Bob Dole, Senate giant and 1996 Republican presidential candidate, dies

“Senator Robert Joseph Dole passed away early this morning in his sleep. When he passed away, aged 98, he faithfully served the United States of America for 79 years,” according to a statement from his family. .

Dole, who was severely wounded during the Second World War, had suffered from a series of illnesses in the previous years. In 1991, he had surgery for prostate cancer, surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm in 2001, was hospitalized in 2005 after a fall at home, and was treated for a leg infection in 2009.

Dole is survived by his wife, former Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, and daughter Robin Dole.

Arriving in Washington at the dawn of the Kennedy administration, Dole would serve for 27 years as a U.S. senator from Kansas, including two terms as majority leader in the Senate, though he is perhaps best known for his unsuccessful run as the Republican presidential candidate against Bill Clinton in 1996, his third attempt at the White House. He also served as an executive partner to President Gerald Ford in 1976 after Nelson Rockefeller refused to continue as vice president.

During his early days in the Senate, he was labeled a “man” by critics and attracted national attention for his fierce defense of President Richard Nixon during the impeachment trial. Watergate scandal. He considered Nixon a friend and mentor – Nixon later eulogized at his funeral in 1994 as “the most enduring public figure of our time.” In a notable difference from his sour public image, he choked up at the end of my comment.

But in assuming the GOP leadership role in the Senate, Dole’s reputation has been as a smart legislator and a tough negotiator willing to work across the board with Democrats on issues like Social Security reform, the Americans with Disabilities and Nutrition Act of landmark legislation.

“By all rights, he and I should have had a lousy relationship,” said former Democratic Senator Tom Daschle, who served as the top Senate Democrat during Dole’s tenure. second majority leadership, said in a speech in 2000. “The fact that we are not Bob Dole – for his politeness, his pragmatism, his quick wit and smug humour, and his love of to this country and the United States Senate. His sense of fairness and decency is a standard by which everyone in public life should aspire.”

In his book “What Happened” about the 1988 election, journalist Richard Ben Cramer described Dole as a Senate leader who was always available with a joke and a hello and “never the point of time.” now is happier, more peaceful than when he was a kid now, when a deal is going down and he’s waiting for someone to crack it, while he drinks a milkshake and tells old stories in his dining room The Senate. ”

A hopeful three-time president

In 1996, he resign from the Senate as the room’s longest-serving GOP leader then to focus on running for the White House, saying it’s “the White House or the house.” He entered the race as runner-up and passed an early test of his right from Pat Buchanan to secure the nomination, then picked former congressman and economic champion Jack. Kemp as his running mate.

But he easily lost the election to incumbent President Bill Clinton, who at the time was driving a strong economy and creating a contrast between his image as Baby Boomer and Dole 73 age, who is described as old and out of touch.

This was Dole’s last bid for the White House. His first, in 1980, drew little traction, but his second, in 1988, initially provided a strong challenge to eventual candidate George H.W. Bush after Dole won the Iowa caucuses. The race between the two men eventually soured, culminating in an endorsement Dole telling Bush in a live TV moment the night he lost the New Hampshire primary, “Don’t say it.” lie about my record.”

The rivalry between the two men will fade over time; in 2018, when Bush arrived at the Capitol Rotunda, Dole was helped to get up from his wheelchair to greet his one-time rival.

While never winning an election as president or vice president, Dole’s long career on the national stage and as leader of the Republican party is evident in a piece of party history. : 14 GOP presidential tickets from 1952 to 2004 (all but 1964) including Dole, Richard Nixon, George HW Bush or George W. Bush.

Dole also had a notably warm personal relationship with Clinton, who told the audience during their first presidential debate, “You could say we like each other.”

A few months after his defeat to Clinton, Dole will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom for serving in World War II and Congress from his former rival and displaying his sense of humour.

“I, Robert J. Dole, solemnly swear…” he quipped during the ceremony, pretending to be sworn in. “Sorry, misstated. But I dreamed that I would be here this week, receiving something from the president, but I thought it would be the key to the front door.”

Clinton and Dole later co-chaired a scholarship fund that initially raised more than $100 million for the families of those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks and later collaborated on a weekly debate on CBS News’ “60 Minutes”.

He also demonstrated his ability to joke when he appeared on “Saturday Night Live” in 1996 after losing to Norm MacDonald, who mercilessly stoned him during the election.

As he told NBC in 2005, in Washington there is a need for humor “to break the tension sometimes, and you can do it simply – without offending anyone.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Aaron Pellish and Ashley Billings contributed to this report.


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