Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
It came as a shock. It shouldn’t have, the news that former US Senator and 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole, 98, passed away on Sunday. It falls on the same day three years ago that he famously but painfully stood in the Capitol Rotunda and saluted the casket of his former political competitor and close friend, George H. W. Bush.
Brilliant and touching prose from prominent people who knew him well or shared parts of his incredible journey and life story are rolling in. Of course, it will be positive, even glowing, and deservedly so. I can imagine Senator Dole, with his famous humor and dry wit, asking “Where were you in 1996?” That’s when he unsuccessfully sought the presidency as the GOP’s nominee, losing to incumbent Bill Clinton. Tributes are already pouring in from his friends, former colleagues, ex-staff, and the beneficiaries of his legendary military, legislative, and public service record. Mine is but a small addition, but we all have our stories and desire to honor his towering legacy. Together, they present a glowing mosaic of courage, determination, compassion, humility, and service.
And yes, humor. He could have easily succeeded as a stand-up comic. As one of a few senior GOP staff would attend occasions closed-door meetings of the Senate Republican Conference, he would often lighten the mood with endless quips, delivered within his famous deadpan style and impeccable timing. Celebrating US Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) on his 93rd birthday, he quipped, “I watch what Strom eats. If he eats a banana, I eat a banana.” Thurmond would live to be 100, six months after retiring from the US Senate in early 2003. He was succeeded by Lindsey Graham.
Dole’s sense of humor came in handy during his post-political career when he became a national advertising spokesman for Viagra. It earned him a sequel at the end of a Britney Spears Pepsi commercial (he appears at the end).
His passing is yet another painful reminder of our dwindling “Greatest Generation” of Americans who fought and won World War II. Senator Dole is well remembered as the 10th Mountain Division Second Lieutenant infantry officer who was severely wounded in Italy, undergoing years of surgery and therapy so he could walk and use his left arm again. He never regained use of his right hand. We all learned the “Bob Dole handshake,” using our left hand.
One of my greatest honors was being nominated by Leader Dole to serve as Secretary of the Senate during the 104th Congress, from 1995 to the end of 1996. It was a debt I could never repay. The Secretary is the Senate’s chief legislative, financial, and administrative officer, the only one sworn in on the floor of the Senate other than Senators themselves. Since the late 1970s, the Secretary has been nominated for the job by the Majority Leader and confirmed by the Senate.
The story of how fell into the job was captured in part by Bob Woodward’s tome of the 1996 election, “The Choice.”