Senate leader presidential candidate Bob Dole dies at 98

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) – Bob Dole, who overcame crippling war injuries to become a Kansas Senate leader, a Republican presidential candidate and then a symbol and celebrant of his waning generation of WWII veterans world, has passed away.

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) – Bob Dole, who overcame crippling war injuries to become a Kansas Senate leader, a Republican presidential candidate and then a symbol and celebrant of his waning generation of WWII veterans world, has passed away. He was 98 years old.

His wife, Elizabeth Dole, said in a social media ad that he passed away early Sunday morning in his sleep.

Dole announced in February 2021 that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. During his 36-year career on Capitol Hill, Dole became one of the most influential lawmakers and party leaders in the Senate, combining a knack for compromise with a caustic spirit, which he often turned against himself but did not hesitate to turn against others. , too much.

He has shaped tax policy, foreign policy, agriculture and nutrition programs, and the rights of people with disabilities, enshrining protections against discrimination in employment, education, and public services in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Today’s accessible government offices and national parks, ramps and sign language interpreters at official local events are just a few of the most visible features of its heritage and that of the other lawmakers he brought together for this sweeping civil rights legislation 30 years ago.

Dole dedicated his final years to the cause of wounded veterans, their fallen comrades at Arlington National Cemetery and remembering the declining generation of WWII veterans.

Thousands of old soldiers gathered on the National Mall in 2004 for what Dole, speaking at the dedication of the WWII memorial, called “our last reunion.” He had been a driving force in its creation.

“Our ranks have diminished,” he said at the time. “Yet if we come together at dusk, it is enlightened by the knowledge that we have kept the faith with our comrades.”

Long gone from Kansas, Dole made his life in the capital, in the center of power, then in its shadow upon retirement, living all the time in the historic Watergate complex. When he left politics and joined a law firm of prominent Democrats, he joked that he brought his dog to work in order to have another Republican to talk to.

He has tried three times to become president. The last took place in 1996, when he won the Republican nomination to see President Bill Clinton reelected. He sought his party’s presidential nomination in 1980 and 1988 and was the 1976 GOP running mate on the losing ticket with President Gerald Ford.

Through it all he bore the mark of war. Charging a German position in northern Italy in 1945, Dole was hit by a shell fragment that crushed two vertebrae and paralyzed his arms and legs. The young army platoon leader spent three years recovering in a hospital and has never regained the use of his right hand.

To avoid embarrassing those who tried to shake his right hand, Dole still held a pen in it and extended his left hand.

Dole could be ruthless to his rivals, whether Democrats or Republicans. When George HW Bush defeated him in the 1988 New Hampshire Republican primary, Dole said, “Stop lying about my record.” If it pales beside the scorching slurs in today’s political arena, it was shocking at the time.

But when Bush died in December 2018, old rivalries were forgotten when Dole appeared in front of Bush’s coffin in the Capitol Rotunda. As an assistant lifted him from his wheelchair, a sick and sad Dole slowly stabilized and greeted his former enemy with his left hand, his chin shaking.

During a vice-presidential debate twenty years earlier with Walter Mondale, Dole had boldly and notoriously called all the American wars of this century “democratic wars”. Mondale retorted that Dole had “richly earned his reputation as a man with an ax”.

Dole initially denied saying what he had just said on this very public stage, then backed down and finally admitted he had gone too far. “I had to go for the chin strap,” he said, “and I did – mine.”

Despite all his bare manners, he believed deeply in the Senate as an institution and commanded the respect and even affection of many Democrats. Just days after Dole announced his serious cancer diagnosis, President Joe Biden visited him at his home to wish him good luck. The White House said the two were close friends from their days in the Senate.

Biden recalled in a statement on Sunday that one of his first meetings outside the White House after taking the oath of office as president was with the Doles at their Washington home.

“Like all true friendships, no matter how much time has passed, we picked up where we left off, as if it was only yesterday that we were sharing a laugh in the Senate dining room or debating the greats. problems of the day, often against each other, on the Senate floor, “said Biden.” I saw in his eyes the same light, the same bravery and the same determination that I have seen so many times before . “

Dole won a congressional seat in 1960, representing a district of western Kansas House. He rose to the Senate eight years later when Republican President Frank Carlson retired.

There, he upset his Senate colleagues with fiercely partisan and sarcastic rhetoric, delivered at the behest of President Richard Nixon. The Kansan was rewarded for his loyalty by chairing the Republican National Committee in 1971, before Nixon’s presidency collapsed in the Watergate scandal.

He served as committee chairman, majority leader, and minority leader in the Senate in the 1980s and 1990s. In total, he was the leader of the Republicans in the Senate for almost 11 and a half years, a record until what Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell beat him in 2018. It was during this time that he earned a reputation as a shrewd, pragmatic, tireless lawmaker. in working out compromises.

After the Republicans gained control of the Senate, Dole became chairman of the fiscal drafting finance committee and was hailed by deficit hawks and others for his handling of a 1982 tax bill, in which he persuaded Ronald Reagan’s White House to agree to a $ 100 billion revenue increase. to reduce the federal budget deficit.

“When Bob asked you to do something, that was it. I can tell you so much that we were able to resolve by invoking Bob’s name, ”said former GOP Senator Pat Roberts, who served alongside Dole in the Kansas Congressional delegation.

But some more conservative Republicans were dismayed that Dole had pushed for a tax hike. Georgia Representative Newt Gingrich called him a “welfare state tax collector.”

Dole became leader of the Senate in 1985 and was either majority or minority leader, depending on the ruling party, until he resigned in 1996 to devote himself to the pursuit of the presidency.

This campaign, Dole’s last, was fraught with problems from the start. He ran out of money in the spring, and Democratic ads painted GOP candidate and party-dividing House Speaker Gingrich with the same brush: as Republicans seeking to end Medicare. Clinton won by a wide margin.

He has also faced questions about his age as he was running for president at 73 – long before Biden was elected a few weeks before he turned 78 in 2020.

Relegated to private life, Dole became an elderly statesman who helped Clinton push through a chemical weapons treaty. He also took care of his wife’s political ambitions. Elizabeth Dole unsuccessfully ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, then served as a senator from North Carolina.

Dole has also gained popularity among the public as a self-deprecating launcher for the anti-impotence drug Viagra and other products.

He also continued to comment on issues and support political candidates.

In 2016, Dole initially backed former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for the GOP presidential nomination. He then warmed up Donald Trump and finally approved him.

But six weeks after the 2020 election, with Trump still refusing to concede and promoting unfounded allegations of voter fraud, Dole told the Kansas City Star: “The election is over.”

He said: “It’s a pretty bitter pill for Trump, but it’s a fact that he’s lost.”

In September 2017, Congress voted to award Dole its highest expression of appreciation for his distinguished contributions to the nation, a Congressional Gold Medal. It happened a decade after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Congress honored Dole again in 2019 by promoting him from Army Captain to Colonel, in recognition of military service that earned him two Purple Hearts.

Robert Joseph Dole was born July 22, 1923 in Russell, an agricultural and petroleum community in western Kansas. He was the oldest of four children. Her father ran a cream and egg business and ran a grain elevator, and her mother sold sewing machines and vacuum cleaners to help support the family during the Depression. Dole attended the University of Kansas for two years before enlisting in the military in 1943.

Dole met Phyllis Holden, a therapist at a military hospital, while recovering from war wounds in 1948. They married and had a daughter, Robin. The couple divorced in 1972.

Dole began his political career as a student at Washburn University, winning a seat in the Kansas House of Representatives.

He met his second wife, Elizabeth Dole, while she was working for the Nixon White House. She also served on the Federal Trade Commission and as Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Labor while Dole was in the Senate. They married in 1975.

Dole published a memoir on his wartime experiences and recovery, “A Soldier’s Story,” in 2005. The Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas maintains records of WWII veterans Kansas World.


Woodward Washington contributed. Associated Press writers Jennifer C. Kerr and Candace Smith contributed to this report.


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National WWII Memorial:

The WWII Memorial video is available at:

John Hanna and Calvin Woodward, The Associated Press

Carol N. Valencia