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tv   Oral Histories Women in Congress - Susan Molinari Interview  CSPAN  July 31, 2018 12:01pm-1:50pm EDT

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him! and that was enough levity to stop the fight. >> congressional historians sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's "q & a." susan molinari served in the u.s. house of representatives from 1990 through 1997 as a republican from new york. next she talks about her experience as the daughter of congressman guy molinari as vice chair of the republican conference, as the keynote speaker at the 1996 republican national convention, and her marriage to a fellow member of congress. the u.s. house of representatives office of the historian conducted this interview, which is about an hour and 45 minutes. >> my name is kathleen johnson and today i'm with the house historian matt miznewski.
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the date is august 24, 2016, and we're very pleased to talk to the congresswoman from new york. the project we're working on is to recognize and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the election of jeanette rankin to congress, the first woman. we had a bunch of questions we wanted to ask you today, but 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.
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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
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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
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surround any i nanaugural, so i have 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. 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.
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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 sylvi sylvio conte when he got in trouble for a party on the house floor. my father was very 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
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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 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
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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 number on staten island. my mom was diagnosed with a muscle disease so my dad didn't want to be away from home, so this kind of fit. he ran for borough president and won which opened a congressional seat. this was a dream come true for me after watching him and
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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 did he say when you told him you wanted to run for it? >> go for it. although when i told him i was going to run for the new york city council, he took out a quote of the man in the marina, and he said, take this and put it in your bag because you will need it. it's a tough business but it's a beautiful business. my father is the true public servant, right, so he always thought this was just -- for his daughter or anybody who would ever say, i'd 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 to serve your neighbors was just something that if you had an opportunity to do it that you had to. >> and what wrorole did he play your campaign?
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>> 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 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
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in that 1990 special election? >> it was just -- it's a jumble, particularly being in a special election. interestingly i followed ileana russ layton who came in in a special. 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
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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 health 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 offi cio on all the questions, 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 wait. 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
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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. although it was a thrill, it didn't carry, i guess, the national and international 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
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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 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
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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 whisperer. 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
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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 connected 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.
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>> 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. starting off, he was in congress, i was in the city council. we would talk about needing a new fairy. i would say, look, i can get such and such, can you match it? when i left, i was in the middle of building a club in a church basement. then it became my dad before the base closure commission. 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,
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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 we worked on the federal and the 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
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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. i had been so blessed in my life for those moments. i'm going to start crying now. i don't want to think about standing there giving a speech, and there's my dad -- i'm sure we all had those moments when we were kids, oh, i got an a and my dad didn't say anything. i got my master's and got a teaching citizenship. all my friends got a dollar for getting an a on their report card. my dad would say, i want you to
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get an a because you want to get an a. if you need a dollar, i'll give you a dollar, but there's no connection there. so i always sort of felt i wasn't good enough, then there was that moment that i stood on the house floor and i could see that in his eyes. it 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 pins. we didn't do the soaps or the nail files. we did a lot of that stuff. we would have grueling conversation s about a new generation of leadership, what
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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 pleased to see that on his buttons. we had a conversation 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
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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 there were 29 women. do you still think about that? >> yes, i do. i still consider nancy pelosi a friend. there are lots of things said about women being able to cross party lines and make things happen. i had always worked with rita lowey on the violence against
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women act. when there were times it didn't look like things were going to move, we would have that conversation. wade women's conference where we would meet. congresswoman schroeder really kept us together on those issues. we disagreed on certain things, but i think we all agreed on the understanding and the respect. what was the atmosphere when you entered the house? do you think it was a welcome atmosphere for women? >> yes. 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.
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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.
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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 aym 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 lateman, later on deb price. we became good friends and spent time together. sometimes you had a group that
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would consist of those two women, dana rorbacher, my husband more because of the age. we would do things and spend time together. jerry ferrara talked me into running for office and then campaigned against me. i always thought the women would be there. nancy pelosi, we do what we can. did it help politically? there was a line that was drawn but there were those relationships i will always cheri 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 wii think we stood each oth up. i remember being -- i think i was getting an award at the
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glamour women of the year awards. pat schroder was there as a former and connie as a former. it was either taylor hook or aberde aberdeen. we met in the lobby, we happened to be going out at the same time and we said, did you hear this 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 notic notic those issues, right that, allowed us to stand each other up and say, we are going to challenge the way things are done. sure, i learned a lot from congresswoman schroder. 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,
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all bets are out. 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 capital, what's now the lindy boggs? >> 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. senator hutchinson from texas threw me a party when i got
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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 more on 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 truly cosmetic.
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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 not call us 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
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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. we're all different people. we were different agents that came from different political parties, different philosophies
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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
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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 union negotiating across the table for a piece of
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legislature. >> 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
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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 away 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.
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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 changed largely thanks to my husband. my dad was a transportation guy,
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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.
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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 para 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 day relates to what i said. >> thathow important do you thit is to have a woman's perspective on these committees? >> it's important to have a woman's perspective, it's important to have a hispanic
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perspective, it's important to have an african-american's perspective. we all bring that to the 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 them differently, you represent differently. and so things are changing. they need to change more rapidly, but i do think the debate becomes better and the decisions become fairer as many people representing people coming 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,
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that's really not that long ago historically, and quite often you were one of the few women on these committees. >> uh-huh. >> so what was the welcome or the reaction you received on the committee? >> it was fine. again, the 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 is almost -- they get a kick out of me because i wasn't afraid to debate and get a little tough when necessary. so there was -- i never felt any resentment whatsoever for being the only female of the committee. the example i just gave with john boehner is just one example of 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
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male colleagues. >> we also read in your book that you had hoped to get on the appropriations committee at one point. >> yeah. 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? >> again, appropriations was, you know, the committee where you could get a lot done for your district and bring on a lot of projects and infrastructure. if you combine my interest in transportation and representing new york city, 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 debate 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,
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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 railway subcommittee. one of the things i loved about the transportation committee was 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.
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i loved working with a tough group of risk takers and i really enjoyed that as a challenge. on the only thing that i did, which was interesting compared to the people, the way i would do my hearings, you would always say -- let's say we were doing 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 was the head of d.o.t. would testify first, the room would be packed, the cameras would be in. 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 come testify, by the tame they came to testify, the bell would ring. 27 people would leave to go vote. they would be testifying before me and one other person and i just felt so awful.
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so whoever came the furthest and had put the most effort in came first. so the federal rail committee had to hear that. i think it frustrated the federal government that i wasn't whipping them in and out. you're doing your job when you're sitting here testifying, you'ren. >> was there one particular issue before the subcommittee that you remember from that time? >> certainly all the time, amtrak reform. at the time when i got in, when i chaired it, i was dealing way 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. right now so much is statutory
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and 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 your decisions? 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 the people who deal with it make those decisions. he said, so that could go away? i said, absolutely. he said, shit, i'm not voting for this. 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
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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 thought there needed to be a woman in leadership. at that point it was so interesting because barbara
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konovich ran also, and there was this perception that only one of us could win, even though the rest of the leadership was male. and a tribute to our colleagues, both of us won. there really was in -- i remember -- i think i came up first and once i won, the man that was running against barbara we 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 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 10. and so the people who nominated me were very conservative from rural areas, again, to show the importance of bringing as many
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people into the 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, you should do this, we need a wom woman. i thought i would give it a shot. i very much lived my life that i'd much rather live with respect. 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 because i could lose, so i guess i have to do this.
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not much . >> not much is written about leadership races. can you describe your campaign and what that was like? >> it was more just kacontactin people and asking for -- look, you don't get anywhere in life without asking people to help you, and certainly as an elected official. 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. 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
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into? back in the day we had our separate gyms. i don't necessarily need to work out with a bunch of sweaty men, but that was one of those occasions where you interact with not necessarily members of congress but people who are trying to lose weight or just a relationship in now, of course, they do exercise together. as scandalous as that sounds. but in the day, i wasn't allowed to be in the house gym. and i had to overcome that from a relationship standpoint. so it's just another difference, but, uh -- >> did anyone run your campaign, or was someone really active in trying to push your campaign? >> my husband was very helpful. i surround myself with strong political people, one happened to be my father and one happened to be my husband. so phil was helpful in it. but in general, everybody was pretty helpful. >> and at the time, you were the highest-ranking woman in gop leadership. >> yes. >> so what did that mean to you personally? and also from a larger
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perspective, what did it mean to the party? >> oh, to me, personally, it was just -- i mean, what a great, incredible honor, you know, to be that part of history, to be able to -- and i know this sounds so schmultzy, and i know there's the age thing that goes on, but i think it's cool when someone close to my age comes up and says, i remember watching you when i was growing up and that's when i decided to go into politics. but there's that, right? there's that. and you need to have that person who looks a little bit like you in order to inspire you, give you the confidence, give you the idea that you can. you know, ironically, a conversation we're having in technology right now, right? and still need to have in politics, lord knows. but that was part of it. you know, 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.
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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. and so, you know, i think that's probably one of the reasons why i won, was because, again, those were the days of really 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 you about the importance of having women on committees, different committees, but what about in leadership. what do you think the importance of that is? >> directing an agenda. you know, part of what happens at leadership is you sit around a leadership table, when the agenda is being formed. and so, again, you know, i can remember, there was an appropriations bill that was coming up that was to deny, i
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think this was it, to deny single people from adopting. and so i had to like 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 of these -- there were all these men around the table who had been raised by single mothers, so they were immediately on my side. but that was something that i, you know, i think i was -- i had to bring it to their attention. and 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, that is still active, it was actually a creation of dick f e phaseio, it was one of his constituents, but he came to me in the republican leadership, he was the sponsor, i was the co-sponsor, and we had flipped. and i had gone to newt and said, we really should be supporting this. it's everything we agree on.
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it's not mandated, it's voluntary. the stamps could go up to like eight cents more and it would go to d.o.d. for a lot of the tracking they did with military personnel on breast cancer. and we reach an audience they were having a problem with. so nate said, okay, fine, great, great. but are there changes? the post office disagreed with us. and i said, the post office does want some changes. and he said, okay, go back and tell dick phaseio that the phaseio/molinari bill will be reintroduced. and i thought, that is just awful. i cannot do that. i get him on the house floor and said, your call. i'm horrified that i even have to have this conversation. but newt says he'll bring it up on suspension, which means you don't have to go through hearings and everything. you have to make the changes the post office recommends and it will be reintroduced the molina molinari/phaseio bill. and someone said, what's going
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on? and he said, just learning to be a member of the minority. and he said, do whatever we need to do to get this moved. >> what was your welcome in the leadership circle? and what are your memories of working with the other leadership folks at that time? >> great! again wing there's 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. you know, there was this kind of optimism that now that we could 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 some pretty important pieces of legislation relative to women and minorities. so i think initially, in those days, there was kind of this excitement about finally, you know, getting there. but not just getting there, like really working it to make sure that we, you know, i brought in, which seems like not such a good
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idea in retrospect, but i brought in all the editors of all the women's magazines and we had a day-long session. and newt came and tom delay and the committee chairs. and we had different tables and all the women members were there and we took them for a tour. and we want to start to establish a dialogue with you all. i happen to think magazines and all of those, you know, it's not just the people who read "the wall street journal", "the washington post" and "the new york times." it's people who read "redbook" and "shape" and "elle" magazine b -- who get some of their political information. so we wanted to, if you had an issue you wanted to highlight, be able to have that relationship so you could call to say, hey, listen, we really would love for you to future this. so, you know, we all did things like that. >> what were your primary responsibilities as vice chair of the conference. >> i think, primarily, it was, well, certainly, when boehner was the chairman at the time,
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speaker boehner, the glorious thing about john boehner, is even though he was speaker, everybody just called him boehner, which i think says so much about him. boehner was chairman at the time. and so sometimes he might have to be off, so you would run the meetings. people would come to me probably more in the other positions, if they had an issue that they wanted to bring up, if they weren't sure it was appropriate to be brought up. if they wanted to talk through something. because the conference is when you would really get together and air your ideas, your concepts, and your frustrations. so a lot of times, you were kind of the first line of, is this the appropriate place for this? and so i would do a lot of that. >> did you enjoy that? >> i did. >> of course. and how closely did you work with speaker boehner? >> a lot. very closely. and our staff is very close. >> were you involved to any degree with the drafting and the implementation of the contract with america? >> um, i -- no. no. i was there as one of the people
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that they talked to, right? so the point of the contract was one of those things that would unify the republican party as opposed to divide it. and so when pete hoekstra and a group of others who came together to have this concept, you know, i was somebody that they would sit down -- they talked to a lot of members at the time to make sure that the way they were talking about it, the issues, how it was all placing out, you know, we didn't have any issues or we weren't missing anything. so it was really much -- they were very good in making ate collaborative effort. and so, no, i was -- you know, just somebody who, you know, would, you know, put my two cents in. and then campaigned very heavily on it, that year my husband and i got married, the year we took the majority and so we were pretty high-profile and would go into -- i think we went into like 52 districts in three weeks. we wouldn't even know where you were. it was like, it's really great to be here with you. you couldn't remember if it was
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ohio or illinois. but we would talk about the contract a lot. it was a game changer, because it was the first time -- the whole point of the contract was to say to people, if -- you know, we're asking you to change history, right? you know, give the republicans a chance at a majority. something that hadn't been done in a generation. so we're not just going to say, trust us on this. here are ten things we're going to do within the first 100 days. so whether you agree with the contract or not, i think it's a pretty good way to govern, because people knew what they were going to get when they voted. >> can you describe the atmosphere in the house during that transition to tower. >> crazy, crazy. literally, we were passing major pieces of legislation in a hundred days. i wear heels all the time, i always wear heels all the time. i never wore heels during that time. because you were running between committee meetings and hearings and markups on the floor. it was just insane. i remember, there's actually a really funny saturd"saturday ni
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live" clip with chris farley being newt newt, with just family, medical, passed, and 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 a hundred days. it was crazy. >> and what role did women republican members play during that leadership? >> women on committees, certainly being spokespeople. you know, there was never, ever an issue of if there was 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. you -- i mean -- i don't mean to make this sound like 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. you know, and getting on
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particularly cnn and doing whatever you needed to do to get the message out there. to be a messenger for the republican party. so women did a lot of that. >> one big example of that was that you gave the keynote address at the republican convention in san diego in 1996. what did that event mean to you? and how did you prepare for it? >> well, certainly, the greatest thing it meant to me was that i got to speak on behalf of somebody like bob dole, like i just can't -- you know, again, whatever your politics is, this is an american hero. and you know, 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. but the story there is, it's the first time i've worked with teleprompters, right? so for almost the day that i get to san diego, all my friends are
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there, they're having parties every tight. i am in this little trailer learning to lead from left to right so you don't look shifty. and so that's all i did. and now the way they work it is, the podium stays the same and there's a little box underneath and you go early in the day and you get measured for how high the box has to be so that the teleprompters can reach you, right? so the deal was, governor whitman, governor christie todd whitman at the time was going to introduce a clip of my district, staten island, the ferry, the whole bit, and kasich went on before me. and during that time of the clip, they adjust the thing. so john gets all excited, governor kasich, and he goes much farther and longer than he's supposed to. and he runs right into my time. now, i'm up against the hard out. in california, 8:00, but 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 run out and say, and
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now congressman susan molinari for the keynote speech and i get out there and prompters are didn't 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. and for a second you're thinking, should i say, ladies and gentlemen, we're having some technical difficulties, we're going to take a five-second break, i know i can't do that. and while i'm thinking of all of these things, i've already started the speech. so it was a little, it was what it was. but, you know, to this day, every time my dad says john kasich on tv, he says, i'll never forgive him. but it was, again, what an amazing honor to be a keynote speaker and to be a keynote speaker for bob dole was just -- 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. like, he does not see age, he does not see gender.
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he sees america. he's just a really super terrific guy. and i had gotten to know him so well on legislation and to have gotten that shot of confidence from him was really, really pretty neat. >> and his running mate as well, jack kemp, afterwards. >> yeah, it was a great, exciting time. >> were you surprised that you were asked to give the address? >> totally. so before the days of, i guess, cell phones, we were at -- we were on a slash baptizing of the baby. so the children, both girls were born in staten island and baptized in -- so sometimes we just couldn't collaborate. and we love our district so --
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and larry king was on. and i can't remember my press secretary, somehow, i guess we had peepers back in the day. people watching 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 had no clue. i hadn't even been asked to speak at the convention. i thought i was close enough to get the 4:00 in the afternoon, but that was just great. so he said, the only thing i can tell you is susan molinari will give the keynote speech. and they were like, hey, larry king, can we get susan molinari to call? and so 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.
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and of course, my husband laughs, because they had three more announcements the next day for him and all the trucks showed up for me. he was like, okay, we were here to announce that i'm running for re-election, 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 and that's rare for two sitting members to marry. so the first thing -- >> get a few more females in there and it might happen. >> exactly. >> what was the reaction of your colleagues? >> oh, they were so cute. so bill proposed to me on the house floor. it was not -- not publicly, and during those times that congress was in session, and nobody was there. and mike mcnulty, who is a member of congress from new york also, democrat, was in the chair. and they were debating some bill when my husband and i -- you know, we'd meet sometimes and chat in the back and we ran into each other and we were sitting and he said, well, i just want to like let you know they spoke
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to your mom and your dad today and then he got on his knee and handed me the ring. and i was like, okay, but get up, get up, get up. but 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 call, because it was such a divisive bill at the time. and so they wanted the members there to hear the closings of the debate. but before they did, speaker foley gave this beautiful, beautiful speech about, i just want to share with everybody, before we get into this debate, where we, you know, show the differences, that there are some really great things that on the floor of representatives and gave a beautiful little speech about bill and i getting engaged. and then the next day, there were all of these one minutes and special orders where eliot engel said, may you have a bunch of children and may they all be democrats. so it's so heartwarming to have the family of the u.s. house of representatives to congratulate us and be really happy for us.
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>> and what about your constituents? what was their reaction? >> oh, they were thrilled. they were thrilled. they were thrilled. i mean, we did so much press. we looked at this one picture, we were coming down the steps of the capitol the next day and there was 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 figures stf somebody important and they got back and were like, i don't know who they are. oh, no, the sweconstituents wero excited. by that point, i would go to a lot of his events, he would come to a lot of my events. so my little italians just loved bill. you know, the hugs and the kissing. and just, they tried to teach him how to say things in italian. so very excited. really excited. it was lovely. >> were there any challenges or obstacles to being married to another member of congress. >> no. it's -- no, because, you
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understand. i remember one time, i guess we were married, but bill had come to visit and like, we were going to go to a movie and go out to dinner when all of a sudden i got a call that there was going to be this emergency meeting on something. so you could look at somebody and say, i'm so sorry, like, this just came up and this is really important to my district and you know, we'll go out tomorrow night, but i have to do this. and he would be like, of course, i totally understand that. and then you would have to live with my dad who would be like every once in a while, i think my daughter is running for governor. my father would announce this to the press before we would have a discussion. so, no, to have somebody who understand it and respected it made it so much easier. i mean, once in a while, the travel would be an issue, right? that, you know, particularly once we had susan, that unii wo take her, and we would go back to our districts. but that was the only challenging part. but in terms of having people who understand what you're going through and needing help and
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patience, no, no, no, it's a gift. >> and just a couple of years later, as you mentioned, you had your daughter. and so you're one of a small group of women in office, in the house to give birth. what was the response of your colleagues when they heard you were pregnant? >> oh, my gosh, super. so right before me, though, was enid green walthope, who was pregnant right before me. so it wasn't quite the shock, because she had just gone through it. but the colleagues were so sweet and the gifts would pour in. and people, how are you feeling? are you tired yet? you look great. just you know, and that's when you become really close friends with your women colleagues. >> did you have any advice from them or, like you mentioned, from enid green, that anything that -- no, not really. i think that -- i think as women
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we get that we are oftentimes barraged by advice that we don't want and don't need. so sometimes we're more reticent to pour it on to another. you got it together, you don't need me. >> the unsolicited -- >> just a lot of love. >> what about blanch lambert lincoln. she also was pregnant at the same time. >> blanch and i got to be good friends because we would do tv together. some tv show came into my house and we're there with the big bellies. they're like, 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 landrieu with her adorable son sitting on the lap, who was at that age where he was just going to totally upstage mom for mother's day. and blanche lincoln was pregnant same time as i was. so it was great. and look, there's probably no easier job than being in congress when you're having a
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kid, because nobody's going to tell you not to bring your child around. so our babies were constantly with us. i mean, i went back to work right away, but i had a crib in my room. and if i had a meeting and she was sleeping, i would trade offices with my husband. literally, i would go in and i, i've got this meeting and susan's sleeping, can i be in your office. so my life was really very easy and very lucky. >> what was that, the media attention like during this time? >> so the media attention, because not only was, you know, two members married, but i gave birth a day before mother's day. so now you have the entire media world who's looking for that mother's day hook. john, get me something on mother's day, i got just the thing. so literally, we had to have a press conference like. and susan was 14 hours labor and then a cesarean and so -- and
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after they took her, i started shaking, so i was like over -- not over-medicated, but i woke up the next day and it was not pretty. and now my father is feeding my kids while i'm throwing up in the bedpan. and the world media outside ready to do an interview. but, you know, all good. all good. it's, you know, people should have such problems in life. >> sounds like a happy mother's day. it w >> it was a wonderful mother's day. the interesting thing is, i had susan while i was in congress. so we have reels and reels and reels of television coverage, newspaper coverage, coverage around the world. and i had katie when i was out of office and then, katie born to susan wallace, seven pounds. and she's like. >> you mentioned just a few minutes ago that you came back to work after only a couple of weeks. did you ever talk about maternity leave with the leadership or was it a topic
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ever discussed? >> no, virtual, because it -- i didn't work for them. i worked for the people of staten island, right? so i don't think this was an issue for me in terms of -- i mean, 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 just never, never come in. again, i was given the gift of being able to come back to work and bond with my baby. you know, i'm a big proponent of family leave andternity and paternity leave. i had a crib there at work. there was no -- if susan couldn't sleep, i would take her on the train going back and forth between the house and the little -- it's a little ride,
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but she loved it. she would go right to sleep. so one of the reasons right after i had given birth, we had a miniature replica of the vietnam wall and it was coming to ft. hamilton and my district and i really felt very strongly about having to be there. so that sort of got me started getting back into work. so there were days that you do what you have to do as a mother. but i went back early because i could, because of my extraordinary circumstances. >> besides your husband, were there other members that could have helpedout o you out in a p.
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i had forgotten my card and i had to go to the well. and susan was sleeping. i know this is hard for some people to picture. but i took the baby, and tom delay, i was like, tom, can you hold her for a minute? and she was great. but those are the things, right? there's nothing easier than making friends than when you're holding a sweet little baby, particularly when they're sleeping. >> when jeannette rankin first served in congress, there was a ton of press attention paid to her address 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?
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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, satin pants -- i wasn't wearing jeans. i remember this, i had an expensive black jacket on. one of my best outfits. 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
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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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 face to face with slobodan milosevic and wouldn't take his crap. and i was pregnant. and you knew like, this was this man's worst nightmare. like, where has the world gone wrong for me? but at the end, we were moving into sarajevo to meet with president izetbegavic at the time. people were outside applauding
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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.
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how influential was that co-del for the colleagues that went with you? 33 >> 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, 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
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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 group 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.
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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
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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
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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
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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. 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
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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.
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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
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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
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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 support for the violence against women and medical leave act? >> so if i felt there was a way to actually 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
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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
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somebody who was -- had always been really kind and really fair. and that was just his way. so sometimes you have to -- like as everything in life, you have to look at the person, 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 have not talked about my father enough during this interview, my father took this job as a 24/7 job. my father would be the one who if we were done with dinner and there was nothing else going on, he would go through the phone book.
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hi, mr. smith, it's guy molinari, huhow's it going? he just lived and breathed this. i had a baby late, and loved this job, but it's two jobs. when the media says congress is back on vacation, they're not. they're back in their district doing what they're supposed to do. and i never loved it. if you want me to be at your kids' eagle scout award, if you want me to throw out the first baseball at little league baseball, you are giving me -- you said that i can vote whether to go to war. like, this is a big deal. so wherever you want me, i am going to be all the time. so i would do that, friends would come over, take care of my daughter. she had no idea, she was having a great time, but i missed her. and i would be with her and i felt guilty about not being out at your kids' eagle scout award. so when i got the opportunity, which isn't like a good idea at the time, to anchor a show on cbs, which was supposed to be more political than it turned
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out to be. and work three days a week, sort of keep your hand in it, but not really, it just seemed like a good idea. and that -- 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 were great parents. this is not -- i hate the tutorial of like, who's a better mom in 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 leav 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? >> oh, i have to think about that one. going back to the '90s i mean, i
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think certainly, the -- it happened before, right, 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. and it was at that time, mid-80s, that we were actually dealing with the fact that there were mandatory arrests. and 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 to the -- usually the gentlemen, buddy, take a walk around, cool down. do you want to press charges. and even if the woman was clearly, clearly incapacitated, and they knew she was scared, if she said "no," done, end of deal, closed the book. to think of where we have gotten today as a society. and i remember as chairman, ied by hearings in each borough on
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domestic violence. and i remember, you know, even my data siding there hearing female victims being shocked by what they had to go through and, you know, the situation, it was that family secret. and then all of a sudden, it became applying, right? 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. you know, right now we're working on underage sex trafficking and all of a sudden it's become an issue that has become political. the united states senate passed it, you know, a major piece of legislation, underage trafficking, it passed both the senate and house republicans and democrats. but i think the violence against women was really sort of one of those, the reauthorization, it gave it us an opportunity to talk about it and 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 made it political and that's how we make changes.
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i bear no apologies to say that, you know, making something political is how you make changes in a democracy. so when people want to discuss it and have town halls on it, you know, that's when you're going to see the societal shift. and i really think that the whole issue of violence against women, you know, 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 just evaluating that conversation every time it had to be reauthorized was a really important moment, i think, at least why 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 prognosticate. there's 108 women in congress now. >> yeah. 88 in the house, 20 in the senate. looking out 50 years from now,
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50 years from jeannette rankin's centennial, which will be 2067, 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, rightright? i mean, 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's such that gives you an opportunity to be in such a life-changing position isn't going to be easy. women need to be -- so, i think we've got tten to a place where 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, so we can do this. to a point i remember when my husband was running the national
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republican congressional committee, they started to look for females. it wasn't just like, we'll let this one run because they have the right lineage, they can raise the money, they've got the background. it was, if you have two candidates being equal, the female was the one that the party would want 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 the electorate. that's just -- if we want the united states congress to reflect the united states, we got to step on it. >> if wone of your daughters tod you that they wanted to run for congress, what would you say and what advice would you offer? >> oh, and we have had these -- oddly enough, in our family, what with a 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 of -- i
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mari 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 a -- 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 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 for my little show on sta staten island, where we brought in all these human shields that saddam hussein had used to keep him safe during the first gulf war. to be able to unite with some of my sisters, to have fights about
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funding domestic violence or breast cancer or maybe doing a little part to bring peace to the former yugoslavia, where you would could you sit back and say, the glory days were pretty good. that's not to say that 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 -- i 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 is going to sound ridiculous, is how easy it was. like, if you wanted to get
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something done, it didn't always happen, but there was -- you were gifted with like incredible staff, brilliant people who were surrounding you. i mean, the thing that surprises most people when they come here is that 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 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. like i remember my dad when we won, we were walking into the fox studio on something, and i said, here's a guy you're going to work, because hays a good guy. and it was chuck schumer. and he was right. we were both new yorkers. senator schumer now. there were times we would battle, but also be times as a
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delegation, you would totally unite, and certainly if you were from new york city, you had to. 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 them. >> oh, my gosh, i hope it was okay. >> no, it's great. i had one final question for you. >> sure. 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 -- i don't think they'll remember. i was there for so short a period of time. i was such a blip. um, um, you know, 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 that she could work across the aisle and she could work with people with whom she disagreed but
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respected. and always felt really proud to be a part of this institution. >> sounds like a great legacy. >> yeah. >> thank you so much for sharing your time. >> thank you. >> oh, i want to -- no, i don't. >> oral histories with female members of congress will continue in a moment. as we show american history tv programs normally seen only on the weekends here on c-span3 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. >> wednesday night, we'll lack at presidential speech writing, including former speechwriters for bill clinton and george w. bush, talking about how they communicated policy ideas from
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the president's point of view. american history tv in prime time begins each night this week at 8:00 p.m. eastern. this august, on american strooe tv on c-span-- history t our nine-part series, america in turmoil. we'll look back to that year marked with war, political assassinations, and the rise of political left and right. starting monday, august 6th, we'll discuss the vietnam war. on tuesday, august 7th, a look at the presidential campaign of that area. wednesday, august 8th, civil rights and race relations. on thursday, august 9th, a discussion about liberal politics, and friday, august 10th, conservative politics. on friday, august 11th, women's rights. sunday, august 12th, we'll look at the media's role. on monday, august 13th, a discussion about the vietnam war
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at home. and on tuesday, august 14th, we'll close out the series focusing on the cold war. watch 1968, america in turmoil, august 6th through august 14th at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span3. pat schroeder served in the u.s. house of representatives from 1973 through 1997. as a democrat from colorado. when elected, she was one of only 14 congresswomen. next, 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 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 today we're very happy to be interviewing former congresswoman, pat


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