Bob Dole, longtime Senate leader and 1996 GOP presidential candidate, dies at 98

Despite being a staunch conservative who focused on balancing spending, deficit reduction, and foreign policy, Dole was never beholden to the party line during his years in Congress representing his state. ‘origin. He co-wrote food stamp legislation with a progressive icon, persuaded President Ronald Reagan to pass tax increases, and sympathized with President Bill Clinton for dealing with stubborn President Newt Gingrich. House, in the 1990s – “No, you talk to him,” Dole would say to Clinton.

Dole went on to win the Republican presidential nomination and ran against Clinton in 1996, 20 years after being the party’s running mate in 1976. He has lost both times, the only American politician to ever win. to do.

Dole was a Washington regular who was wary of the pitfalls of Beltway life. Appreciated on both sides of the political spectrum, his relentlessness in Congress once inspired another DC mainstay and frequent Senate training partner, Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, to break Senate protocol in 1986 and s ‘address directly to Dole.

“I learned a lot from you,” Byrd said. “It is this tenacity, this courage and this perseverance, and yet this good humor and this joviality, that help to brighten our day. It is a pleasure to serve with you.

Dole’s presidential race in 1996 garnered him the most national attention, but his four-plus decades in politics have left an imprint on American politics. In fact, in the early 90s, Dole himself believed he had given his country all he could. But a trip in 1994 to the Normandy beaches on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of D-Day convinced him to go there for the last time.

“I decided that there was maybe one more chance, one more opportunity of service – for my generation – one more mission,” he said later.

Dole resigned his Senate seat in June 1996 with typical frankness, saying he had “nowhere to go but the White House or home.” In a display of conservative appeasement, he chose Jack Kemp, a congressman from New York and supply-side economic evangelist, as his running mate.

The two were a strange, if not well-established couple.

Dole was sarcastic, at times irascible, and had the weight of 11 years as the Senate Republican leader behind him. Washingtonian magazine dubbed him the Congressman with the best sense of humor.

Kemp was a technocrat, the force behind a massive tax cut in 1981, then the largest in American history. Dole had criticized the measure as a budget inflating bill, which prompted Kemp to retort: ​​“In a recent fire, Bob Dole’s library burned down. Both books were lost. And he hadn’t even finished coloring one of them.

Washingtonian dubbed Congressman Kemp with the worst sense of humor.

Early in the campaign, Clinton described Dole as old – the GOP candidate was 73 at the time – and out of touch. In his acceptance speech, Clinton overturned Dole’s rhetoric of the Republican convention that Dole-Kemp was a “bridge” to a better America of the past. “We don’t need to build a bridge to the past, we need to build a bridge to the future,” Clinton said.

Clinton also linked Dole to consecutive government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, even though Gingrich was the tactician behind these maneuvers. And with Dole enjoying a widespread 15% tax cut, Clinton has shifted to center after failing to capitalize on many of his 1992 campaign proposals for bold and progressive government programs like universal health care.

But often people just remember how Dole referred to himself.

“Make no mistake, Bob Dole will be the Republican candidate,” Dole said in the primaries.

“Bob Dole will not veto these bills,” Dole said in the general election.

“I think the best thing for Bob Dole is for Bob Dole to keep his word,” Dole said during the first debate.

“He brings out the name,” Dole said when asked about his propensity for third person.

Clinton sailed to victory thanks to his incumbent popularity and a growing US economy, carrying 31 states and the District of Columbia. While Dole’s presidential race made his name known nationwide, he had already spent more than three decades at the center of most budget, tax and foreign policy discussions. His style was to tinker with budget-cutting bills – a few million here, a few million there – more concerned with getting the bill through than with strict ideological rigidity.

“Dole has always wanted progressive victory,” said his former chief of staff, Sheila Burke, for a oral history project. “When was the last time you lost work for your sake?” Was his general philosophy.

She summed up Dole’s state of mind: “Never say never until it’s done.

This attitude was present throughout his life.

In 1942, at the age of 19, Dole left the University of Kansas in his second year to enlist in the military, where he achieved the rank of second lieutenant in the 10th Mountain Division of the ‘army.

On April 14, 1945, as the war drew to a close, the Dole division engaged the German army near Castel d’Aiano, Italy. The Americans pushed the Germans back from the heights, killing more than 500 people in the process.

Seeing a radioman on the ground, Dole knocked to help the fallen soldier. But German fire tore his back, spinal cord and right shoulder. For hours, Dole was paralyzed, arms crossed, motionless on his chest, drifting in and out of consciousness.

“I guess some Germans thought I was a good target,” Dole later dictated curtly in a letter to her mother from the hospital.

It took hours before a doctor could reach it. And it took three years before he could leave the hospital completely, suffering from two near-fatal spikes in fever, multiple surgeries, a lost kidney and shoulder. He ultimately left with a non-functioning right arm, only a few active fingers on his left hand, and a weight loss of over 70 pounds.

Still, Dole finished his law school memorizing lessons from tape recordings he made, unable to take notes. Returning to Kansas, he began his four-decade journey in politics. Even into his’ 80s, Dole continued to show up at DC law firm Alston & Bird in his crisp Brooks Brothers suit, hair combed with a barber comb he wore in his back pocket for decades.

Dole was born at the Dust Bowl Center in Russell, Kan., The kind of place where in the 1930s people constantly had to pick up dust from their homes. residence.

Her parents raised their family in a one-story brick house.

” Four of us, the kids and my parents lived in the basement apartment for years so we could get the rent money by renting the downstairs, ” Dole recalled in 1985. ” My father ran a dairy and a grain elevator. My mother sold sewing machines and gave sewing lessons.

Dole’s parents also had a modest education – one of Dole’s grandfathers lost his land during the Great Depression, while the other was a tenant farmer.

“We don’t come from our family’s money,” Dole said. “I’m a little aware of people who work hard all their lives and don’t quite get it. “

As a child, Dole worked hard – and he always had a plan. It was Dole who insisted on using the $ 26 he saved from odd jobs to buy the family a bike so the four children could have paper routes.

He carried this plan over to his time in the military.

“I was young and strong, and had an incredible desire to live,” Dole wrote of her recovery in her 2005 memoir, “One Soldier’s Story.”

He first ran a few years after that resumption and was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 1950. Two years later he became a Russell County District Attorney. The job in his hometown included a sobering moment that would likely inform his later work on welfare programs: Dole had to sign the papers for her grandfather’s welfare check every month.

“A difficult thing to do” he remembered three decades later.

In 1960, Dole was elected to the House of Representatives, moving his career to Washington. In 1968 he won a Senate seat, soon becoming a leader of the Republican Party.

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