Patterico's Pontifications


Gentleman, Veteran, Politician: Bob Dole Remained True To Himself

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:06 am

[guest post by Dana]

It is a delight to watch Bob Dole riffing on his election loss on the Dave Letterman Show in 1996, just days after losing to Bill Clinton. A three-time presidential hopeful, Dole was a reminder that a politician’s love for country and fellow man needn’t be sacrificed to ruthless ambition and that being a gentleman in victory and defeat was, and still is, a noble thing:

In an op-ed by Bob Dole’s national press secretary during his 1996 presidential campaign, Nelson Warfield gives an example of Dole embracing his independent spirit and compassion – even as it cost him political points:

Over and over again, in speech after speech, he told his campaign he was going to say what he wanted. We thought that was a problem. Looking back, I think it was a treasure.

See, Mr. Dole didn’t want to be packaged like a product or traffic in the staged outrage that today would be praised for generating attention, the currency of politics. It could be that his resistance to our demands to recite talking points or perform anger hurt his campaign. But if so, I now see that as an indictment of what politics was becoming in 1996 and what politics has become today.

It’s in unscripted moments that politicians reveal the most about themselves. While many politicians show themselves to be cynical, cruel or inauthentic in those off-script moments, Mr. Dole instead revealed a rare empathy.

For example, in 1996, Gov. Pete Wilson of California, a Republican, had won re-election two years prior with a tough law-and-order message, so we organized a trip to a jail in Los Angeles, with Mr. Wilson in tow, for a tour and a news conference.

It was a perfectly staged opportunity for Mr. Dole to say something bashing the miserable offenders he had just seen in the lockup. Instead, his first comment was to wonder aloud whether some of the men in those cells had ever been touched by the hand of someone who loved them.

Nobody had written that note of humanity for Mr. Dole. I’m not sure it was even picked up by the press. But it sprang from a compassion that he found hard to switch off for political purposes.

And this struck me as something precious and lost in today’s hurly-burly world: Bob Dole could frequently be found at the World War II Memorial greeting and speaking with visiting veterans. He worked hard to see the Memorial become a reality, and it has been suggested that there might not even be the World War II Memorial without his involvement.

You can read more about the life and times of Bob Dole here.

May he rest in peace.


42 Responses to “Gentleman, Veteran, Politician: Bob Dole Remained True To Himself”

  1. Good morning.

    Dana (174549)

  2. He was a great American with a great sense of humor, and would’ve made a solid president.

    Paul Montagu (5de684)

  3. What struck me most about Dole and his time in politics, was that there didn’t use to be this do-or-die demand for loyalty to one’s political party. Politicians were willing to work across the aisle, and I would say that they were compelled to do so by their constituents. Today, and certainly on both sides of the aisle, there is an expectation that politicians put political parties above all else and that not doing so almost guarantees a loss of support when election time rolls around.

    Dana (174549)

  4. there is an expectation that politicians put political parties above all else

    Dole defiance of this expectation could explain his endorsement and his voting twice for Outsider Trump.

    BuDuh (4a7846)

  5. Gentleman, Veteran, Politician: Bob Dole Remained True To Himself

    My sentiments exactly, Dana. May he rest in peace and his remembrance always be a monument of pride and honor to his family.

    nk (1d9030)

  6. BuDuh:

    You make a fair point in your #5. But bear this in mind, too:

    “He lost the election, and I regret that he did, but they did,” Dole said. “He had Rudy Giuliani running all over the country, claiming fraud. He never had one bit of fraud in all those lawsuits he filed and statements he made.”

    “I’m a Trumper,” Dole said at one point during the conversation. But he added at another, “I’m sort of Trumped out, though.”

    Appalled (1a17de)

  7. Everyone I know agrees that Trump lost the election, Appalled. Good on Dole for having been sensible like the rest of us despite the desperate characterizations.

    Also good on him accepting “Trumper” as a badge of honor, no matter how tiring it became. Part and parcel of an honorable man staying true to himself.

    BuDuh (4a7846)

  8. “I’m a Trumper,” Dole said at one point during the conversation. But he added at another, “I’m sort of Trumped out, though.”
    I can dig it.

    mg (15c28b)

  9. Dole was a conservative in the truest sense: he disliked change. Even when it was needed, which is why I had such problems with him.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  10. The best summary tribute to Dole that I’ve seen comes from George Will:

    The melancholy dimension of Dole’s life was not that he failed to attain the presidency, for which he was not well-suited, but that in 1996 in quest of it, he left the Senate he loved and where he excelled.

    (I voted for Dole for president in 1996, but agree with Will that the legislative skills Dole had, made him a mediocre fit for the presidency. But character counts, or at least it once did, and so he was an easy choice over Clinton.)

    Jim Miller (edcec1)

  11. I think this is a great post by Dana, which uses two anecdotes to get to the heart of what a tremendous gentleman Bob Dole was. I toured the Bob Dole Museum in Lawrence, Kansas a few years ago and enjoyed it very much.

    I am going to put up a post later today about the media reaction to Sen. Dole’s passing. Suffice to say, I have some issues with it.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  12. My memory of Dole can’t comes from watching his eulogy at Nixon’s funeral. His display of genuine emotion really humanized him.

    Rip Murdock (25d26f)

  13. #8

    The myth of the stolen election is part of the Trump brand, at least in 2021. Your friends may know that it’s false, but we’re still stuck with the assertions of theft, and the demand by Trump that these assertions be front and center of the GOP platform. David Perdue would not be running for governor whining that Kemp “failed us”, without that narrative.

    Appalled (1a17de)

  14. ……….
    In the vice-presidential debate with Sen. Walter F. Mondale of Minnesota, he said that the U.S. wars of the 20th century, from World War I to Vietnam, were “Democrat wars.”

    Mondale responded: “I think Senator Dole has richly earned his reputation as a hatchet man tonight.”
    That was his introduction to the national audience. By playing the attack dog, Mr. Dole allowed Ford to run a “Rose Garden” campaign intended to take advantage of his incumbency and project a presidential appearance.

    Years later, Mr. Dole lamented the remark. “One of my heroes was FDR, and I’m a World War II veteran, so it wasn’t my view to run around and say, ‘Well, the Democrats started all the wars in the world.’ ”

    It upset him politically, too. “I went for the jugular — my own,” he said.
    By December 1942, one year after the United States entered World War II, he joined the Army’s Enlisted Reserve Corps. He was called to active duty in June 1943 and, after Officer Candidate School, was appointed second lieutenant in November 1944.

    On April 14, 1945 — 24 days before the war ended in Europe and two months after he first saw combat — his life was changed forever near the town of Castel d’Aiano in the Apennine Mountains southwest of Bologna. He wrote in his memoir, “One Soldier’s Story”: “As the mortar round, exploding shell, or machine gun blast — whatever it was, I’ll never know — ripped into my body, I recoiled, lifted off the ground a bit, twisted in the air, and fell face down in the dirt.”

    He continued: “Then the horror hit me — I can’t feel anything below my neck! I didn’t know it at the time, but whatever it was that hit me had ripped apart my shoulder, breaking my collarbone and my right arm, smashing down into my vertebrae, and damaging my spinal cord.”

    The lieutenant was given a shot of morphine — his blood was used to mark the letter M on his forehead to avoid a second and possibly fatal dose — and little hope for survival. Eventually the battle moved on, he was moved to an evacuation point, and, from a hospital in Casablanca, shipped stateside, arriving at Winter General Army Hospital in Topeka, Kan., plaster encasing him from chin to hips.

    So began 39 months of recuperation in and out of military hospitals. He could not feed himself or hold a cigarette. Life-threatening infection led to the removal of a kidney and his treatment with what was then an experimental antibiotic, streptomycin, initially used to treat tuberculosis. The people of Russell collected money in cigar boxes to help pay for reconstructive surgery.


    Rip Murdock (25d26f)

  15. I remember the excitement of Dole adding Kemp to his ticket in ’96….but alas, a pretty good economy and no big foreign policy challenges and Kemp not energizing the campaign like many of us had hoped…made it tough to unseat a relatively smooth (shall we say slick?) incumbent. The fact is too….the consummate legislator-insider has always been an awkward fit for Chief Executive (Obama was hardly a long-timer and had much more novelty about him). But Dole got my vote without hesitation….though I was far more conservative in my beliefs at the time than the pragmatic Dole. Like McCain 12 years later, Dole offered a gruff…been there, done that….personna that suggests low-drama competence and a gentleman-esque approach to the campaign that some of us miss. I can’t imagine Dole copying any of Trump’s antics or wanting to defend them as Majority Leader. I think I’ll choose to believe that Dole simply got caught up with Trump-mania like many on the Right. Hey, everyone loves the chaos of the circus…I’ll give a 90-something-year-old-veteran the benefit of the doubt…..if anyone earned it, it was Bob Dole…..

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74)

  16. As noted on another thread, always found Dole’s constant use of the third person when referring to himself to be strange. You can almost hear him muttering to the nurse when born; when asking for his divorce; exiting a taxi cab or bargaining with the Almighty on his departure to the hear-after, declaring: “Bob Dole wants out!”

    The late Norm MacDonald’s impression of ‘Dole’ on SNL was hilarious- and spot on, too:

    Even Dole appreciated it:

    ‘WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole is remembering the late Norm Macdonald for his comedic talents. Macdonald portrayed the senator from Kansas on Saturday Night Live. The two met about a week after Dole lost the 1996 election. “Norm @normmacdonald was a great talent, and I loved laughing with him on SNL,” tweeted Dole.’

    As a person, Dole was quite a witty and funny fellow– traits he mostly hid as a campaigning politician. The nickname ‘Hatchet Man’ stuck, and his cranky line, “Stop lying about my record” still echoes. Spoke w/Dole briefly years ago via CSPAN a few days after he delivered Nixon’s eulogy as well– [which The Big Dick asked him to do.] A sympathetic tribute to be sure [worth a read/watch for you youngsters]– but delivered by one of Nixon’s biggest apologists. I admired the man for his service– but the politician, much less so. Still, his capacity to compromise is sorely needed today.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  17. Everyone I know agrees that Trump lost the election, Appalled. Good on Dole for having been sensible like the rest of us despite the desperate characterizations.

    Heh: “desperate characterizations”.

    Dana (8e6522)


    “Hey, hey! What about that- Bob Dole, Chinaman! Hard work and good in math!?!?” – MacDonald as Dole

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  19. My memory of Dole can’t comes from watching his eulogy at Nixon’s funeral.

    You may recall that Sen. Dole punctuated his narration of President’s Nixon’s life with the continual comment of “How American!” Here is a taste:

    I believe that the second half of the twentieth century will be known as the “Age of Nixon.” Why was he the most durable public figure of our time? Not because he gave the most eloquent speeches, but because he provided the most effective leadership.

    Not because he won every battle, but because he always embodied the deepest feelings of the people he led.

    How American.

    One of his biographers said that Richard Nixon was “one of us.” And so he was.

    He was the boy who heard train whistles in the night and dreamed of all the distant places that lay at the end of the track. How American.

    He was the grocer’s son who got ahead by working harder and longer than everyone else. How American.

    He was the student who met expenses by doing research at the law library for 35 cents an hour, while sharing a rundown farmhouse without water or electricity. How American.

    He was the husband and father who said that the best memorial to his wife was her children. How American.

    In a very touching statement on Sen. Dole’s passing yesterday, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower returned the salute:

    We are deeply saddened by the passing of Senator Bob Dole, a dear and treasured friend of the Nixon family and an American patriot who will always be remembered as one of the greatest of the Greatest Generation. A product of our country’s heartland, he served our nation with great heart, intelligence, and dedication during the many decades of his public life.

    We share the extraordinary admiration that our parents held for this remarkable man. Few Americans have given as much to our nation, at as great a personal cost, as Bob Dole. Decorated and disabled war hero, accomplished legislator, tireless chair of the Republican National Committee, effective Senate Republican leader, proud standard bearer of the GOP as President Ford’s running mate in 1976 and as his party’s presidential nominee in 1996.

    Both in and out of public office, Bob Dole has inspired countless numbers of his fellow citizens by his courage, character, and commitment to our nation and its veterans. How American.

    Today, our family joins with Elizabeth, Robin, and millions of grateful Americans in giving thanks for Senator Dole’s — our dear friend Bob’s — unmatched life of devoted, patriotic service.

    Grace meets grace.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  20. @20.

    A POLITICAL LIFE — The Nixon Years; For Dole, Nixon Was a Mirror and a Mentor

    “While Mr. Dole certainly rose to prominence during the Nixon years, that rise carried a high price. It was in his self-appointed role as President Nixon’s defender on the Senate floor that Mr. Dole first earned his damaging — and enduring — reputation as a hatchet man. (So antagonistic was Mr. Dole, former Senator William B. Saxbe memorably observed, that “he couldn’t sell beer on a troopship.”)

    During these years, Mr. Dole was subject to private insults as well.

    For all his championing of the President’s most unpopular policies, he remained outside Mr. Nixon’s inner circle, often humiliatingly so. He was frequently ignored and occasionally even mocked by the President’s closest advisers. And though Mr. Dole pleaded to stay, Mr. Nixon unceremoniously dumped him as party chairman after the 1972 election… he is reluctant to talk about the scandal as it relates to Mr. Nixon himself. In an interview aboard his campaign plane, Mr. Dole shied away from criticisms of the former President’s behavior, either as it affected the country or him. Instead he made a point of noting that his hurtful treatment by the Nixon White House was strictly the work of the President’s henchmen. “Maybe I excuse Nixon,” he said.”

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  21. The way Dole began has speech on accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton is funny. It starts at 5:30 here.

    It’s amusing to see who first injected Trump into the discussion, as though it sums up Dole’s personal merit. There’s an interesting video clip from the 2017 inauguration where Obama greets the Doles warmly and exchanges friendly words with them, after Trump’s very cursory half-handshake.

    There’s still much to be said for being a decent human being, even in politics.

    Radegunda (142a4d)

  22. It’s amusing to see who first injected Trump into the discussion, as though it sums up Dole’s personal merit.

    Not surprisingly you read that wrong. Still upset?

    BuDuh (3f85c8)

  23. MOVING TRIBUTE: President Trump Honors Bob Dole – Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony

    Oh! But!! Tee hee!! Obama was supposedly nicer to Dole one day! Hahaha! Stupid Trumpalumpadingdongs.

    BuDuh (4a7846)

  24. the world exists only in relation to mr. trump the donald, ms. radegunda

    and in no other way

    he is the baby at every christening, the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral, the catsup on every meatloaf

    nk (1d9030)

  25. the catsup on every meatloaf

    In the case of DJT, disgustingly enough, the catsup on every well-done New York strip steak.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  26. … the catsup on every meatloaf

    Nixon’s favorite treat: catsup and cottage cheese.

    … and Donald smiled.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  27. Nixon’s favorite treat: catsup and cottage cheese.

    Nixon grew up poor and lived through the Depression. What’s Trump’s excuse? The family chef as he was growing up didn’t know how to season or cook the steak properly?

    JVW (ee64e4)

  28. @28. Rich, poor… I’m from Pittsburgh: it is genetics and law: we must put Heinz ketchup on everything. Even make ketchup sandwiches.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  29. I’ll always put ketchup on my meatloaf, but dayam.

    Paul Montagu (5de684)

  30. The family chef as he was growing up didn’t know how to season or cook the steak properly?

    I imagine he puts catsup on everything. He likes catsup.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  31. OT: Elon Musk opposes subsidies for electric cars and charging stations.

    The Tesla Inc. chief executive criticized federal efforts meant to spur electric-vehicle adoption, including a bill that would boost incentives for buying battery-powered cars.

    The House has passed a roughly $2 trillion social-spending and climate bill championed by President Biden that would give consumers a tax credit of (as much as $12,500 if they buy an electric vehicle assembled by union workers using American-built batteries. Vehicles made in nonunion factories, such as Tesla’s, would qualify for a smaller credit.

    “Honestly, I would just can this whole bill,” Mr. Musk said during a virtual appearance at the WSJ’s CEO Council Summit, speaking from a factory Tesla is building in the Austin, Texas, area.

    He also said that federal funding for electric-vehicle charging is unnecessary. The infrastructure package that Mr. Biden signed into law in November includes $7.5 billion to expand the nation’s network of electric-vehicle charging stations.

    “Do we need support for gas stations? We don’t,” he said. “Delete it.”

    It really is amazing just how corrupt Biden is, and how much money he intends to shovel to the unions. Steel tariffs are more honest.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  32. I’ll always put ketchup on my meatloaf, but dayam.

    I don’t own any catsup.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  33. At least the Trumpeter can still chew his food.

    mg (15c28b)

  34. Some interesting thoughts at the Dispatch about Dole from Scott Reed his ’96 campaign manager

    These were men who believed in Congress, who possessed virtues like moderation and recognition that not every concession is a defeat of principle; trust that is earned by negotiating in good faith; and the faith in compromise over ambition or ideology. These qualities are missing—if not extinct—in today’s polarized politics.

    Dole could play hardball with the best of them. But he understood that America’s constitutional democracy, with its elegant system of checks and balances, requires our leaders to form a new majority on each issue. And he worked endlessly to find those majorities at a time when both parties still believed in compromise too.

    Dole was never great at muscling legislation through Congress on the strength of one party’s temporary majority. I think he viewed it as a kind of failure. He knew only bipartisan coalitions represent the consensus view of the American people and therefore provide the only basis for effective governance.

    AJ_Liberty (3cb02f)

  35. It’s not meatloaf without catsup. In the mixture and in the glaze. It may be chopped steak, it may be hamburger, it may be sausage, it may be a giant meatball, but it’s the catsup that makes it meatloaf.

    nk (1d9030)

  36. The Nixon favorite meal was good prep for occasional… inconveniences. (Upside down Red Dog beer label emoji)

    urbanleftbehind (ae9d91)

  37. Not a slam on Dole, but Maggie Haberman thinks losing graciously is the GOP zenith

    steveg (e81d76)

  38. nk @37.

    It’s not meatloaf without catsup. In the mixture and in the glaze. It may be chopped steak, it may be hamburger, it may be sausage, it may be a giant meatball, but it’s the catsup that makes it meatloa

    That’s part of the definition of meatloaf?

    Otherwise it is just chopped meat. Different from meatballs in that it is shaped into a rectangular shape?

    Sammy Finkelman (c49738)

  39. I had heard that Bob Dole said he had Stage 4 lung cancer in February, but, on hearing no more, put it put of my mind. It is too bad he wasn’t president, although others here disagree.

    Sammy Finkelman (c49738)

  40. I think so, Sammy. Some people claim to eschew catsup, but then you find that they put in tomato sauce, molasses, vinegar, etc. which what it is is their own catsup recipe.

    nk (1d9030)

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