Bob Dole: War hero, American statesman and a good man

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Bob Doll

Bob Dole was one of the most famous political figures in Washington during the latter half of the twentieth century
Image Credit: NYT

His voice, flat as the prairie from which he rose to prominence, declared what Bob Dole was: a man from the Midwest, a man from the middle of the country and from the political spectrum. Like another Midwest — a contemporary — Hubert Humphrey, Dole was a senator who came painfully close to capturing the presidential copper ring of politics.

Dole, who would have become the 41st CEO of the United States, was born in Russell, Kansas, 270 miles west of Missouri’s 33rd hometown, to Harry S. Truman, another son of a middle frontier. Elected to Congress in 1960, when Dwight Eisenhower was president, he served Dole during another eight presidencies.

If he had won the 1988 Republican nomination, he would almost certainly have won the White House because then Americans wanted something more like a third term for Ronald Reagan than Michael Dukakis’ first. Dole might have won that nomination if he had won the New Hampshire primary.

And he could have done so, if he had campaigned as what he wasn’t really – an ultra-conservative. He would have won the anti-tax state of New Hampshire if he had made a “no new tax” pledge, which later helped his opponent, George H.W. Bush, win the presidency, and breaking it helped Bush lose him.

Nomination too late

Dole finally won the Republican nomination too late, in 1996. Then he would have been the oldest person — 73 — ever to be elected to a first term.

Dole has never been one of those bloated politicians who constantly act as if they are unveiling statues of themselves. He had Midwestern gaiety about the possibilities of the United States, but his stinging wit, sometimes acid, suited a man with some grievances against the calls of life nearby.

If he had been a few yards away from where he was on that Italian hill on April 14, 1945, or if the war in Europe had ended 25 days earlier, he would have survived the wound so severe that he left the rest of his wounds to ache. Years. A few thousand more Ohio and Mississippi votes in 1976 would have made Dole vice president.

But his abilities were not those of a CEO. The presidency is essentially a rhetorical office. Rhetoric can make fairly insignificant force by law. Dole was non-rhetorical – almost anti-rhetorical.

In one of his three campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, a serious elementary school student asked him a question about acid rain. Dole’s full answer was: “This bill is under tariff.” The kid must have looked dazed, but Dole couldn’t help himself.

Important American public servant

Long acculturation in the legislative branch made him free to speak in the Senate, but only in a tone unintelligible to ordinary Americans. Uncomfortable with the text, he spoke easily only in conversational, sometimes ambiguous discourse with which colleagues in a small legislative framework communicate face to face with each other.

Make a list of the most important American public servants who never became president. Two, possibly the first, have been named Marshall: John, chief justice for 34 years, and George, soldier and diplomat. Others were jurists—Roger Taney and Earl Warren, who, as Lord knows, were dependencies—as were some legislators, such as the Great Triumvirate: Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Calhoun.

But few jobs in Congress loom large. This is because the legislative achievements are collaborative, the result of muted concessions rendered in pastels rather than sharp images painted with bold strokes of primary colour. The legislative life of states was the political life as described by Plutarch:

“They are wrong who think that politics is like a cruise or a military expedition, something to be done with seeing a certain end, something that stops once that end is reached. It is not a general chore, to be transcended. It is a way of life. It is a life A domesticated political and social creature who is born with a love of public life, has a desire for honor, and has a feeling for his fellows.”

It was not the sombre dimension of Dole’s life that he failed to reach the presidency, which did not suit him, but in 1996 in search of it he left the Senate, which he loved and where he excelled.

When the Democrats considered presenting their 1948 presidential nomination to Eisenhower, House Speaker Sam Rayburn said of him, bluntly: “Good man, wrong business.” Rayburn’s words were wrong about Ike but she was right about the presidential candidate states. Two of these words are particularly apt: a good man.

George F. Will writes on politics and foreign affairs. He received a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1977. His most recent book is American Happiness and Discontents.

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