Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Bob Dole, longtime Republican senator and presidential candidate, dies at 98

Robert Joseph Dole, a five-term senator from Kansas whose career has lifted him from the pinnacle of political power in Congress to the lows of three failed presidential proposals, passed away Sunday at age 98.

“Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep. At the time of his death at the age of 98, he had served the United States of America for 79 years, ”said the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. said in a statement

Dole has been a permanent member of the US Senate for over three decades. As a minority leader, he helped orchestrate a radical coup in Congress by Republicans in 1994. But perhaps Dole is best remembered for what he was unable to achieve: a seat in the Oval Office.

Despite all this, Dole was a disability rights activist and a tireless advocate for veterans. His unwavering love for his home state of Kansas has driven him for over 40 years in political office.

“My legacy will be that the people of Kansas trusted me … and I did my best,” he told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff in a 2014 interview. “I’m sure I made mistakes, but I think I served Kansas well.”

Dole was born in the small town of Russell, Kansas on July 22, 1923 during the Great Depression. His father owned a small creamery, and his mother sold sewing machines, earning a modest income to support the family.

After the outbreak of World War II, Dole joined the US Army. He was promoted to junior lieutenant and served in the 10th Mountain Division. In April 1945, at the age of 21, Dole was stationed in the mountains of northern Italy when his platoon came under German machine gun and artillery fire. While trying to pull out an injured radio operator, Dole was injured by shrapnel, shattering his right shoulder and fracturing his spine. He later says that at that moment he thought both of his arms were completely severed.

Dole was sent home and spent the next three years recovering, mostly in military hospitals. At one point, he weighed just over 120 pounds. After nine operations, Dole returned to Russell, where he eventually recovered his strength. But the victims of the war will remain with him for the rest of his life. Dole was left without using his right hand and his left feeling was limited. Sometimes during his recovery, Dole would tie a six-pound lead tube to his arm to help her straighten.

After the war, Dole returned to college and received his law degree. After graduating from law school, he first took up professional politics, first as a member of the Kansas State Legislature and then as a Russell County attorney.

In 1976, Bob Dole married Elizabeth Hanford. Ms. Dole has served in both the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations and the Senate. Photo: Consolidated News Pictures / Getty Images

In 1960, Dole ran a successful campaign in the US House of Representatives, and eight years later, he won a seat in the US Senate, embarking on a career that spanned six presidential positions. In the Senate, Dole quickly earned a reputation for bridging divisions among the guerrillas.

Longtime friend and former Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate, George Mitchell, told NewsHour that he can always count on Dole, despite their political differences.

“He had a very strong innate sense of justice. I never doubted his word, and he never doubted mine, and we became close friends, despite the fact that we actively competed. It doesn’t have to be personal. You can compete on issues. Sometimes he won, sometimes I won. This is democracy, and he was a great practitioner of democracy. “

Dole was also respected by members of his own party. In 1971, President Richard Nixon appointed Dole as chairman of the Republican National Committee, and during the Watergate hearings, Dole made a name for himself defending the president.

This brought him to the attention of Mr. Nixon’s successor, President Gerald Ford, who in 1976 asked Dole to be his partner. Throughout the campaign, Dole earned praise and criticism for his sharp tongue.

Gerald Ford flanked by his wife Elizabeth and Senator Bob Dole of Kansas on August 19, 1976 at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri.  Ford wins the presidency but loses the election to Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter in November.  Photo by Dirk Halstead / Liaison

Gerald Ford, surrounded by his wife Elizabeth and Senator Bob Dole, on August 19, 1976, at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Dirk Halstead / Liaison

In an unforgettable exchange of views during the Vice President’s debate with Senator Walter Mondale, Dole called World War II and the Korean War the “Democratic Wars,” suggesting that responsibility for the victims of those wars rests with that side. This remark brought him an immediate rebuke, including from Mondale himself, who called Dole a “axman.”

Years later, Dole told NewsHour correspondent Jim Lehrer that he regretted these comments. Mr. Ford ultimately lost the general election to President Jimmy Carter.

In 1980, Dole aspired to the presidency again, but resigned after failing in the New Hampshire primaries. Then in 1988 he lost the Republican nomination to then Vice President George W. Bush. It was during these elections that Dole’s temperament again caught the attention of the entire country.

In an interview with Tom Brokaw on NBC, Dole pointedly told Bush to “stop lying about my track record,” when asked if he had anything to say to his opponent. The remark comes after Dole’s criticism of Dole was published during the Bush campaign in New Hampshire.

Republican presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole and her husband, former Senator Bob Dole, wave to the crowd at the Hilton Coliseum, where Iowa Republicans conducted their annual poll on Aug. 14.  against President Clinton in 1996.  Photo Reuters[ElizabethDoleisseekingarunattheWhiteHousefollowingherhusband'sfailedattemptagainstPresidentClintonin1996PhotobyReuters[ElizabethDoleisseekingarunattheWhiteHousefollowingherhusband'sfailedattemptagainstPresidentClintonin1996PhotobyReuters

Republican presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole and her husband, former Senator Bob Dole, wave to the crowd at the Hilton Coliseum, where Iowa Republicans conducted their annual poll on Aug. 14. against President Clinton in 1996. Photo Reuters[ElizabethDoleisseekingarunattheWhiteHousefollowingherhusband’sfailedattemptagainstPresidentClintonin1996PhotobyReuters[ElizabethDoleisseekingarunattheWhiteHousefollowingherhusband’sfailedattemptagainstPresidentClintonin1996PhotobyReuters

Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole and his wife Elizabeth rally in San Diego to prepare for the last presidential debate in 1996.  Photo by J. David Eyck / AFP / Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole and his wife Elizabeth rally in San Diego to prepare for the last presidential debate in 1996. Photo by J. David Eyck / AFP / Getty Images

It wasn’t until 1996, at the age of 73, that Dole finally secured a Republican nomination for president, making him the oldest presidential candidate ever to run for president. However, the run was short-lived. Dole has been criticized for lacking a specific agenda and for going too far to the right in an attempt to pacify his Republican base. In the general election, he suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of incumbent President Bill Clinton.

In his concession speech, Dole contemplated ending his political career, leaving his supporters with the following words: “Any of you wondering what my future plans might be, I’m going to sit for a few days, and then I’m going to start advocating that what I think is right for America and right for you. “

Dole kept his word. After leaving office, Dole continued his activities as an advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. In 2012, just weeks after being discharged from hospital, Dole delivered an impassioned speech in the Senate Hall, urging Congress to endorse a United Nations treaty outlawing discrimination against people with disabilities. The measure was rejected.

After leaving office, Dole also spent a lot of time with veteran groups. He was one of the main supporters of the construction of the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C., and showed up regularly after its completion to meet with veterans.

In February 2021, Dole announced that he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and would begin treatment.

“While I definitely have some obstacles ahead of me, I also know that I join the millions of Americans who are facing serious health problems themselves,” he said.

“I don’t know what my legacy will be,” he told NewsHour in 2014. “That I lived to be 200 or at least 100 and never forgot where I came from.”

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