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Dole was often at odds with his own party. Newt Gingrich infamously once called him “the tax-collector for the welfare state.” Dole blamed Gingrich’s unpopularity as one of the reasons he lost the Presidency to Bill Clinton.
On the other hand, when establishment GOP types were running away from Donald Trump like scalded dogs in 2016 it was Bob Dole who was sitting with Mike Pence in the VIP box in Cleveland as Trump accepted the party’s nomination. He was doing what he always did: showing up, taking the lead and all the shots that went with that.
That Dole was around to accomplish what he did was a miracle in itself. A second lieutenant in the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division, he had just thrown a grenade at a German machine gun position when he felt a sharp pain rip through his right shoulder and the vertebrae in his neck. He was paralyzed from the neck down. A medic came along and gave him the highest dose of morphine possible, dipped his finger in Dole’s blood and marked the letter “M” on his forehead so no one would give him a second, and lethal, dose. He lay on the battlefield for nine hours before being evacuated to a field hospital.
Dole was eventually transferred to a military hospital in Kansas where blood clots and infections almost finished him off. The then-experimental Streptomycin saved him. He would endure nine operations over three years until the pioneering orthopedic surgeon Hampar Kelikian successfully saved his arm and returned a limited amount of utility to it. Kelikian, a survivor of the Armenian genocide, taught Dole “… to focus on what I had left and what I could do with it, rather than complaining what had been lost.”
He was elected to the Senate in 1969, ran as Gerald Ford’s running mate in 1976 and served three years as the Senate Majority leader before making his own bid for the White House against the incumbent Bill Clinton.
In his later years Dole battled cancer, first in his prostate and, more recently, in his lungs. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and his daughter Robin from a previous marriage.
For a more complete look at the life of Bob Dole check out Tevi Troy’s tribute at City Journal.Published in