Bob Dole, war hero, longtime US senator, presidential candidate, dies at 98
WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (Reuters) – Bob Dole, who overcame serious combat injuries in World War II to become a prominent figure in American politics as longtime Republican senator from Kansas and his party’s unsuccessful candidate for the 1996 presidential election, died Sunday. He was 98 years old.
Dole, known for his self-deprecating to caustic spirit, died in his sleep, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation said. Dole announced in February that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and would begin treatment. Read more
“America has lost one of its heroes; our family has lost their rock,” Dole’s family said in a statement. “He embodied the integrity, humor, compassion and boundless work ethic of the Great Open Plains of his youth. He was a powerful voice for pragmatic conservatism.”
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Dole claimed the presidency three times and was the Republican Party candidate in 1996, but lost to Democratic President Bill Clinton. Dole was his party’s running mate in 1976 on a ticket led by outgoing President Gerald Ford, but they lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter and his running mate Walter Mondale. Read more
Dole, known to refer to himself in the third person, took a classic American journey from the poverty of the Great Depression of the 1930s, through the battlefields of World War II to the halls of power with dignity stoic of the Midwest.
He represented Kansas in Congress for 35 years: from 1961 to 1969 in the House of Representatives and from 1969 to 1996 in the Senate. Dole helped lead Republican President Ronald Reagan’s legislative agenda as Senate Majority Leader in the 1980s and led his own important legislation.
Dole, who lost the use of his right arm to a war injury, was an advocate for people with disabilities and worked to shore up the finances of the Social Security retirement program. Dole was instrumental in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, outlawing discrimination based on disability in employment, public housing, and transportation.
He was also a key figure behind the construction of a memorial to Americans who served in World War II on Washington’s National Mall, now a popular tourist stop.
President Joe Biden recalled fondly his visit to Dole in February at the Watergate compound in Washington where he was residing.
“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 big issues of the day, often against each other, on the floor. of the Senate, “Biden said in a statement.
“Although we often disagree, he never shied away from working with me or other Democrats when it mattered most,” Biden said in a statement, contrasting with today’s bitter partisanship which made it difficult for the main parties to cooperate on legislation.
Former President Donald Trump called Dole an “American war hero”. In a statement, Trump added that “the Republican Party has been made stronger by his service.”
Dole, who described himself as “a trumper” in support of the former president, expressed impatience in July over Trump’s ongoing allegation that the 2020 election was stolen from him because of a massive electoral fraud – a claim that has been rejected by several challenge courts and Trump’s own Justice Department.
“He lost the election, and I regret that he did,” Dole told USA Today’s Susan Page. “I’m kind of cheated,” he added.
“When I think of the larger generation, I think of Senator Bob Dole – a man who dedicated his life to serving our country. Rest in peace, my friend,” wrote Senator Mitt Romney, former Republican presidential candidate , on Twitter.
American flags have been ordered to fly at half mast at the White House, the United States Capitol and other federal buildings.
“To those who think that I am too combative, I say if I am combative, it is for love of the country”, declared Dole in his speech accepting the presidential nomination of his party in 1996. “… And to those to those who believe that I live and breathe compromise, I say that in politics honorable compromise is not a sin. It is what protects us from absolutism and intolerance. “
Dole beat rivals, including conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, to secure the nomination. At 73, he came face to face with then-50-year-old Clinton, a charismatic embodiment of the post-war baby boomer who had previously resisted accusations of adultery and military escape.
Dole subtly touched on Clinton’s past, saying, “If something happened along the way and you had to leave your kids with Bob Dole or Bill Clinton, I think you would probably leave them with Bob Dole. “
Clinton beat Dole, garnering 49% of the vote against 41% for Dole and 8% for third challenger Ross Perot. Dole won 19 of 50 states, losing the state-by-state Electoral College by 379-159.
Clinton in 1997 awarded Dole the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. Dole received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2018, the highest honor that Congress can bestow.
On Capitol Hill, Dole was a pragmatic conservative and effective lawmaker appreciated by Democrats and Republicans alike for his ability to form coalitions and pass widely acceptable laws. He was Senate Majority Leader from 1985 to 1987, then again from 1995 to 1996, and Senate Minority Leader from 1987 to 1995.
Dole gained a reputation for sometimes lashing out at rivals and took on the role of “henchman” as Ford’s running mate in 1976.
In a debate with Mondale in 1976, Dole said, “If we add up the killed and wounded in the Democratic wars of this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans, enough to fill the city of Detroit.” Trying to get over that statement, Dole displayed a flash of humor as he said, “They told me to go get the chin strap, so I did – mine.”
When he sought the Republican nomination for president in 1988, Dole lashed out at Vice President George HW Bush, saying, “Stop lying about my case.” Bush won the nomination and the presidency. Dole attended Bush’s 2018 funeral at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, rising from his wheelchair with the help of an assistant and raising his left hand in a final salute.
Dole also sought the 1980 Republican presidential nomination ultimately won by Reagan.
Dole’s wife, Elizabeth, served as a Republican Senator from North Carolina from 2003-2009, and Bush’s Secretary of Labor and Reagan’s Transportation Secretary.
Robert Joseph Dole was born July 22, 1923, one of four children of a grain elevator manager and traveling saleswoman in Russell, Kansas.
As a lieutenant in the United States Army during World War II, he led an assault on a nest of German machine guns in Italy. One shell destroyed his right shoulder, paralyzed his right arm, shattered vertebrae, riddled his body with shrapnel and cost him a kidney. Decorated for heroism, Dole spent 39 months in hospitals before returning to civilian life.
Dole attended law school unable to write, but got by with the help of his first wife, Phyllis, who transcribed the lessons he recorded. Dole had a daughter, Robin, from her first marriage.
Dole got involved in the 2016 Republican presidential campaign by supporting Jeb Bush and joining his campaign. After Bush’s abandonment, Dole supported future winner Donald Trump. Former Dole adviser Paul Manafort served as Trump’s campaign chairman. In 2017, Dole praised Trump for “helping immensely in restoring our position as leader of the free world.”
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Reporting by Will Dunham; Additional reports by Susan Heavey, Matt Spetalnick, David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Editing by Howard Goller, Lisa Shumaker and Diane Craft
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