tv Oral Histories Women in Congress - Susan Molinari Interview CSPAN July 31, 2018 8:16am-10:05am EDT
captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2008 i'm not voting for this. right then and there i knew. an important discussion to take place in terms of some of the things that got earn our, you know, national rail system that make it impossible to not lose a boatload of money. that was something i was interested in and learned a lot. aviation safety was a big issue for my dad and, of course, coming from the district that i came from with tricon over the ocean flights coming from kennedy was something that i
became interested in and, of course, all the issues on real safety and things that came down the pike. do you want to break here? >> that would be a good point. a two-minute break. >> sure. >> we're back, we wanted to shift gears a and talk about leadership. what was your motivation to run after the 1994 elections? >> i think part of it was my own personal ambition. also feeling that i thought that there needed to be a woman in leadership, and at that point, it was interesting because barbara vucvanovich ran also. there was a general perception that only one of us could run because there was only room for one female even though the rest of the leadership was male. in tribute to our colleagues, both of us won. there really was this --
remember once i think i came up first. once i won, the guy that was running against barbara, everybody thought she won -- we only have room for one. it's funny, i haven't thought about 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 you know, dissent and discussion was not only tolerated, it was welcomed, you know. the republican party felt it was 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 that, you know, the big intent. the people who nominated me were conservative from rural areas. again, to show the importance. bringing as many people under the tent as possible 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
chairman position to run after? >> there were people who came up and said, you know, i think you should do this. we need a woman, we need somebody comfortable speaking, disagreeing, those things. i thought about it and decided i was going to give it a shot. i very much live my life of -- i'd much rather make mistakes than live with regrets. as long as those mistakes don't hurt anybody like myself. like the moment of, hey, you should run for the new york city council, i'm scared of that, so i guess i should do it. i'm scared of running for leadership, and i could lose, so i guess i have to do this. >> not much is written about the leadership races. it's an inside baseball sort of thing. >> yes. >> can you describe a little bit of your campaign and what that was like? >> you know, more of it is -- you know, contacting people, asking for your support -- look, you don't get anywhere in life without asking people to help, right?
certainly as an elected official, what is the one thing you have to learn? my campaign is driven by hundreds of people ringing doorbells and writing checks and, you know, talking to their friends. they get -- and i get the job. they get the satisfaction of being on a winning team. so i mean, i think those are the kind 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 stearns. and i had people who would come up and say, oh, 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. there was that little, you know -- i don't necessarily need to work out with a bunch of sweaty men, but that was another of those occasions where you interacted as --not as members of congress but as people trying to lose weight or, you know, just the relationship in another area. now of course, they do exercise
together. scandal loous as that sounds. in the day, i wasn't allowed to be in the house gym. i had to overcome that from a relationship standpoint. another difference. >> did anyone run your campaign, or was someone active in trying to push your -- >> my husband was very helpful. i surround myself with strong political people. one happened to be my father, one happened to be my husband. 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 s
schmaltsy, right, but it's cool when somebody close to my age says, i remember watching you when i was growing up. that's when i decided to go into politics. 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. i ronically 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 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 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 you where 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 dick 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 trouble connecting with. great. great. the post office disagreed and said, well, the post office does want changes. he said, okay, fine. you go back and tell fazio that the molinari-fazio bill will not be introduced. i cannot do that. he said, he's enough of a pal, he will understand. 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 he came down the steps and somebody said, hey, what's going on? he said, learning to be a member of the minority. 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. there was an understanding we had just gotten into the majority, we never took it for granted. it was something we had 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. newt came and dick armey and tom delay, 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. it's not just the people who read the "wall street journal," "new york times," it's people who read "redbook" and "shape" and "elle" who get some 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 greatest thing about john boehner is that even though he was the 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 position its they had an issue they wanted to bring up, if they weren't sure 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. >> hoe cloudsly did you work -- how closely did you work with speaker bboehner? >> a lot. closely. our staffs closely. >> 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 home stekstra and s
came together to have the concept, i would somebody they would sit down -- they talked to a lot of members to make sure the way they were talking about it the i, how it was placing out, that we didn't have any issues or weren't missing anything. they were very good in making it a collaborative effort. no, i was somebody who, you know, would, you know, put my two cents in. of course, campaigned heavily on it. that year, my husband and i got married the year we took the majority. we were pretty high profile. and we'd go into -- i think we went into 52 districts in like three weeks. you wouldn't even know where you were, you were like, it's great to be here with you because you wouldn't remember if it was ohio or illinois. we would talk about the contract a lot. you know, it was kind of -- it was a game changer, right? it was the first time, i mean, the point of the contract was to say to people, if -- we're asking you to change history . t
to give the republicans a chance at the majority, something that hadn't been done in a generation. we're not just going to say trust us, here are then things we'll do within 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? 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 peterson hero. you know, and so to be a part of that campaign was just such a terrific honor and to be -- to speak on his behalf and be part of that was 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 toed from left to right so you don't -- learning to read from left to right so you don't look shifty. 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 get all excited, governor kasich. he goes much longer than he's supposed to. he goes 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, and i can't see the prompters. 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. every time my dad sees john kasich on tv to this day, he says, 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 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 -- sometimes we couldn't collaborate. we loved the district so much that we wanted that piece of history to be with them. i think we were baptizing susan -- and bill was on his announcement tour, right. finally, the old guy's traveling with the wife and the kid. we'd go to his -- deliberation was so huge -- his district was so huge he would have six or seven announcements. in a bar with friends having dinner, my mother-in-law was watching the baby. "larry king" was on. i can't remember -- my press
secretary somehow -- i guess we had beepers in the day. people back in the day -- how old is this woman? said, senator dole's going to announce that you'll be keynote speaker. i had no clue. i wasn't asked to speak at the convention and was upset. i thought i was close enough at least i'd get the 4:00 in the afternoon. that was great. 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 give the keynote speech. we do not have cell phones. larry king, can we get susan maolinari to call? there's a cell phone outside the kitchen where they're yelling and screaming, dropping dishes, and i'm on the phone. thank you, senator. yes, it was a huge surprise. my husband laughs because we had three more announcements the next day for him. and all that was for me -- we were here to announce that i'm running for re-election, but here's my wife, susan molinari.
>> we were talking about your marriages and it took place while in congress. it's rare for two sitting -- to marry. >> and females. >> what was the reaction? >> bill proposed on the house floor. congress was in session, but nobody was there. and mick nulte, a democrat, was in the chair, there was a bill -- my husband and i would meet and chat in the back sometimes. ry ran into each other. we were sitting -- we ran into each other. we were sitting, and he said, i wanted to let you know, i spoke to your mom and dad. he got down on his knee and handed me the ring. i was like, okay, okay, but get up. mcnulty saw something. and that night we had a break, and it was like defense
authorization or appropriations i'm pretty sure. and they had a aquarium call because it was such a -- a quorum call because it was such a divisive issue. they wanted the members there to help the closings of the debate. before they did, speaker foley gave a beautiful, beautiful speech about i want to share with everybody before we get into this debate where we show the differences that there are great thanks happen to the floor of the house of representatives. he gave a beautiful little speech about bill and i getting engaged. the next day there were all these -- one minutes and special orders where eliot engel said, oh, may you have a bunch of children, and may they all be democrats. you know, just really so heartwarming to have the family of the u.s. house of representatives congratulate us and, you know, be really happy for us. >> what about your constituents? what was their reaction? >> oh, they were thrilled. they were thrilled. they were thrilled. we did so much press. we looked at this one picture, we were coming down the steps of the capitol the next day. all these tourists taking
pictures of us from other countries. and i look back now thinking, they must wonder, like, who were these people. they took pictures figuring it was somebody important, and got back -- i don't know who they are. no, the constituents were so excited. i mean, first of all, by that point, bill was -- you know, i would go to his events, he would come to my events. my little italians loved bill, the hugs and kisses. they would try and teach him to say things in italian. very excited. really excited. it was lovely. >> were there challenges or obstacles to being married to another member of congress? >> no. no because you understand. i remember like before one time -- i guess we were married, bill had come to visit. we were going to go to a movie and go to dinner and i got a call for an emergency meeting on something. you could look at somebody and say, i'm so sorry, but this just came up.
this is important in my district. and we'll go out tomorrow night. we have to do this. of course, he would totally understand that. you know, you'd have to live with my dad who every once in a while will be like, i think my daughter's running for governor. my father would announce this to the press before we would have a discussion. no. to have somebody who understood it and respected it made it so much easier. once in a while the travel would be an issue. particularly once we had susan that, you know, i would take her, but we'd go back to our districts. that was the only challenging part. in terms of having people who understand what you're going through, needing help and patience, no, it's a gift. >> just a couple years later, as you mentioned, you had your daughter. you're one of a small group of women that -- in office to give
birth. what was the response of your colleagues when they heard that you were pregnant? >> my gosh, super. right before me was enid gre green waldholtz who was pregnant right before me. it wasn't quite the shock because she had just gone through it. the colleagues were so sweet, and the gifts would pour in. people -- how are you feeling, are you tired yet? that's when you become groes close friends with your women -- become close friends with your women colleagues. >> did you receive advice or from enid green, anything that -- >> no, not really. i think as women we get that we are oftentimes barraged by advice that we don't want and don't need. you got it together. you don't need me.
just a lot of love. >> yes. what about blanch lambert lincoln? she was pregnant at the same time. >> blanch and i were good friends because we would do tv together. i remember, some show came into my house, we were there with the big bellies. 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 where right after susan was born, and it was mary landrieu with her adorable son sitting on the lap, at that age where he was going to totally upstage mom for mother's day. blanch lincoln was pregnant sometime time as i was. and i was great. look, there's probably no easier job that happ job than being in congress and having a kid -- our kid is going to be with us. i went to congress right away, but i had a crib in my room. if there was a meeting and she
was sleeping, traded offices with my husband. i would go in and say, i've got this meeting, and susan's sleeping. can i leave her in your office? my life was really easy and very lucky. >> what was that? i mean, the media attention, during this time? >> the media attention because not only was two members married, but i gave birth a day before mother's day. now you have the entire media world looking for that mother's day hook, you know. john, get me something on mother's day. i got just the thing. literally. we had to have a press conference. susan was 14 hours labor and then a caesarean. after they took her, i started shaking. i was like over -- not over medicated, but i woke up the next day, and it was not pretty. there was mary jo -- now with my father feeding my kids, while i'm throwing up in the bedpan. and the world media outside
ready to do an interview. you know, all good. people should have such problems in life. >> sounds like a happy mother's day. >> it was a wonderful mother's day. the interesting part, though, is so i had susan while i was in congress. the announcement is we have reels and reels and reels of television coverage, newspaper coverage, coverage around the world. and then i had katy when i was out of office. it's the staten island -- like, born to susan, seven pounds -- she's like -- >> you mentioned you came back to work after a couple of works. did you ever talk about maternity leave with the leadership, or was the topic ever discussed? >> no. first of all, i didn't work for them. i worked for the people of staten island. i don't think it was an issue for me in terms of -- these
people were so wonderful that if i missed votes because i was home with my child would not have been an issue at all. these are glorious family people that would never comment. again, i was given the gift to come back to work and bond with my family. i'm a big proponent of family leave and paternity and paternity 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. there was no -- if susan couldn't sleep, i'd take her on the train going back and forth between the house and the little -- a little ride, but it would be -- she loved it. she would go right to sleep. it did give me an opportunity. one of the reasons right after i had 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. it was coming to ft. hamilton, in my district. and i really felt very strongly about having to be there. that got me started getting back into work. there were days when susan was sick, whatever, when she was young, that you do what you have to do as a mother. that was never an issue. again, i went back early because of my extraordinary circumstances. >> bides your husband -- besides your husband, were there people that could help you out in a pinch? >> i do recall one time on the house floor, and it was one of those nights when we were voting until -- back in the day, like you would vote until like sometimes 11:00 at night. and i had forgotten my card. and i -- i had to go to the well. susan's sleeping. now i know this is hard for some people to picture. but i took the baby, like, tom delay, tom, can you hold her for a minute? he was great. those are the things, right?
there's nothing easier than making friends weather you'hen holding a sweet little baby, particularly when they're sleeping. >> want to move to the next section? >> sure. >> we'll shift gears. general questions about women in congress. when jeannette rankin first served in congress, there was a ton of press attention paid to her dress and demeanor because she was a woman. >> yeah. >> and we also read that you made headlines because of the -- you wore pants during your first floor speech, what was the reaction to that? and did it surprise you? >> crazy -- oh, totally surprised me. i have always been one of those people who feels more comfortable in pants. and so i was giving a one minute on the staten island home port and the need to stay vigilant with defense. and i had nice black like silk,
sat nin pants -- i weren'ting jeans. i remember this -- i wasn't wearing jeans. i remember this, i had an expensive black jacket on. one of my best outfit. as soon as i got back to office, my chief of staff said, "the new york times," "the daily news," "the kathy and regis show" called. i'm like, hmm. i literally thought to myself, i guess, you know, we're making news because young female pro-defense, new york city. because the home port was somewhat controversial. we started making the phone calls back. it turned out that i was the first female to wear pants on the floor of the house of representatives. not against the dress rules, and the historian will have to research this, but as best as i could determine, there wasn't as set out a dress code for females when they were doing those things because they didn't really think there would be any females on the house floor. but yes, i was -- i made
"glamour" magazine. i went on the "kathy and regis" show and all because i had pants on the floor for the first time. >> this was all external. your colleagues didn't comment. >> no, no. no, no, no. not at all. i would be really surprised if they would have noticed, yeah. >> before we go too far, i want to give you a chance about the story off tape about the delegation you led to bosnia while you were pregnant. can you tell us about that? >> thank you. i got to be close with bob dole during the former yugoslavia crisis. and during the time, we had an arms embargo out against. and what was happening was that there still was arms that were going in to milosevic's area but not to the croatians and others throughout the yugoslavian, former yugoslavian area. i visited there once, i had gone
to croatia, and really became touched by what was going on there which was very early stages of the genocide that was taking place. and became more and more involved and was that person who would, you know, i remember going to the vice president, i remember going to eat with -- with secretary eagleburger, going to meet with madeleine albright -- i went to whomever i could and say, literally, my speech was, you know, i -- i will not be that person -- you wonder how those people who were in power during world war ii felt about their ability to have this near eradication take place. and now we are watching genocide take place. it's not even like we have to hear it through a radio. it's on the front page of our papers, on the news every night. and we have to do something. if at least to end the arms embargo so it can be a fair fight. and that was bob dole's position, too. that was actually how we got to be close. we would pass resolutions together and get engaged. so i went to newt when -- i
guess we were still in minority. i said, like, i'm going crazy, we have to do something about this. he said, start the balkan crisis task force. okay, so i did. which then you'd get calls on tv to go -- of course i would do it because i wanted to raise consciousness. they would say, susan molinari, chairman of the balkan crisis task force, which i made up the day before. it was good enough to get me booked to talk about an issue i cared passionately about. i stayed -- i went and traveled there a bunch of times. and just never let up. i mean, awful things, you know. and the women's caucus would work closely. there was the systemic rape that occurs in every war, of course is still occurring in places around the globe. 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 until they couldn't get an abortion, and then would let them go. they would not be welcomed back by their families because they were impregnated by a serb. i remember meeting a woman who said she had to go to her daughters and family and lie and say, my sister's sick in the -- wherever. and so even though bombs are going off where my kids are, i had to leave them because i knew that my life would not be pretty there. and once i had the baby i could go back. women's groups would bring the women over to talk to us so that we could understand just how horrific the situation was over there without anybody doing anything. so right when we were considering sending peacekeepers, newt had come to me and said we're going to send a co-del, congressional delegation of about 25 men and women, and i'd like you to lead the delegation. i was about four months pregnant at the time. they sent a doctor on the plane with me.
but still, i went over there. interesting time because i would be interviewed by christiane amanpour who was very interested in the issue. it was clear that i was pregnant. i would get the mail from people like, how could you go to this area while you're pregnant. i did enjoy the fact that i got to go fatce to face with slobodn milosevic and wouldn't take his crap. where has the world gone wrong for me? but at the end, we were moving into sarajevo to meet with president izabegavich at the time. people were outside applauding us, send peacekeepers, send peacekeepers, they wanted the u.s. to come in and help in the situation. so as we were walking in, there was a woman who grabbed my hand and said, please, please --
please do what you need to. we can't continue like this. and you need to help us. america needs to help us. i said, that's what we're here for. we're going to take as many facts as we can and bring it back. she grabbed my hand, touched my belly and said, i just lost my only son. you're going to be a mama. you have to help me. you know, and -- i got criticism for going as somebody who was about to have a baby. relative to the conversations that we're having, i think it increased my perspective for what needed to be done. sorry about that. >> that's fine. how influential was that co-del? >> it was extremely influential. it was bipartisan.
and i think the ability to give information back in terms -- we were talking to the world leaders. we were talking to our people and our state department people and to be able to let them know that we thought the situation was ripe. look, we were still living with this concept that these people have been at war with each other for so long, and they will never learn to get along. and i remember saying, ton keep bringing up the -- 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. nobody wants this to continue. like there's -- and so we were able to be on the ground and see that. we could end this war, and it would end. so i think it was very influential in coming back at that point, we started working closely with vice president gore and secretary holbrook because they did want to make sure that they had republican support for this. i think we were able to make it
a really nice, important history-making decision. >> were there other women on that co-del with you? >> i'm sure there was, but i couldn't tell you. >> that's a pretty large group. >> yeah, it was a large groupment agagroup again. i think we wanted as many people to meet and go back and be part of the debate because it was a serious step we were taking. >> how important do you think the delegations were just to try to see a different side of members and to get to know each other? >> there's no doubt, there's no doubt that travel, i know which is something that people -- i never went on any of like the glamorous -- i went to right before the persian gulf war, i went -- i went to israel. you know, if there was action, that's where i wanted to be. i didn't do any of those air shows, travel. there's something to be said for the fact, going back to the conversation of people getting
to know one another outside the floor. being able to spend time together. you then travel as americans, as members of the u.s. congress. not republicans and democrats. and it -- it does make it a lot easier to collaborate once you get that personal time. i also think where members had their families here it -- when our wives or husbands are friends, our kids go to the same school, right, that's -- it makes it harder for me to demonize you on a debate on the floor. i remember being at church a couple years ago, and i was still doing some politicking, punditry. it was christmas eve. and we're -- doing the "our father." i looked over, and it was robert gibbs. i was like -- no more picking on robert gibbs after this. you have moments on a trip, you know, times when you all cry
together, or you have a serious conversation about where you're sending u.s. troops. it allows you to discuss it in debate. if i'm having a conversation with you overseas or in a war zone, i'm going to disagree, but i'm going to disagree with you respectfully. i think those trips were very, very important. not the least of which is to bear witness to what goes on the world, and to bring it back. i know there are people, you know, who have a tendency to brag that they didn't have a passport. i think when you're elected to the u.s. house of representatives or united states senate, you know, we do call the president the leader of the free world. it's nice to be able to get to know places outside the united states in order to make appropriate decisions. >> let's move to wrap up
questions. because when you served there were relatively so few women in congress at that time, did you feel that you didn't only represent your constituents but you represented a larger group of women national? >> no doubt about it -- nationally? >> no doubt about it. no doubt about it. again, you felt that you were representing a larger group. i felt more -- i don't want to say pressure because i enjoyed it. i felt strongly about the need to get out there and be seen on tv, to opine on issues i thought were important. again, it's twofold. we all bring our experiences to a discussion, and there are all different experiences. i did take seriously the experience of being a female in bringing that to the discussion. i was not one of those people -- sometimes i would go up to somebody and say, you know, they did this. they'd say, i am not going to be
the female legislator. i respect that, but that was not me. i was going to be the female legislator. if something was going on, i was talking with regard to women. anypla anyplace, i was the female -- i took that seriously. there was a reason i was there. yes, i worked on behalf of my constituents. i worked on behalf of the issues that i was concerned about -- balancing the budget, all those things in the republican party, but women were right up there. and not the least of which so that there were -- so that somebody would come up to me and say "i remember watching you" or "i heard you give a speech." that they decided to take a chance, not even that they decided to run for office, but to take a chance. i think that's important. >> you touch on legislative examples. in that regard, political scientists call it surrogate representative, was there one moment where you -- 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 voted against the rule because it was a closed rule, right. so even if -- even though i was for the gun control, that was in there, and it meant a lot of money for new york city, making, police commissioner bratton, everybody was for it. when the opposing party presents a rule that does not allow your party to present any amendments, i felt obliged to vote against the rule which killed the bill at the time. and so newt at the time brought five of us together to say we were -- who wanted to support the bill and wanted to negotiate some amendments. and mine was prior rules of evidence. and it was the basis of it was that in -- something we're living through now with bill cosby. in the case of rape and child molestation where it's kind of one word against the other, if
there are so many similarities as there oftentimes are where the judge would determine that it's more probative than prejudicial to bring these instances in, and so all these cases where somebody would -- a man was on trial for rape and you could prove that there had been allegations or even convictions of a rape that occurred, you know, women same height, blonde hair, wearing tennis shoes -- whatever it is, that there's a pattern there, and the guy would get convicted, and it would always be overturned. that sort of became my thing in the crime bill. so i had to negotiate with a bunch of people on that including vice president biden whom i absolutely adore because for many reasons. but one of the reasons was when we were having this negotiation, like i had to negotiate with 20 people before they brought him in.
he was head of the judiciary at the time. you could just tell they wanted nothing to do with me. first of all, we were still in the minority. here's like a young female yanking the majority's chain over the president's signature piece. and then they brought in joe biden. and he was tough, and he was fair, and he treated me like an equal. and i will -- i mean, i love him for so many reasons, so many reasons. i think he is just 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. but that was a piece of legislation that eventually passed. that was part of the president's crime bill. you know, we were able to i think bring over about 55 to 60 republican members to support the crime bill once the rule opened up for five amendments. >> some of the major issues that affected women, sometimes you were in the republican party not all of your -- not all of your republican colleagues supported, as well. what did you try to do to build
suppor support for the violence against women and medical leave act? >> if i. there was a way to influence it and pass it, i would work with the leadership to try and get it done. if i felt that this was just something that philosophically was not going to happen, i would work with members to discuss it in a way that was not off putting, you know, that -- the 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, where it could change their minds. if it wasn't their case, to get them to speak more graciously about their disagreements. >> were they often receptive to that? >> yeah, yeah.
i think they were. again, most people here are here for the right reasons, and are just bringing their experiences to the table, you know. i remember one time -- and i won't name the individual, but one of the nicest, sweetest, kindliest gentlemen 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 who did not have a biased bone in his body. but he yielded the floor to the little lady from new york. women come up to me and say, take his words down -- you have to sometimes interpret where it's coming from, right? 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
it as everything in life, you have to look at the person, not just the topic at hand. >> in the late spring of 1997, you1997, you surprised a lot of observers by saying you were stepping down and were going to retire and change careers. why did you decide to leave congress in. >> so a couple reasons. the primarily, as if i've not talked about my father enough during this interview, my father took this job as a 24/7 job. my dad would be the kind that if we were done with dinner and will was nothing else going on. he would go through the phone book. hi, mr. smith, it's guy molinari, how are things going? he just lived and breathed this. this was all you did. and you know i had a baby late. and loved this job. but it's two jobs. don't cry for me, argentina. but when news says congress is
back on vacation in their district. they're not. they're doing what they're supposed to do. i never loved it. if you want me to be at your kid's eagle scout award. if you want me to throw out the first baseball at your lig legal baseball game. this is a big deal. so wherever you want me, i'm going to be all the time. and so i would do that. friends would come over, take care of my daughter, she had no idea. but i missed her. and then i would be with her. and i felt guilty about not being out at your kid's eagle scout award. so when i got the opportunity -- which doesn't seem 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. sort of keep your hand in it, but not really. it seemed like a good opportunity. and i just 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 congress and their kids are great and they are great parents. you know this is not, i hate the tutorial of who's a better mom and the mom books and the mom wars, it was 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 a broad one. in all of your time in congress in the ' 0s, what do you think was the most important piece of legislation passed that had a direct impact on women? >> going back to the '90s? i think certainly the you know the, it happened before, the violence against women act. but i don't know if young people can appreciate the fact that i
served on mayor giuliani's commission on the status of women. i was chair of that. it was at that time, mid '80s, that we were actually dealing with the fact that there were mandatory arrests, i remember the discussions on domestic violence being something like this. it's a family matter. you go to the door, you know, the cops say, the usually the gentleman, buddy, take a walk around, cool down. do you want to press charges? even if the woman was clearly, clearly incapacitated, they knew she was scared. if she said no, done, end of deal. close the book. to think of where we have gotten today, as a society. i remember as chairman, i did hearings in each borough on domestic violence. i remember you know even my dad sitting there hearing, female victims being shocked by what they had to go through. and the situation, it was that family secret. and then all of a sudden, it became political, right? people wanted to co-sponsor 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. you know, 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. the major piece of legislation. underage trafficking. passed both the house and the senate, republicans and democrats. but i think the violence against women act was one of those in the reauthorizations, it gave us an opportunity to talk about it. it gave us an opportunity to highlight. it gave us an opportunity to give voice to those people who for so long felt like they had absolutely no voice. and brought it out of the closet and made it political. and that's how we made changes. i bear no apologies to say that making something political is how you make changes in a democracy. so when people want to discuss it and have town halls on it, that's when you're going to see the societal shift. i think the whole issue of
violence against women, buddy, take a walk around the block. protective orders. just society's response to acknowledging the helplessness that sometimes individuals find themselves in. when they have kids, don't have kids, but you know, elevating that conversation every time it had to be re-authorized, was really important moment i think. at least by, when 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 and progosticate. there's 108 women in congress now, 88 in the house, 20 in the senate. looking out, 50 years from now, 50 years from jeanette rankens' centennial, how many women do you think will be in congress? and how will we get to that point? >> well first of all, more women
need to run, right? i mean that's, that's such a big portion of the problem and i know it looks dirty and mean and it is. you know what, anything that's gives you an opportunity to be in a life-changing position isn't going to be easy. women need to be, so i think we've gotten to a place where i was allowed because of my lineage as a woman to run. but there was a little bit of an apology there, right? she's guy's daughter. to the point where my husband was running the national republican committee. they were looking for females. it was if you had two candidates being equal, the female was going to be the one that the party wanted to go after. so we are seeing change in just
this short time. 50 years from now, i hope you know, women are in the majority as they are in this country. as they are in electorate. if we want the united states congress to reflect the united states, we got to step on it. >> one of your daughters told you that 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, a 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 the benefits of i mean 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. it's to get the trust of your neighbors.
to be able to make decisions with presidents of the united states and united states senators and leaders from around the world. generals, you know, i look back on my life. you know the first person gulf war, and i said when i walked into the studio the last time i was in the studio, i was taping a a show for my little show on staten island, we brought in all of these human shields who saddam hussein had used to keep him safe during the first gulf war. to be able to look back on being able to unite with some of my sisters on issues like tailhook and aberdeen, to have fights about funding domestic violence or breast cancer or you know, maybe doing our little part to bring peace to the former yugoslavia. 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.
but it's a heady experience. and if my daughters wanted to do it, you have to be tough. it's not an easy path. but the payout is unbelievable. i would be, would support them 100%. not pushing them in 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 going to sound ridiculous, is how easy it was. like if you wanted to get something done, it didn't always happen. >> but you're gifted with incredible staff. brilliant people who are surrounding you. >> the thing that surprised most people when they come here is this nation really is run by
people under 30. but smart people, passionate people. and if you have a cause that you really want to pursue and you're going to be dogged, you can usually get it done. and i think that was sort of the surprise for me. >> it was not a surprise for me. particularly then on how bipartisan it was, because my dad was you know so bipartisan. like i remember my dad, when i won we were walking into the fox studio 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 i looked and it was chuck schumer. and he was right. because we were both new yorkers. senator schumer now. but we would, there were times when we would battle, but there would also be times where you know as a delegation, you totally 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 or democrats. >> we've asked you a lot of questions, thank you for
answering. >> i hope it was okay. >> it was great. >> i have one final question for you. >> what do you think your lasting legacy will be as a representative of congress, years from now when people see your name, what do you think they'll say? >> oh my. i don't think they'll remember, you know. >> 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, sofy was going to write my own legacy, let's do that. it would be that she could work across the aisle. and she could work with people with whom she disagreed, but respected. and always felt really proud to be part of this institution. >> sounds like a great legacy. >> thank you so much for sharing your time. >> thank you.
>> oral histories will continue in a moment. as we show american history tv programs normally seen only on the weekends here on c-span 3 during this congressional break. coming up, a conversation with former representative pat schroeder. she was the first woman elected to represent colorado in congress. then house of representatives historians explain their project to learn from the lawmakers' experiences. that's followed by their interview with former congresswoman susan molinari.
pat schroeder served in the u.s. house of representatives from 193 to 1997 as a democrat from colorado. she was one of only 14 congresswomen. she talks about balancing work with raising a family. her assignment to the house armed services committee, and her experience as one of the founding members of the congresswoman's caucus. the u.s. house of representatives office of the historian conducted this interview, which is about an hour and 40 minutes. >> my name is kathleen johnson i'm with matt wisniewski, the house historian and we're happy to be interviewing former congresswoman pat schroeder from colorado. this interview is from the gener jeanette rankin oral history project to commemorate the 100th