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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.