Former US Senator Bob Dole dies at 98

Bob Dole, who overcame crippling war wounds to become a Kansas-sharp-tongued US Senate leader, a Republican presidential candidate and then a symbol and celebrant of his waning generation of World War II veterans , is dead. He was 98 years old.

His wife, Elizabeth Dole, posted the announcement on Twitter on Sunday.

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.

Defender of Injured Veterans

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.

Dole, a World War II veteran and former senator, attends a Veterans Day ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC on November 11, 2016. (Olivier Douliery / AFP / Getty Images)

“Our ranks have diminished,” he said at the time. “Yet if we meet 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 Washington, DC, at 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.

Election lost to Bill Clinton

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

Dole, left, gives a thumbs up as President Bill Clinton waves to the audience following a presidential debate in Hartford, Connecticut on October 6, 1996. (Reuters)

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.

Feisty with rivals including Bush

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.

Dole, left, sits with former President George HW Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush on the second night of the 2004 Republican National Convention, at Madison Square Garden in New York City on August 31, 2004. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters)

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 was supposed to go for the chin strap,” he said, “and I did – mine.”

Close friends of Biden

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.

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.

Dole, a former Senate Majority Leader, right, speaks after receiving the McGovern-Dole Leadership Award by then-Vice President Joe Biden to honor his leadership in the fight against hunger, during a ceremony in Washington on December 11. 2013. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / The Associated Press)

There he upset his fellow Senate colleagues with fiercely partisan and sarcastic rhetoric, delivered at the behest of then-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 period that he earned a reputation as a wise, pragmatic lawmaker, tireless in finding compromises. .

Deficit reduction tax bill

After the Republicans won control of the Senate, Dole became chairman of the tax-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.

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.

Democrats pushed Medicare in last campaign

This campaign, Dole’s last, was fraught with problems from the start. He ran out of money in the spring, and Democratic ads painted Republican nominee 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.

Robert Joseph Dole was born July 22, 1923 in Russell, an agricultural and petroleum community in western Kansas. He 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.

He met his second wife, Elizabeth Hanford, while she worked for the Nixon White House, and they married in 1975. She unsuccessfully ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, then served a term. Senator from North Carolina.

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