's still
one of the smartest political people i know. so it would not be unusual for him to call me and say, hey, this would be a great issue for you to jump on, or i heard the mayor say this, why don't you do it? most of the time it was more of a collaborative relationship working together to try to bring the resources of the federal and city together for staten island and brooklyn. >> are there any challenges or maybe obstacles in succeeding your father? you talked about some of the advantages, but what about the other side? >> sure. for me it's self-imposed. of always being afraid of tarnishing the legacy. you know, he was just a terrific person with an amazing background, resume, ability to command, speak, passion, all those things, and what if i got up there and totally screwed this up? that was more my concern than anything in terms of the pressure. so that was something that i put on myself. i think the fact that i was female, our styles were and
still are so different that i did think it made it a little bit easier for us to sort of lay our own groundwork, if you would. and i got to be in the majority which he never was the whole time he served in congress, so that does give you a different opportunity to get things done. >> what was it like to be there, be sworn in and succeed your father directly? you were only the second woman in congress ever to directly succeed a father. >> amazing. amazing. i had been so blessed in my life for those moments. i think about, i'm going to start crying now. i think about standing there, giving a speech, and there's my dad -- i'm sure we have those moments as kids, i got an "a" and my dad didn't say it was great. i remember saying they gave me a free masters, and great, on to the next. he was always the person, where
you would say i remember being little saying, dad, all my friends got a dollar for getting an "a" on their report card. he said i want you to get an a because you want an a. if you need a dollar, i'll give you a dollar. i always felt i wasn't good enough, and then there was that moment that i stood on the house floor and could see that in his eyes. that was a game changer in our relationship. >> another type of question that we wanted to ask you about was -- there is a couple handouts we showed you before the interview. the second one there is from your dad, a button. we didn't know if you had any sort of stories if not even about that particular button from your dad but about campaigning in general or some of the materials he might have used. >> we were big into the lawn signs and the pins. we didn't do the soaps or the nail files. we did a lot of that stuff.
we would have grueling conversations about a new generation of leadership, what should be red, what should be white, so you put a lot of thought into that. i remember one of my dad's first campaigns, one of the slogans i came up with, give guy a try, so i was pretty proud to see that on his buttons. we would have those conversations back and forth about what would work, what wouldn't work. i mean, i was given a great opportunity because my dad was so popular that when i did run for his seat, he was present in a lot of my documents. rudy giuliani wasn't mayor yet but was still extremely popular in the district that i ran in and would come in. so i had some good people at the time. >> for the top campaign button, yours, one of your early
campaigns, who came up with that generation -- a new generation of leadership slogan? >> all of us, i think. we were trying to do the generation thing both to separate myself from my dad but also to, you know, borrow a little bit on the kennedy-esque -- not to compare myself to the president at all, but the benefits of having somebody younger getting into politics. that's really kind of what we were trying for there. >> when you first came into the house in 1990, there were 28 women. did you find because there were so few of you, women gravitated towards each other? >> yes, and i think we still do. i still consider leader pelosi a dear friend. there is much to be said about the conversation that takes place about women being able to sort of cross party lines and make things happen.
i had always worked with nita lowey on the violence against women act. i worked with my male colleagues, too. when there were times it didn't look like things were going to move, we would have that conversation. we had a woman's caucus where we would meet, congresswoman schroeder really kept us all together on those issues. and of course, we would disagree on a lot of these issues, but i think we disagreed with an understanding and respect. what was the atmosphere when you entered the house? do you think it was a welcome atmosphere for women? >> yes. honest to goodness, listen, it could be -- here's how i look at it. everybody that we worked with had to rely on women to get elected. so whether they liked women or not or felt they were their equal, they learned to pretend, right? discrimination, all those things that were happening to and still happened to women all over get a little veiled over here in the
united states congress. and the real truth is the rest of the country responds in kind. there were ceos and other people who might have, under certain circumstances, had some issues with women in power, but because you were a woman in power, they would not treat you as such. so quite frankly, i never really felt discriminated against as a female until i left politics. >> were there any parts of the institution that were maybe a little more difficult to get into or to somehow fit into, and if so, why do you think that was the case? >> no. i think it was just a slower change. again, i think both political parties and the people who were institutionalists really recognized by the time i got there that more women diversity in the united states congress was a good thing for this country. honestly, i was welcomed. i was able to move very quickly
in the republican party because i was a female. i remember being called out to be part of a press conference on a crime bill. i ran for vice chair of the republican conference, and even though i was a moderate from new york city, i think one of the reasons i did win was that there was a recognition that they needed women in leadership and a moderate. so i did enter this institution at a time when diversity was not present but was recognized as a necessity and a good political thing to have. and i benefited from that as opposed to being hampered by it. >> did you have any members, female or male, who served as a mentor to you during your first term in congress? >> you know, everybody kind of pitched in. i really can't pick one or the other. again, ileana ross lleyton,
later on, deb price. we became good friends and spent time together. sometimes you had a group that would consist of those two women, dana rorbacher, my husband, because of the age, and we would go out and do things together and spend more time together. i never felt -- look, jerry ferraro helped to talk me into running for office, and then came in and campaigned against me. i always thought the women would be there. again, nancy pelosi, nita lowey, we would do what we could. would i count on them to help me politically? you get where the line is drawn. but those were relationships i will always cherish. then when you get married and have a baby, those words of advice from women who have been there were really very comforting and very helpful. and i think we stood each other up.
i remember being -- i think i was getting an award at the glamour women of the year awards. pat schroeder was there as a former and connie as a former. when we heard about, i want to say it was either tail hook or aberdeen, and we met in the lobby. we happened to be going out at the same time. we're like, did you hear that story that's breaking? pat, being on the armed services committee, organized a meeting shortly thereafter. it must have been aberdeen because i had susan at the time, and was able to organize this meeting where, you know, the generals had to come in and answer some questions about what was going on and how they were monitoring it. i think it was -- there were those issues, right that, allowed us to stand each other up and say, we are going to challenge the way things are done. so yes, i learned a lot from congresswoman schroeder. she's great, she's tough, she's smart, but i think we all stood
each other up at those moments and say, this isn't just for us. then once you have a baby girl, all bets out the window. you are so determined to change this world for her. >> how important do you think it was for you and other women members to have a separate space in the capitol, what's now the lindy boggs studio? >> i think it's important. it was nice to just have those areas to go to when you had a headache, when you wanted to read something. maybe when you wanted to seek out some colleagues to have a discussion about a decision that you had made or a question that you had and you wanted sort of that sacred space in order to have that conversation. i think it's helpful. >> were there any other places that you would go to meet, either formally or informally? >> every once in a while, we would get a group probably not very much bipartisan but we would get all the republican women together, go out to dinner and just kind of hang out.
kay bailey hutchison, senator hutchinson from texas threw me a party when i got engaged. you just do a little bit more of that stuff together. >> you mentioned the women's caucus earlier. we're just wondering if we can get you to elaborate a little bit on your memories of the women's caucus, just basic. when did it meet? where did it meet? how would you describe the early leadership? >> we would meet in the lindy boggs room off statuary hall. it was a small group then so we all fit. we would talk about some of those issues -- an example is i remember there was an issue surrounding the efficacy of breast implants. and one of our female members had breast cancer and was talking about reconstruction, and the fda commissioner at the time, we felt, was cavalier in
not understanding the discussion that was taking place as opposed to just being purely cosmetic. and we all kind of rallied around this one member to say, okay, how do we help? how do we expand this conversation? when there were some disagreements over the violence against women act, we would need to say, here's how we're going to handle this. we're going to move this through and we're going to try to do these things. you guys have to stand down and and not call us right-wing extremists for a few days. we would have those sorts of conversations that would allow us to actually acknowledge the difficulties at any given time of our political parties and where we agreed to disagree, those conversations did not come up. >> a major issue that certainly has come up through women's history is reproductive rights. how did you and other members of the caucus handle that issue?
>> you know, i mean -- it would come up -- it didn't come up as much as it comes up now. it would come up -- mexico city, some of these other issues, women in the military on armed services, and again, i think it was more just making certain that the conversation from both political parties recognized that we were speaking to the american people. with all disagreements and hoping to keep a level of dignity to the discussions. and i think that was probably the biggest role that women played on both sides. >> did you ever think that issue or issues undermines the effectiveness of the caucus? you talked about the importance of the bipartisanship between the two. >> no.
listen, it's nice -- we're all different people. we were different ages. we came from different political parties, different philosophies even within those political parties. geographic spectrums, so there would be issues upon which we would certainly disagree. but even on an issue like abortion or reproductive rights, i think we recognized that women needed to really be a part of that conversation as opposed to just being the people who listened to the conversation or led, you know, the end of that debate who had to deal with the impacts of those debates. so i think more than trying to change one another's positions on these issues, what we did was respect and celebrate the fact that there were women who were a part of this discussion. >> how important do you think the pro-life and pro-choice debate was, for you personally, especially within the republican party? >> once again, i think it set me aside.
for purposes i was extremely pro-choice then, i'm pro-life now. but in some ways it very much hampered me because a very conservative wing of the party. not my colleagues but the people who would make money off of fundraising really targeted me, and when i ran for vice chair, went all out to campaign against me, just whatever caricature they could plan. but at the same time i think it also made me a fighter and made me -- i was just forced to be tougher. you know, that's sort of the secret. at least, it was back then. we were constantly being underestimated as females. sometimes being underestimated is a good thing because you can always add to the element of surprise. i remember a lot of my debates were where the people i was debating didn't take me seriously until i got out there
and it was too late. i think the same thing happens when you're negotiating across the table for a piece of legislation. >> just, again, the women's caucus in kind of broader terms. what role do you think it's played in the institution and was it significant? has it changed over time? >> you know, it was very significant for me to be able to, again -- and sometimes it wasn't just those meetings, what happened in those meetings. but the relationships that developed as a result of those meetings -- and this isn't just women, this is human nature. but the more i know about your husband being sick or your child having an addiction problem or somebody having cancer or great things happening in life. you know, your daughter expecting whatever it is. it allows you to communicate on
a much more honest and productive level, right? you can't demonize somebody who you know is a full person with all their faults and strengths and heartbreaks and celebrations. so i think more than anything, just taking, you know, the 435 and bringing all, at the end, 31 of us together gave us an opportunity to get to know each other on a little more personal level which made it easier to ask for advice, ask for a favor, ask for floor time, pick something. it just made it a little more comfortable being a member of congress. >> a place to meet that was somewhat removed from the political sphere. >> exactly. it was a place removed from the political sphere. although obviously politics was discussed but on a way different level than you would when you're down on a house floor. >> when you had an issue that the majority of the caucus really did rally around, did you
feel that the rest of the membership viewed the caucus as a group -- a force to be reckoned with? >> there's no doubt. there's no doubt. the men would joke about it if they saw, like, six women together and think, oh, here comes trouble. but you knew they were a little nervous. there was no doubt about the fact if the women's caucus came out on something that it was something that was going to have an impact. we could all agree if we could all unite we were going to make it happen. >> we're going to shift gears a little bit and talk about your committee assignments. we're curious to know how you obtained the initial assignments on small business public works and transportation. also, did you get any advice in terms of committee assignments? >> particularly back in those days, you know, when you're a freshman, you didn't really have a lot to say. and you weren't going to go for the big committee assignments. it just wasn't happening then.
that has since changed, largely thanks to my husband. my dad was a transportation guy, i'm a transportation gal. i loved transportation. so that was something that i really wanted and asked for. and then i did get on education and labor and had -- you know, that was very interesting. i had a great time with that. and then eventually transitioned off education and labor. john kasich asked me to go in budget when he took over as chairman of the budget committee. that became a whole other ride. but we balanced the budget for the first time in a generation, so there was some great history that was happening there. i digress into a female story. i was on education and labor, and we were debating family and medical leave. i was one of the proponents of it in the republican party. and i remember john boehner at the time who served on it was eloquently waxing on how governments should not be telling businesses what to do
and that this was up to the boards and the chairman of the boards and they should be able to make their own policies. and he should be able to -- and so he just went on. i responded and i said, i totally agree with you that in a perfect world that the boards and the businesses should be able to make their own decisions. but just based on your own discussion where you consistently refer to the people in power as "he" i think until then we have to help out a bit. and good for boehner because he did not get mad at me. he took it in the spirit in which it was intended. but that was one of those moments when i'm not sure anybody -- i'm not sure any other man on this dais is hearing what i'm hearing. >> how important do you think it is to have a woman's perspective on these committees? >> it's important to have a woman's perspective, it's
important to have an african-american perspective, it's important to have a hispanic perspective. we all bring a portion of our lives to that table, right, and to not have that background, that experience, that specialness, that uniqueness, to any debate, we lose something as a country. so the more diverse our legislatures become, the better it will be, because you hear things differently, you see things differently, you reflect on differently, you represent differently. so things are changing. they need to change more rapidly, but i do think that the debate becomes better and the decisions become fairer when as many people representing people come to the table. good lord, we're talking about women being 51% of the population. we should be doing a show about men, right? it's kind of crazy that we're the majority electorate and
we're still considered representatives of a minority. >> when you served in the 1990s, that's really not that long ago historically, and quite often you were one of the few women on these committees. so what was the welcome or the reaction that you received on the committees? >> it was fine. look, overwhelming majority of the people who are here are good people and are here for the right reasons. so particularly back then, there was this sort of collegial level of respect, and again, i think there was almost a did get a kick out of me because i wasn't afraid to debate and get a little tough when necessary. so i never felt any resentment whatsoever of being the only female of the committee. the example with john boehner is one example where it was a time in which it was considered a
challenge, a challenge that we all took up, and one that was pretty much accepted and taken well by our male colleagues. >> we also read in your book that you had hoped to get on the appropriations committee at one point. >> yes. back in the day, that used to be a really good assignment. >> can you tell us a little bit about the story behind trying to get on and how that worked? >> well, you know, again, appropriations was the committee where you could get a lot done for your district and bring a lot of projects and infrastructure, and if you combine my interest in transportation and representing new york city and it was something that i really wanted to do, but i was up against another new yorker for the position who was much more conservative than i, and as i found out in the debates about who was going to get this position, it was because i was moderate, pro-choice, couldn't
get on appropriations. >> when the republicans took control of the chamber in 1995, you had the opportunity to chair a subcommittee on the transportation committee. what was that experience like and how would you describe your leadership style? >> i loved it. i was given the opportunity to chair the railroad subcommittee. again, one of the things i loved about the transportation committee is so much of what you do in congress are really important conversations about changing human behavior, right? if you're having a conversation about reproductive rights, civil rights, welfare reform, you're having a conversation that is not as easy, and if you'll excuse the expression, concrete as if we put some money in infrastructure, the trains will run better. i just sort of loved that aspect of dealing with transportation. and what's more american in
terms of the investment and the creation than our railroad? so i loved being that. i loved working with the rail ceos. they were a tough group of risk takers, and i really enjoyed that as a challenge. the only thing that i did, which was interesting compared to other people, the way i would do my hearings is, we would have people, you would always have, let's say, we're doing something on reforms, on short rails, so people would travel from all over the united states to testify, as well as like the head of d.o.t. and the federal rail administration, and the way things were supposed to be done in congress is the head of d.o.t. would testify first, the room would be packed. the cameras would be in, and then half the room would leave, and then the federal rail, and by the time these poor people who gave up their time to travel, left their jobs.
didn't get paid to testify, by the time they would testify, the bell would ring, 27 people would leave to vote, they would be testifying before me and one person and i felt so awful. so whoever came the furthest and had put the most effort in came first. so the federal rail committee had to hear that. i thought that was really important, but it constantly frustrated my friends in the federal government that i wasn't whipping them in and out. you're doing your job when you're sitting here testifying. they're not. so that was a little structural change i made there. >> was there one particular issue before the subcommittee that you remember from that time? >> certainly all the time, it just goes to show you how slow the wheels turn here, amtrak reform. at the time when i got in, when i chaired it, i was dealing way with a group of republicans who wanted to defund amtrak. amtrak was and still is an operation that loses money. and so i was trying to negotiate
a deal which would allow us to reform amtrak. work like a business, because right now, so much is statutory, so even routes are written in. i remember actually testifying before the rules committee, how do we build this, basically gave power to the people of amtrak to make their decisions as a business. and i remember some old gentleman said, well, but -- so if i vote for this, will i still have my routes through my district? i said, with all due respect, congressman -- this was a republican. with all due respect, congressman, what i'm trying to do is take us out of it and for allow the people who have to deal with the bottom line and make it more efficient make those decisions. he was like, so that could go away? theoretically. he said, shit, i'm not voting for this. right then and there i knew. i kind of knew, anyway, but an important discussion to take place in terms of some of the things that govern our national
rail system that make it impossible to not lose a boatload of money. that was something i was really interested in and learned a lot. aviation safety was something that was a big issue for my dad, and of course coming from the district that i came from with traycon of the aviation flights coming from kennedy was something that i became interested in, and then of course all the issues on real safety and other things that came down the pike. >> do you want to break here? >> that would be a good point. want to take a two-minute break? >> sure. >> we're back. we want to shift gears and move on to leadership. we're just curious, what was behind your decision to run for leadership after the 1994 elections? >> i think part of it was my own personal ambition. but also, feeling that i thought there needed to be a woman in leadership.
at that point it was so interesting because barbara vuconavich ran also, and there was this general perception that only one of us could win because there was only room for one female even though the rest of the leadership was male. and a tribute to our colleagues, both of us won. there really was this -- i think i came up first and once i won, the man that was running against barbara, they thought, shoo-in. only room for one here. i hadn't thought of that in so long. part of it was i think it's good for the party, i think it's great to have additional voices and dissent and discussion was not only tolerated, it was welcomed. the republican party felt it was kind of important to have people out there who had disagreements. again, you don't ever get into the motives of why people disagree with you, but understanding the big tent.
and so the people who nominated me were very conservative from rural areas, again, to show the importance of bringing as many people under the tenlt tent as possible in order to have a majority and a successful working majority. those were all the thoughts behind that. >> you said part of it was your ambition, but also were you recruited by anybody and why did you select the vice chair position to run after? >> there were people who said, i think you should do this. we need a woman. we need somebody who is comfortable speaking, disagreeing, all those things. so i thought about it, and i decided i was going to give it a shot. i very much lived my life that i'd much rather make mistakes than live with regrets, as long as those mistakes don't hurt anybody else. this was just that moment of, hey, you should run for the new york city council. and i thought, i'm kind of scared of that so i guess i have to do it. i'm kind of scared of leadership
and i could lose, so i guess i have to do this. >> not much is written about leadership races. it's really kind of an inside baseball sort of thing. can you describe your campaign and what that was like? >> more of it was just contacting people, asking for support -- look, you don't get anywhere in life without asking people to help you, right, and certainly as an elected official. what is the one thing you have to learn? in my campaign i was driven by hundreds of people ringing doorbells and writing checks and talking to their friends, and i get the job. they get the satisfaction of being on a winning team. those are the kinds of things that you do. everybody likes to be asked. you try to have meetings with as many people as possible. i do remember i was running against a great guy from florida named cliff sterns, and i had people coming up to me and saying, i would love to vote for you but cliff and i have become such good friends at the gym.
hmm, the gym i'm not allowed into? back in the day we had our separate gyms. so there was that little, i don't necessarily need to work out with a bunch of sweaty men, but that was another one of those occasions where you interacted not as members of gres but as people who were trying to lose weight or just the relationship in another area. now, of course, they do exercise together. as scandalous as that sounds, but in the day, i wasn't able to be in the house gym, and it's just another difference, but -- >> did anyone run your campaign or someone really active in trying to push your candidacy. >> my husband was very helpful. i surround myself with strong political people. one happened to be my father, one happened to be my husband. bill was helpful, but in general, everybody was pretty helpful. >> at the time you were the
highest ranking woman in gop leadership. >> yes. >> what did that mean to you personally and also from a larger perspective, what did it mean to the party? >> to me personally, it was -- what a great, incredible honor to be a part of history, to be able to -- this sounds schmaltsy, right, but it's cool there's the age thing that goes on, but it's really cool when somebody who i think is close to my age comes up to me and says, i remember watching you when i was growing up. that's when i decided to go into politics. there's that. there's that. you need the person who looks a little like you to inspire you, give you confidence, give you the idea that you can. ironically a conversation in technology, right, and still need in politics, lord knows. that was part of it. part of it was i'm going to make
sure that young girls growing up can see somebody that they say, you know, that could be me. she's not that different from me. >> and for the party? >> i think that's important for any movement. any movement that wants to attract people to the movement need to make sure that they are represented by people who can connect with people. i think that's probably one of the reasons why i won. again, those were the days of big tent and trying to get as many different faces as possible out there representing the party, speaking on behalf of the party, disagreeing with the party. >> earlier we asked the importance of having women on different committees. what about in leadership, what do you think the importance of that is? >> directing an agenda. part of what happens with leadership, you sit around the leadership table when the agenda is being formed. and so again, i can remember
there was an appropriations bill that was coming up that was -- i think it was to deny single people from adopting. i had to come to the leadership table and say, really? are we the party that's going to say a single parent cannot parent well? which of course got all these -- it was great because there were men around the table who had been raised by single mothers. they immediately were on my side. that was something that i -- you know, i think i was -- i had to bring it to their attention, then they reacted the appropriate way. but you know, that's just one example of being able to sit at a table where you can have that conversation and enforce change. the breast cancer stamp bill which i think is still active, you know, was actually a creation of vick fazio's, his
constituents. he came to me. in the republican leadership, i was -- he was the sponsor, i was the co-sponsor, then we flipped. and i had gone and said, you know, we should be supporting this. this is everything we agree on. it's not mandated, it's voluntary. the stamps could go up to eight cents more, and it could go to dod for a lot of military personnel for tracking. and we reach an audience we had a problem with, so newt said, fine, great, great. but the post office disagreed with us, and they said well, the post office does want some changes. he said, okay, fine. you go back and tell fazio that the molinari-fazio bill will not be introduced. i cannot do that. it's his bill. and he said he's enough of a pal, he'll understand why i have to do this. i went and said, your call, i'm horrified i have to have this conversation. newt says he'll bring it up on suspension which means you don't have to go through hearings and everything, move it along. we have to make the changes the post office recommends, and it will be introduced the molinari-fazio bill.
i remember at that moment somebody coming down the steps and say, vick, what's going on? and he said, learning to be a member of the minoertd. that was so gracious of him. he said, of course, susan, do whatever we have to do to get this moving. >> what was your welcome in the leadership circle? what are your memories of working with the other leadership folks at that time? >> great. again, i think there was this general understanding that we had just gotten to the majority. we didn't take it for granted. we knew it was something we were going to have to work day in and day out. there was optimism that now that we can control the agenda and to a certain extent our message, would there be an opportunity to show the kinder, gentler republican party, the party that could do things like breast cancer stamps and move important pieces of legislation relative to women and minorities? i think initially in those days there was kind of this excitement about finally, you know, getting there, but not
just getting there but working to make sure i brought in -- seems like not such a good idea now in retrospect, but i brought in all the women editors of women's magazines. we had a day long session. newt came and dick army and tom delay, and the committee chairs. we did different tables and, of course, all the women members were there. we took them for a tour and said we want to start to establish a dialogue with you all. i happen to think magazines and all those -- it's not just the people who read the "wall street journal," "the new york times," it's people who read "redbook" and "shape" and "ell" magazine who get some of their information. and so political information, i mean. and so we wanted to -- if you had an issue to highlight, we wanted to have the relationship to say, we would love for you to feature this. we all did things like that. >> what were your primary responsibilities as vice chair of the conference?
>> you know what, i think primarily -- certainly when boehner was the chairman at the time, speaker boehner, isn't that -- the glorious thing about john boehner is that even though he was house speaker, he was just boehner. the greatest thing about him. sometimes he would be off and you would run the meetings. people come would come to me probably more than other positions if they had an issue that they wanted to bring up, if they weren't sure if it was appropriate to be brought up, if they wanted to talk through something. the conference is when you would get together and air ideas, concepts, and frustrations. a lot of times you were the first line of is this the appropriate place for this. i would do a lot of that. >> did you enjoy that? >> i did. of course. >> how closely did you work with speaker boehner? >> a lot. closely. our staffs very closely, yeah. >> were you involved to any degree with the drafting and
implementation of the contract with america? >> no, no. i -- i was there as one of the people they talked to. the point of the contract was one of those things that would unify the republican party as opposed to divide it. so when pete hoekstra and others came together to have the concept, i was somebody they would sit down -- they would talk to a lot of members at the time to make sure the way they were talking about it, the issues, how it was all placing out, we didn't have any issues or we weren't missing anything. so it was really -- they were very good in making it a collaborative effort. so no, i was just somebody who would put my two cents in. then of course, campaigned very heavily on it that year, and my husband and i got married the year we took the majority, and so we were pretty high profile, and we would go into -- i think we went into 52 districts and like three weeks.
you wouldn't even know where you were. it's really great to be with you because you couldn't remember if it was ohio or illinois. but we would talk about the contract a lot. it was kind of a -- it was a game changer. the whole point of the contract was to say to people, we're asking you to change history. right? to give the republicans a chance at a majority, something that hadn't been done in a generation. we're not just going to say trust us on this, here are ten things we're going to do in the first 100 days. whether you agree with the contract or not, i think it's a pretty good way to govern. people knew what they were going to get when they voted. >> can you describe the atmosphere in the house during that transition -- >> crazy -- >> -- to power and -- >> crazy, crazy, crazy. literally, we were passing major pieces of legislation in 100 days. i wear heels all the time. i always wear heels all the time. i never wore heels during that time. you were running between committee meetings, hearings,
markups, the house floor -- it was insane. there's a funny "saturday night live" clip with chris farley being newt gingrich where they were like, family medical leave, passed -- and again, with all the excitement that comes with being in the majority and the optimism and enthusiasm that came with that, but just think about ten major pieces of legislation happening in 100 days. it was crazy. >> what role did women republican members play besides you and leadership -- >> well, i mean, i think women on committees certainly being spokespeople. there was never, ever an issue if there was ever a press conference to be held that women needed to be there and women needed to be spokespeople. and if a woman felt particularly strong about it, we were going to just get that woman up there. i mean -- i don't mean to make it sound it was all so great and easy, but you did not wait your turn because you were a female, right.
they wanted you out there espousing and speaking and doing talk shows and getting on particularly cnn and doing whatever you needed to to be a messenger for the republican party. women did a lot of that. >> one big example was that you gave the keynote address at the republican convention in san diego in 1996. >> yes. >> what did that event mean to you? and how did you prepare for it? >> oh. certainly the greatest thing it meant to me was that i had got to speak on behalf of somebody like bob dole. like i can't -- again, whatever your politics is, this is an american hero. so to be a part of that campaign was just such a terrific honor, and to speak on his behalf and be a part of that convention was just glorious.
the story there is, it's the first time i've worked with teleprompters, right. from almost the day that i get to san diego, all my friends are there, they're having parties every night. i am in this trailer learning to read from left to right so you don't look shifty, and so that's all i did. and the way they work it is the podium stays the same, and there's a little box underneath. and you go early in. day and get measured for how high the box has to be so the teleprompters can reach you, right. so the deal was, governor whitman at the time was going to introduce a clip of like my district, staten island, the ferry, the whole bit. kasich went on before me. during that time of the clip, they adjust the thing. john gets all excited, governor kasich. he goes much longer than he's supposed to. he runs right into my time. i'm up against the hard out.
in california, 8:00, 11:00 done, done, done. if she's in the middle of the speech, she's done. we're cutting off at 11:00. so i get there. governor whitman can only say, "and now susan molinari for the keynote speech." i get out there and the prompters, i can't see the prompters. so i do have my written, but there's that moment that you're like, really? you lose it. for a second, i think should i say, we're having technical difficulties, we're going to take a five-second break. i can't do that. while i'm thinking of these things, i've started the speech. it was what it was. to this day, every time my dad sees john kasich on tv, he'll say, i'll never forgive him. again, what an amazing honor to be a keynote speaker and a keynote speaker for bob dole. i loved working with senator dole on so many issues. and there's a guy -- i got to know him because we worked
closely together on several pieces of legislation. me as a freshman legislator -- he does not see age, he does not see gender, he sees american. he's a super-terrific guy. to have gotten to know him so well on legislation and to have gotten that shot of confidence from him was really pretty neat. >> his running mate, too, jack kemp -- >> afterwards. exactly. it was a great, exciting time. >> were you surprised that you were asking to give the address? >> totally. before the days of, i guess, cell phones, we were at -- on a slash baptizing the baby -- children, both girls, were born in staten island and baptized in bill's district, sometimes we just couldn't collaborate. we loved the district so much that we wanted that piece of history to be with them.
so i think we were baptizing susan or like -- and bill was on his announcement tour, right. finally, the old guy's traveling with the wife and the kid. his district was so huge, he would have like six or seven announcements, when we were in a bar with a bunch of friends having dinner, my mother-in-law was watching the baby, and larry king was on. and i can't remember my press secretary, somehow, i guess we had beepers back in the day. people watching this are like, oh, my lord. how old is this woman? and they said, call senator dole is going to announce you're going to be keynote speaker. i hadn't even been asked to speak at the convention, and i thought i was close enough at least i would get the 4:00 in the afternoon. that was just great, and so he had, they said do you know who's going to nominate you? he said the only thing i can tell you is susan molinari is going to be the keynote speaker. they said, hey, larry king, can we get susan molinari to call.
there's a cell phone outside the kitchen where they're yelling and screaming, and i'm on the phone. thank you, senator. so yes, it was a huge surprise. my husband laughs because we had three more announcements the next day for him and all the trucks showed up for me. okay, we were here for me to announce i am running for reelection, but here's my wife, susan molinari. >> you talked about your marriage and this, of course, took place while you were a member of congress. that's rare for two sitting members marry. >> a few more females in there, and it might happen. >> exactly. what's the reaction of your colleagues? >> they were so cute. so bill proposed to me on the house floor. it was not publicly, and it was during those times when congress was in session, but nobody was there. and mike mcnolte, who was a member of congress from new york, also a democrat, was in the chair. they were debating some bill
when my husband and i -- we would meet sometimes and chat in the back. and we ran into each other. we were sitting, and he said, i just want to let you know that i spoke to your mom and your dad today. then he got down on his knee and handed me the ring. his knee an handed me the ring and i was like get up, get up. so mcnulty saw something. and then that night we hit a break and it was like defense authorization or appropriations i'm pretty sure and they had a quorum called because it was such a dismissive bill at the time, and so they had the members there to hear the closing of the debate, but before they did speaker foley gave this beautiful speech about i just want to share with everybody before we get into this debate there are differences that happen on the house of representatives and he shared a speech about bill and i getting engaged.
it's just really so heartwarming to have the family of the u.s. house of representatives congratulate us and be really happy for us. >> what about your constituents? what was their reaction? >> they were thrilled. they were thrilled. we looked at this one picture we're coming down the steps of the capitol the next day and all these tourists taking pictures of us from other countries, and i look wondering who are these people. they took pictures figuring they were important and then they look back like i don't know who they are. bill would go to a lot of my events and i would go to his events. they try to teach them how to say things in italian so very
excited. it was lovely. >> were there any challenges or obstacles to being married to a member of congress? >> no, because you understand. i remember one time i guess we were married but bill had come to visit and we were going to go out to movie or all of a sudden i got a call there was going to be an emergency meeting or something, and you could look at somebody and say i'm so sorry this just came up and this is really important in my district and we'll go out tomorrow night, i have to do this. of course. he'd totally understand that. and then my dad i think my daughter is running for governor. my father would announce it to the press before i'd have a discussion. so to have somebody who understood it and respected it made it so much easier. once in a while the travel would be an issue, right? particularly once we had susan that i would take her but we'd
go back to our districts. so that was the only challenging part. in terms of having people who understand what you're going through and needing help and needing patience, no, no, no. it's a gift. >> and just a couple years later you mentioned you had your daughter. what was the response from your colleagues? >> oh, my gosh, soup. right before me there was enid who was pregnant right before me. so there wasn't the shock because she'd just been through it, but colleagues were so sweet and, you know, the gifts would pour in and people, how are you feeling? are you tired yet? you look great and that's when you become really close friends with your women colleagues.
did you receive any advice from them or like you mentioned from enid green? >> no, not really. you know, i think as women we get we're oftentimes barraged by advice we don't want and don't need but sometimes we're more reticent to pour it onto another. you got it together, you don't need me. so no, just a lot of love. >> what about blanch lambert lincoln? >> we got together. we were like okay let's go through the house. do you have a smoke alarm. everybody would use this as an opportunity for tv. i remember there was a mother's day right after susan was born and it was mary landrew with her adorable son sitting on her lap,
and blanch lincoln was pregnant at the same time i was so it was great. look, there's probably no easier job than being in congress when you're having a kid because nobody's going to tell you not to bring your child around. so our babies were constantly with us. i went back to work right away. but i had a crib in my room. and if i was sleeping i'd trade with my husband. it was very easy, very lucky. >> what was the media attention like? >> so the media attention because not only was two members married but i gave birth a day before mother's day. so now you have the entire media world looking for that mother's day hook. john, get me something on
mother's day. so literally we had to have a press conference. susan was 14 hours labor and then a cesarean. and after they took her i started shaking. was overmedicated, but i woke up to the next day and was not pretty. my father is feeding my kid while i'm throwing up in the bedpan and the world media outside ready to do an interview, but all good. people should have such problems in life. >> seems like a happy mother's day. >> it was a wonderful mother's day. the interesting part i had susan while i was in congress so the announcement is -- we have reels and reels of television coverage, newspaper coverage from around the world.
>> you mentioned just a few minutes ago you came back to work after only a couple of weeks. did you ever talk about maternity leave with the leadership or was it ever a topic discussed? >> no. first of all i didn't work for them, i worked for the people of staten island, right. so i don't think it was an issue for me in terms of -- these people were so wonderful if i missed votes because i was home with my child it would not have been an issue at all. again, i was given the gift of being able to come back to work and bond with my baby. i'm a big proponent of family leave maternity and fraternity leave. i just didn't have to make that decision. we took the closets where you hang your coats and i got a piece of wood and made a
dressing table. i had a crib there. i mean, there was no -- if susan couldn't sleep i'd take her on the train and come back and forth between the house, a little ride but she loved it and she'd go right back to sleep. and one of the reasons right after i'd given birth we had the moving vietnam wall, which is a miniature replica of the vietnam wall. and it was able to be taken to places around the country and it was coming to fort hamilton in my district. and i really felt strongly about having to be there. so that sort of got me started getting back into work. there were days susan was sick or whatever and younger there are things you just have to do as a mother that was never an issue. but, again, i went back early just because i could. >> besides your husband, are there members that would have helped you out in a pinch? >> i do recall being on the
house floor and it was one of those nights we were voting until -- back in the day you'd vote to sometimes like 11:00 at night, and i'd forgotten my card, so i had to go to the well. susan was sleeping. now, i know this is hard for some people to picture. but i was like tom, can you hold her for a minute? and he was great. but those are the things, right? there's nothing easier than making friends when you're holding a sweet little baby, particularly when they're sleeping. >> going to shift gears a little bit and ask some general questions about women in congress. there was a ton of press attention paid to her dress and demeanor because she was a woman. and we also read that you made headlines because you wore pants during your first floor speech.
what was the reaction to that and did it surprise you? >> oh, totally surprised me. i've always been one of those people who feels more comfortable in pants. so i was given a one minute on the staten island home port and the need to stay vigilant with defense. and i had nice black like silk satin pants. i remember this day i had like a very expensive black jacket on. it was like one of my best outfits. and as soon as i got back to the office my chief of staff said the new york times, the daily news called. i literally thought to myself i guess we're making news because young, female pro defense new york city and we started making
the phone calls back, and it turned out i was the first female to wear pants on the floor of the house representatives. not against dress rules. as best i could determine there wasn't as set a dress code for females when they were doing those things because they didn't really think there'd be females on the house floor. yes, i was -- i made glamour magazine. i went on the kathy and regius show and it was all because i had plants on the floor for the first time. >> this is all external. your colleagues didn't comment. >> no, not at all. i would be really surprised if they would have noticed. yeah. >> before we go too far ahead i just want to give you a chance about the story you talked about off-tape when the delegation that you led took to bosnia
while you were pregnant. >> i got to know bob dole during the bosni, yugoslavia crisis. there were still arms going in to the area but not to the croatians and others throughout the former yugoslavian era. it was very early stages of the genocide that was taking place and became very involved and i remember going to the vice president. i remember going to the secretary, remember going to meet with -- i went to whomever i could and say -- literally my speech was i will not be that person. you always want to have those people who were in power during world war ii, you know, felt about their ability to have
this, you know, near eradication take place. and now we're watching genocide take place. it's not even we have to hear it through a radio. it's on the front page of our papers, on the news every night. we have to do something. if at least to end the arms embargo. that's how we got pretty close. we would pass resolutions together and get engaged. i guess we were still in the minority and i said i'm going crazy, we have to do something about this. and he was like form the balkan crisis task force, so i did. which then you get calls for tv and of course i wanted to do it but they'd be like susan the chairman of the balkans crisis task force. but i stayed and traveled there
a bunch of times and never let up. just awful things. and the womens caucus would work very closely. there was this systematic break but because of the ethnic tensions the serbian soldiers would come into a village, take all the younger women, would put them in a house and just systematically rape them until they got pregnant and keep them there so they could not get an abortion and let them go and would not be welcomed back to their families because they were impregnated by a serb. i remember one woman who said she had to go to her family and lie. even though bombs are going off where my kids are i had to leave because i knew my life would not be pretty there. so womens groups would bring these women over to talk to us
so we could understand how horrific the situation was over there without anybody doing anything. so right when we were considering sending peace keepers, they came to me and said we're going to send a congressional delegation over of about 25 men and women, and i'd like you to lead the delegation. i was about four months pregnant at the time, but they sent a doctor on the plane with me. but still i went over there. interesting time because i would be interviewed by christian amamanpour, and it was clear i was pregnant. i would get the nail from people why would you go on this while pregnant? you knew this was this man's worst nightmare. where has the world gone wrong? but at the end we were moving
into sarievo to meet with the president at the time, and all these people were standing outside applauding us and send peace keepers, send peace keepers. they wanted the u.s. to come in and help end the situation. and so as we were walking and there was a woman who grabbed my hand, and she said please do what you need to, we can't continue like this. and you need to help us. america needs to help us. and i said, well, that's what we're here for. we're going to take as many facts as we can and bring it back. and she grabbed my hand, touched my belly and she said i just lost my only son, you're going to be a momma, you have to help me. you know, and -- so i got some criticism for going. as somebody who was about to
have a baby. but relative to the conversations that we were having i think it increased my perspective for what needed to be done. sorry about that. >> no, that's fine. how influential was that codel for the colleagues that went with you? >> i think it was extremely influential. it was bipartisan and i think just the ability to get information back. because we were talking to the world leaders, our state department people and to be able to let them know we thought the situation was ripe. we were still living with this concept these people will be at war with each other so long and they'll never learn to get along. not to keep bringing up the mother fight, but i do not believe that there's a mother who loves their child less than they hate their neighbor. so nobody wants this to
continue. and so i think it was influential. i think we were able to make it really nice important history making decision. >> were there other women on that codel with you? >> i'm sure there was but i couldn't tell you. >> that's a pretty large group. >> yeah, it's a large group. again, i think i wanted as many people to meet and be a part of the debate because it was a serious step we were taking. >> how important were those
delegations? >> there's no doubt that travel -- i never went anywhere glamorous. i went right before the persian gulf war. i went to israel. if there was action that's where i wanted to be. i didn't do any of those air shows travel. going back to the conversation of people wanting to know each other outside the floor, you then travel as americans, as members of the u.s. congress, not republicans and democrats and it does make it a lot easier to collaborate once you get that personal time. i also think when members had their families here it's -- when our wives or husbands are friends, when our kids go to the same school, that sort of makes it a little harder for me to demonize you on a debate on the
floor. i remember being at church a couple years ago when i was still doing some politicking, punditry and i looked over and it was robert gibes and it was like no more picking on robert gibes. you have those times where you'll cry together or have a serious conversation where you're going to be sending those u.s. troops. and those are things that allow you to come back and trust each other with a debate. if i'm having that conversation with you overseas or in a war zone i'm going to disagree with you but disagree with you respectfully. i think those trips were very important. not the least of which to bear witness to what goes on in the world and to bring it back. i know there are people who had the tendency to brag they didn't
have a passport, but i think when you're elect today the rep tchboffs the united states senate, we do call the president the leader of the free world. and it's nice to be able to get to know places outside of the united states in order to make appropriate decisions. >> because when you served there were relatively so few women in congress at that time, did you feel you didn't only represent your constituents but a larger group nationally? >> no doubt about it. identify felt more i don't want to say pressure because i enjoyed it but i felt the need to get out there and be seen on tv and opine on issues i felt
were more important. again, it's two fold. we all bring our experiences to a discussion, and they're all different experiences. and so i did take very seriously the experience of being a female in bringing that to the discussion. the i was not one of those people sometimes i would go up to somebody and say they did this, but i'm not going to be the female lejs female lemg sil. i took that very seriously. there's a reason i was there. so i worked on behalf of my constituents and women were right on up there not the least of which there were somebody would come up to me and say i remember watching you on tv or i heard you give a speech and that's why i decided to take
this chance. it might not even be they decided to run for office, but they decided to take a chance and i think that's really important. >> you touched on a lot of legislative examples but in that regard as political scientists is there one moment that sticks out in your mind as, boy, this issue i'm speaking as a national representative? >> so interestingly during the crime bill president clinton, i was one of the -- i voted against the rule because it was a closed rule, right? so even though i was forgone for the gun control, that was in there and it meant a lot of money for new york city and everyone was all for it. when the opposing party presents a rule that doesn't allow you to
oppose any amendments -- brought five of us together who wanted to support the bill and negotiate some amendments. and mine was prior rules of evidence. and the basis of it was in something we're living through right now with bill cosby. in the case of rape and child molestation where it's kind of one word or against the other, if there are so many similarities as there oftentimes are where the judge would taerm it's more probative than prejudice to bring these instances in, and so all these cases where, you know, somebody would -- a man was on trial for rape and you could prove there'd been allegations or even convictions of a rape that occurred, woman, same height, blonde hair, whatever it is there's a pattern there.
and the guy would get convicted, and it would always be overturned. so that sort of became my thing in the crime bill. it does also -- so i had to negotiate with a bunch of people on that including vice president biden who i absolutely adore for many reasons, but one of the reasons was when we were having this negotiations, i had to negotiate with 20 people when they brought him in, and you could tell they wanted nothing to do with me. first we were in the majority so here's a young female yanking the majority's chain, and then they brought in joe biden. and he was tough and he was fair and he treated me like an equal. i love him for so many reasons. i think he's such a gift to this country. but on a personal level, and by the way saw him in croatia
during the war when i didn't think anybody else cared. that was the crime bill and i think we were able to bring over members once the bill opened up. >> some of the major issues that affected women, sometimes you were in the republican party. not all of your republican colleagues support as well. so what did you do to try to build support for violence against women and the family medical leave act? >> so if i felt there was a way to actually influence it and then pass it, i would work with the leadership to try and get it done. if i felt this was just something philosophically was not going to happen, i would work with members to discuss it in a way that was not off putting. sometimes father knows best way of handling these conversations.
and so i would try both ways. again, to try and get people to perhaps listen to where i thought they were wrong or could change their mind. but if that wasn't the case to get them to speak more graciously about their disagreements. >> were they often receptive to that? >> yeah, i think they were. again, most people here are here for the right reasons and are just bringing their experiences to the table. i remember one time -- and i won't name the individual, but the nicest, sweetest, kindest gentleman who was very old -- was old by the time i was there and he yielded the floor to me. one of the most gracious individuals. he did not have a biased bone in his body, but he yielded the --
you have to sometimes interpret where it's coming from. if it was a 30-year-old member who did it, it would be taken in a much different way than somebody who was had always been really kind and really fair, and that was just his way. so sometimes you have to -- like everything in life you have to look at the person not just -- not just the topic at hand. >> in the late spring of 1997 you surprised a lot of observers by saying you were stepping down and going to retire and change careers. why did you decide to leave congress? >> so a couple of reasons. primarily as if i've not talked about my father enough during this interview, my father took this job as a 24/7 job. i mean my dad would be the kind
if we were done with dinner and there was nothing else going on, he'd go through the phone book. hi, mr. smith, how are things going? like he just lived and breathed this and this was all you did. and, you know, i had a baby late and loved this job, but it's two jobs. when the media always says congress is back on vacation, they're not. they're back in their district, you know, doing what their supposed to do. and, again, i never -- if you want me to be at your kid's eagle scout award, throw out your first baseball, you are giving me -- this a big deal so wherever you want me i'm going to be all the time. so i'd do that, friends would come over take care of my daughter, she had no idea, she was having a great time but then i missed her. and then i would be with her and i felt guilty not being out at
your kid's eagle scout award. so when i got the opportunity, which seemed like a good idea at the time to anchor a show on cbs which was supposed to be more political than it turned out to be and work three days a week it seemed like a good opportunity. i feel so strongly the need to say that was a decision i made because of where i was in my life. i have had great friends who have raised their kids in the united states grsds and their kids were great and they were great parents. i hate thetatorial of who's a better mom and the mom books and the mom wars. it's just what was right for me at the time and so that's why i decided to leave. >> i want to ask you a legislation question, a broad one. in all of your time in congress in the '90s, what do you think was the most important piece of legislation passed that had a direct impact on women? >> i have to think about that
one. going back to the '90s. >> i think certainly -- it happened before the violence against young women act, but i don't think young people can appreciate the fact that i served on mayor giuliani's commission on the staff for women. i was chair of that. and it was at that time mid-'80s we were actually dealing with the fact there were mandatory arrests and i remember the discussion on domestic violence being something like this. it's a family matter, you go to the door, you know, the cops say to usually the gentleman and if
the woman was clearly incapacitated and you said are you okay and she says fine, you're done. i remember my dad being shocked by what they had to go through. it was that family secret and then all of a sudden it became political. people wanted to cosponsor the violence against women act. people wanted to vote for it. people wanted to talk about domestic violence as a political issue, and that's what needs to be done in any of these things. right now we're working on underage sex trafficking and all of a sudden it's become an issue that's become political. the united states senate passed it, a major piece of legislation underage trafficking passed in both the house and senate, republicans and democrats. but i think the violence against women act was really one of those and the reauthorization because it gave us an opportunity to talk about it,
highlight and give voice to those people who for so long felt like they had absolutely no voice and brought it out of the closet and again made it political, and that's how we made changes. i bear no apologies to say that, you know, making something political is how you make changes in a democracy, and so when people want to discuss it, when people want to have town halls on it that's when you're going to see a societal shift. i think the whole issue of violence against women, take a walk around the block, just society's response to acknowledging the helplessness sometimes individuals find themselves in, you know, when they have kids, don't have kids, but, you know, just elevating that conversation every time it had to be re-authorized was a really important moment i think at least while i was here. >> we've asked you a lot of questions about the past. now we're going to ask you to
look into the crystal ball looking out 50 years, 60 years, how many many women are going to be in congress? >> first of all, more women need to run. that's such a big portion of the problem. and i know it looks dirty and mean, and it is, but you know what, anything that is such life that gives you an opportunity to be in such a life changing position isn't going to be easy. women need to be to a point
where i remember my husband was running the national republican congressional committee. they started to look for females. it wasn't like we'll let this one run because they've got the majority. if we want the united states congress to reflect the united states, we got to step up. >> if one of your daughters told you they wanted to run for congress, what would you say and what advice would you offer? >> oddly enough in our family what with the grandfather, mother and father who were in
congress, this has come up from time to time, and i would certainly encourage it. it's not the easiest road. it's not easy to sometimes put yourself out there, but, boy, the benefits. look, you're talking to me and allowing me to be a part of history. there's not many jobs where you can do that. to get the trust of your neighbors, to be able to make decisions with presidents of the united states united states senators and leaders from around the world, generals, i look back on my life and, you know, the first persian gulf war and i said when i walked into the studio, the last time i was in the studio i was taping a show where we brought in all these human shields who saddam hussein had used to keep him safe during
the first gulf war. to look back with some of my sisters on tail hook or aberdeen and have fights about funding or breast cancer or doing a little part to bring peace to the former yugoslavia, like where else could you sit back and say the glory days were pretty good? that's not to say i don't love my job at google right now. it's not an easy path, but the pay outis unbelievable. i'd support them 100%. not pushing them that direction by any means. >> looking back on your house career, was there anything unexpected to it or that surprised you about it?
>> no, i mean i think if there was anything that surprised me, i know this is going to sound ridiculous is how easy it was. if you wanted to get something done, it didn't always happen, but you were had people surrounding you. the thing that surprises people when they come here this nation is really run by people under 30, but smart people, passionate people. and if you have a cause you're going to pursue and you're going to be dogged, you can usually get it done. and i think that was sort of a surprise for me. and it was not a surprise for me particularly then on how bipartisan it was because my dad was so bipartisan. i remember my dad when we won we were walking into the fox studio for something and he said here's a guy you're going to work with because he's a good guy and he's going to help you. and he was right, you know?
because we were both new yorkers, senator schumer now. there'd be times where we'd battle but as a delegation you'd unite and certainly if you were from new york city, you had to fight a significant portion of the rest of the united states congress, republicans and democrats. >> we've asked you a lot of questions. thank you for answering. i just have one final question for you. what do you think your lasting legacy will be with years from now when people see your name and what do you think they'll say? >> i don't think they'll remember. i was there for so short a period of time. i was such a blip. if there were people who could remember i would like it to be so if i was going to write my own legacy, let's do that.
it would be she could work across the aisle and she could work with people with whom she disagreed but respected. and i always felt really proud to be a part of this institution. >> sounds like a great legacy. >> thank you so much. >> thank you. in a virtual discussion with the u.s. capitol historical society pairs of two prominent political families explain the suffragist strategies and politics in the suffragist play book, your guide to changing the world. >> there'd been celebratory parades down the potomac but this idea of taking a cause, a
march on washington, that was the suffragist idea. and, you know, it's now so common we just think of it as a traffic headache but it had never been done before in this way, the idea of a political march through the quarters of washington from the lejsilativ branch to the executive branch. parade i'd talk about at great length if given the opportunity. it did not go at all as planned, so, again, an event that was planned down to the last minute but then this massive crowd blocked pennsylvania avenue. so for perspective here in this picture i'm standing about 13th street. you can see the capitol in the background, the senate post office is now the trump hotel. pennsylvania avenue is a wide street. they are men.
you can see all those bowler hats. they weren't there for the suffragist parade. they were there for the wood row wilson parade the next day. and they behaved very badly. they blocked the street, spit on the women. the police did nothing to get this crowd back. in some cases the police joined in the hitting. now this is a phrenly crowd but this is the same picture 100 years later. so once you start seeing these parallels the tactics the suffragists invented you kind of can't unsee them. another pig one, picketing the white house, this was the national womens party idea. so not only is picketing the white house now incredibly common this is when there were so many black lives matter posters they started atting
their signs to the fence the white house had put between the white house and lafayette square. but also what are these women doing? they're making a message go viral. this is the 1917 equivalent of a tweet. that's why that banner is on really easy to read font. >> watch more on c-span.org/history. >> c-span's american history tv continues now. you can find the full schedule for the weekend on your program guide or c-span.org/history. >> you can't see the magnificent view bau