[guest post by JVW]
Dana put up a very lovely post earlier this morning about Senator Bob Dole, who died yesterday at the age of 98. Because the Senator loomed large as a political figure in the final quarter of the past century, his death has elicited plenty of obituaries, remembrances, reflections, and memorial about the Kansas war hero. And naturally, the media being the media, they want to use his death to subtly take a poke at the GOP of today. Here, for example, is what Connie Cass and Calvin Woodward of the AP would like us to know about the Dole legacy:
In the Senate, Dole began to see the value of forging alliances with Democrats, and it became a lifelong habit. He teamed with Democrats to uphold civil rights, expand food stamps, shore up Social Security and create the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday as well as to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As Senate Finance Committee chairman, Dole won praise for his handling of a 1982 tax bill that raised revenue to ease the budget deficit. Some fellow Republicans were appalled by higher taxes, however. Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., called him “the tax collector for the welfare state.”
Dole didn’t think much of Gingrich at the time. “He’s just difficult to work with,” he said. “It’s either Newt’s way or the highway. He’s got a lot of ideas. Some of them are good; not many.”
This sentiment is echoed by CNN, the home channel of the disgraced Cuomo brothers, where some twerp called Gregory Krieg takes pains to contrast the late Senator with today’s rambunctious McConnellites, informing us that “The bipartisan outpouring of praise following the death on Sunday of Republican Bob Dole, the longtime Senate leader and former presidential nominee, mourned both a man and a more outwardly collegial era as Republicans drive the country toward another debt ceiling deadline crisis and party leadership downplays dangerous radicalism in its ranks.” Get that? It’s Republicans who are reckless in their partisanship, certainly not the sainted Democrats who, after all, only want what’s best for America, even though that remarkably seems to dovetail perfectly with the interests of untouchable government bureaucrats, academic elites, wealthy trial lawyers, and left-wing advocacy groups.
I have a feeling I would find similar sentiments if I checked the opinionated news coverage from the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other mainstream media outlets, but I’m not going to bother to slip past the various firewalls to do so.
In the media’s telling, Sen. Dole was at his most heroic when he voted to raise taxes and expand welfare services. They tell us that as Senate Finance Committee chairman he raised taxes in 1982 without mentioning that just one year earlier in that same role he shepherded through the Reagan tax cut package by a 89-11 vote in the Senate, a massive bipartisan success if ever there were one. The AP reporters certainly don’t mention the aftermath of the 1992 election which saw Bill Clinton defeat the incumbent President George H.W. Bush largely by demagoguing the extent of the recession (which had ended several months earlier) and by putting together a tax-and-spending plan that even the New York Times Editorial Board acknowledged did not add up at all. As Mr. Clinton was taking office, Senate Minority Leader Dole warned the incoming President that Republicans would challenge him on his excesses, and indeed the Senator was extremely effective in keeping his party together to filibuster a stimulus package that was no longer necessary and was simply a payoff to Democrat* advocacy groups who had supported the Clinton candidacy. Leader Dole also held together Republicans, with the exception of Sen. John Chaffee of Rhode Island, against the Clinton plan to nationalize healthcare via Hillary Clinton’s bureaucracy-heavy bill. The AP might have mentioned other bipartisan successes during the Dole-Clinton years such as welfare reform, which the President fought kicking-and-screaming until his pollsters informed him that the American public strongly supported it. They could have also told us that President Clinton ended up adopting many sections of the Dole-Kemp tax agenda from the 1996 election, including cuts for small businesses and on capital gains, which passed through Congress and were signed into law by the President in the first year of his second term. But of course in the world of the Democrat media, Bill Clinton single-handedly balanced the budget on his own accord, despite campaigning for reelection on the idea that even attempting to balance the budget would be reckless and foolhardy, and bipartisanship is only when Republicans reluctantly accede to Democrat demands.
Bob Dole did indeed work with Democrats on important initiatives when it made sense to do so, but he also was willing to play the obstructionist when he thought the other party was pursuing an agenda that was against the interests of the American people. He kept Senate Republicans together to ensure that there were zero GOP votes for the Clinton Administration Budget in 1993 — in fact, five Senate Democrats voted against the Clinton budget, so the “no” vote was the true bipartisan sentiment. Having unanimity among Republicans helped make the party’s case in the 1994 midterm elections which swept the GOP back into power, and allowed the newly-empowered majority party to begin the process of forcing President Clinton back to the center. It should be noted that in the election which he lost rather handily (31 states to 19), the American people recognized Bob Dole’s Senate leadership by increasing the GOP’s majority in the chamber where he so effectively served.
After a heroic life of service to his country and to his party, Bob Dole deserves much more than being the latest deceased “good” Republican, used by the media as a foil to today’s living “bad” Republicans. He continued to support GOP candidates throughout his retirement, including the most recent party nominee for the Oval Office. When he lost to an opponent who showed nowhere near his character or gravitas, in explaining what he planned to do going forward, Bob Dole hearkened back to his arrival in the Kansas legislature 46 years earlier. “A reporter asked me what I had on my agenda,” he recounted, “and I said, ‘well I’m going to sit back and watch for a few days, then I’ll stand up for what I think is right.'” He continued, “And if any of you are wondering what my plans may be for the future, I’m going to sit back for a few days and then start standing up for what I believe is right for America.” Bob Dole should be remembered as one who stood up for the things he believed were right for America, irrespective of whether it met with the approval of the shallow and delusional media elite.
* I adopted my insistence on referring to the body as the “Democrat” Party rather than the “Democratic” Party — peevish though it may be — from Bob Dole.