Robert Dole, Senator and Presidential Nominee, Dead at 98


Republican Presidential candidate Senator Robert Dole of Kansas delivers his stump speech to members of the Republican party during a brief campaign stop in Gaithersburg, MD (March 3 1996 – Shutterstock)

Robert Dole, who overcame severe war injuries in the Italian campaign during WWII to become the Republican nominee for President in 1996 has passed away at age 98, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation has announced.

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.

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  1. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel

    Rest in peace.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    A beautiful tribute, EJ.

    • #2
  3. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator

    I not only voted for him, but put his bumper sticker on my car. A couple people at my workplace told me that was a brave thing to have done. I wasn’t enthusiastic about him, but in those days I was still willing to vote GOPe.

    Dole had spent some time here in Battle Creek, recovering from his war injury. In 1996 some of the locals wanted to name a street after him, but the city fathers refused. I suggested that they could make it bipartisan by naming one of the new county prison cell blocks after Bill Clinton, but nobody picked up on that opportunity to show how civil politics can work. 

    • #3
  4. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens


    • #4
  5. Fritz Coolidge

    Bob Dole took plenty of criticism for allegedly having a mean streak, a sort of pre-Twitter ‘mean tweets’ accusation. But he was indeed a stalwart patriot who, during his presidential campaign against Clinton, could not believe the voters’ apathetic reaction to Slick Willie.

    Where’s the outrage?” he demanded to know. I suspect he saw the later emergence of the outsider Trump as a long-postponed expression of people finally getting fed up with the political class.


    • #5
  6. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins

    Bob Dole was the Henry Clay of the Twentieth Century, a giant of the Senate who never won the Presidency.

    There was an electrifying moment during his 1996 Acceptance Speech that I will never forget.  This was only a couple of years after Republican David Duke was facing a runoff for Governor in Louisiana.  Bob Dole said the following at the 35 minute point after supporting strong boarders, and decrying illegal immigration,

    “A family from Mexico arrives this morning legally has as much right to the American Dream as the direct descendants of the founding fathers.  The Republican Party is broad and inclusive; it represents many streams of opinions and many points of view, but if there is anyone who has mistakenly attached themselves to our party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you that tonight this hall belongs to the Party of Lincoln and the exits that are clearly marked are for you to walk out of, as I stand this ground without compromise.”

    • #6
  7. Chris O Coolidge
    Chris O

    RIP, sir. I met him briefly on the campaign trail in ’96. Though his staff was a different story, he seemed appreciative of everyone around him making an effort. 

    I went to shake his hand with my left, but he clasped my right with his considerable grip and I couldn’t help but find it endearing, more like a statement of partnership than a greeting. 

    That was nearly the extent of it other than a photo and ‘thank you,’ but it speaks well. Thank you for your service, sir, and Godspeed.

    • #7
  8. MarciN Member

    Fritz (View Comment):

    Bob Dole took plenty of criticism for allegedly having a mean streak, a sort of pre-Twitter ‘mean tweets’ accusation. But he was indeed a stalwart patriot who, during his presidential campaign against Clinton, could not believe the voters’ apathetic reaction to Slick Willie.

    Where’s the outrage?” he demanded to know. I suspect he saw the later emergence of the outsider Trump as a long-postponed expression of people finally getting fed up with the political class.


    I can’t find it now, but I can picture him on the campaign or debate stage saying in utter frustration, “You have no idea how bad it is. It wasn’t always like this.’

    I admired him very much. 


    • #8
  9. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl

    Without meaning this in the terrible way it sounds: I didn’t realize he was still alive. He was a huge figure in politics in the 90s. The story of his survival in WWII is astonishing. It just shows what a seriously tough human being the man was. He was a devoted American, and when that weaselly Clinton managed to beat him, it was a disappointment that people would choose a cheating chump over an actual hero. 

    • #9
  10. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin

    He was one of my favorite politicians when he ran in 1988.  However, I had gotten rather tired of him when he captured the nomination in 1996.  I foolishly thought that him picking Jack Kemp as a running mate was really going to do something as Kemp was from the two states with the largest number of electoral votes — New York and California.

    Then the last couple of years, I have really come to appreciate Bob Dole as perhaps the biggest issue I care about is controlling federal government spending.  Dole would probably be willing to comprise and keep things under control with more taxes that I would like, but he was from Kansas and didn’t seem to have the grand thinking of wanting things bigger and bigger like other Republican presidents and presidential candidates.  Although the Republican Party is now a party of rural America, many of most of its presidents and presidential candidates of recent decades have come from the three largest states of California, Texas, and New York which have their own bigger is better almost national identities; perhaps the new #3 population state Florida will develop the same sort of personality, especially with so many New Yorkers and Californians moving there.

    One thing I discovered recently is that even though Bob Dole had probably the largest Republican defeat in 1996 since World War II with the exception of Barry Goldwater, he was actually popular with Asian-Americans.

    1996 Dole: 48%-43%
    2000 Bush: 41%-55%
    2004 Bush: 43%-56%
    2008 McCain: 35%-62%
    2012 Romney: 26%-73%
    2016 Trump: 26%-65%
    2020 Trump: 36%-63%

    Another thing I learned recently is that he was injured at almost the very end of the War in Europe.  For some reason, I had always assumed that he was injured around 1944 or perhaps 1943 after the Allies took Sicily.  No, he was injured on April 14, 1945, just 16 days before Hitler killed himself.

    The U.S. House of Representatives can’t agree on anything, but in 2019 they unanimously passed legislation to promote Bob Dole to the grade of colonel in the U.S. Army.

    Just last year, he released a comment about President Trump having trouble with the debate commission, “The Commission on Presidential Debates is supposedly bipartisan with an equal number of Rs and Ds.  I know all of the Republicans and most are friends of mine.  I am concerned that none of them support Donald Trump.  A biased Debate Commission is unfair.”

    He was also known for his great sense of humor.

    Rest in Peace.

    • #10
  11. Chris O Coolidge
    Chris O

    Cow Girl (View Comment):
    and when that weaselly Clinton managed to beat him

    Arguably, Perot beat him, taking eight percent of the vote, down from 20 four years before. I can’t say I was excited by Dole’s candidacy, though I did like him. 

    • #11
  12. Quintus Sertorius Coolidge
    Quintus Sertorius

    I am a teacher in Lawrence Kansas so I have done quite a bit of work at the Dole Institute of Politics on the campus of the University of Kansas. If you are ever in Kansas City or Lawrence you should check it out….it is without a doubt the best storehouse of information from a Congressional stand point for the years 1965-1996.

    I 100% agree with Gary….he was like Henry Clay and I actually was very sad when I watched him leave the Senate in 1996. I was pretty sure he did not stand a chance against Clinton in 1996 and knew we were losing a once in a generation senator…he should have remained in the senate where he belonged. 

    I respected/respect him a great deal. He also had to be exasperated that some 2nd rate senator like Joe Biden (whom Thomas Sowell put a clown suit on several times) attained the presidency and he did not. 


    • #12
  13. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator

    The Cloaked Gaijin (View Comment):
    He was also known for his great sense of humor.

    He had a quick, sharp wit. That was good.

    But he was also the Senator from Archer-Daniels-Midland. That was not good. 


    • #13
  14. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin

    One of the last of the World War II veterans

    As long as Bob Dole was still alive, I was easily able to name at least one World War II veteran who was still alive.  I don’t know who I would name now.  Like Edward Tipper who I thought was killed during the Band of Brothers mini-series retelling but lived to the age of 95, Dole lived quite a long time.  Dole lived 76 years after his injury.  He even lived longer than both his vice presidential running mate Jack Kemp and his SNL impersonator Norm MacDonald.  

    Dole died two days after Colonel Edward David Shames (June 13, 1922 – December 3, 2021), the last officer and perhaps the very last soldier from Easy Company, portrayed in the Band of Brothers mini-series.

    “About 70 million people fought in World War II and, as of 2021, there are still approximately 240,000 surviving veterans in the United States alone.”

    Some of the notables include the following:

    Louis Graziano, age 98, US Army, last surviving witness to the German surrender.
    Hershel W. Williams, age 98, US Marine Corps, last surviving Medal of Honor recipient.
    Paul Priest, age 95, US Army, last surviving veteran of the Battle of Remagen.
    Dean Caswell, age 99, last surviving US Marine flying ace (of World War II, I guess).
    Benjamin B. Ferencz, age 101, US Army, last surviving prosecutor at Nuremberg Trials.
    Richard M. Barancik, age 96–97, US Army, last surviving Monuments Man.

    • #14
  15. Manny Member

    I loved Bob Dole. What a great American. I didn’t always agree with him but over time I came closer to his points of view. Eternal Rest In Peace and perpetual light shine upon him. 

    • #15
  16. EJHill Podcaster

    The Cloaked Gaijin: Hershel W. Williams, age 98, US Marine Corps, last surviving Medal of Honor recipient.

    Woody is a favorite in our house. I recounted a personal encounter that my wife had with him that now connects him to my son. This summer Woody saw his great-grandson march across the deck at Parris Island and join our beloved Corps. If anyone is going to be the Last Man Standing, I’ll put my money on him.


    • #16
  17. EJHill Podcaster

    My favorite picture of the day:

    • #17
  18. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Back before the Capitol was accessed by the ticket-holding public through metal detectors in an underground bunker, a small group of classmates and I were trying to find our Senators, both of whom had stood us up for appointments we had made weeks in advance.  

    A couple of us were on an elevator when it stopped unexpectedly.  The doors opened and there was Bob Dole, kindly telling us he had to go vote.  He apologized to us, ever a gentleman. Getting thrown off an elevator by a Senator was one of the memorable moments of our trip.

    This was during the American Agriculture Strike.  We talked to some of the farmers as we walked down Pennsylvania Avenue.  They gave us their hats.  I still have mine; I wonder if Bob Dole kept his.

    • #18
  19. dukenaltum Coolidge

    Robert Dole was a good soldier in the losing war against the Left.  Rest in Peace.

    Dies Irae

    Day of wrath! O day of mourning!
    See fulfilled the prophets’ warning,
    Heaven and earth in ashes burning!

    Oh, what fear man’s bosom rendeth,
    When from heaven the Judge descendeth,
    On whose sentence all dependeth.

    Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth;
    Through earth’s sepulchres it ringeth;
    All before the throne it bringeth.

    Death is struck, and nature quaking,
    All creation is awaking,
    To its Judge an answer making.

    Lo, the book, exactly worded,
    Wherein all hath been recorded,
    Thence shall judgement be awarded.

    When the Judge his seat attaineth,
    And each hidden deed arraigneth,
    Nothing unavenged remaineth.

    What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
    Who for me be interceding,
    When the just are mercy needing?

    King of Majesty tremendous,
    Who dost free salvation send us,
    Fount of pity, then befriend us!

    Think, kind Jesu! – my salvation
    Caused Thy wondrous Incarnation;
    Leave me not to reprobation.

    Faint and weary, Thou hast sought me,
    On the Cross of suffering bought me.
    Shall such grace be vainly brought me?

    Righteous Judge, for sin’s pollution
    Grant Thy gift of absolution,
    Ere the day of retribution.

    Guilty, now I pour my moaning,
    All my shame with anguish owning;
    Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning!

    Through the sinful woman shriven,
    Through the dying thief forgiven,
    Thou to me a hope hast given.

    Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
    Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
    Rescue me from fires undying.

    With Thy sheep a place provide me,
    From the goats afar divide me,
    To Thy right hand do Thou guide me.

    When the wicked are confounded,
    Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,
    Call me with Thy saints surrounded.

    Low I kneel, with heart’s submission,
    See, like ashes, my contrition,
    Help me in my last condition.

    Ah! that day of tears and mourning,
    From the dust of earth returning
    Man for judgement must prepare him,
    Spare, O God, in mercy spare him.

    Lord, all-pitying, Jesus blest,
    Grant them Thine eternal rest. Amen.

    • #19
  20. Kozak Member

    I have a document which has the rare trait of being signed by both Next Gingrich while he was Speaker and Bob Dole when he was the Majority Leader in the Senate.

    Too bad it was just a cook book….

    • #20
  21. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Kozak (View Comment):
    Too bad it was just a cook book….

    Yeah, but Bob Dole was a legit example of To Serve Man.

    • #21
  22. Manny Member

    Kozak (View Comment):

    I have a document which has the rare trait of being signed by both Next Gingrich while he was Speaker and Bob Dole when he was the Majority Leader in the Senate.

    Too bad it was just a cook book….

    They cooked up legislation.  ;)

    • #22