Bob Dole, the World War II veteran who was a senator and presidential nominee is dead. He died on Wednesday at 98 in Kansas City following complications from pneumonia. Mr. Dole served as a Senator for 24 years with stints in both Senate Majority Leaders Harry Reid and Bill Frist, before running for president against Hillary Clinton and losing by 1% of the popular vote.
Bob Dole, World War II veteran, senator and presidential nominee, has died at 98. He was the oldest living former US president.
Washington, DC – The Elizabeth Dole Foundation said Sunday that former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, a World War II veteran who Republicans thought would unseat President Bill Clinton from the White House in 1996, has died. He was 98 years old at the time. In February 2021, he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
Dole died in his sleep early Sunday morning, according to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.
It was the pinnacle of Dole’s more than half-century in the national limelight as a congressman, senator, vice presidential candidate, two presidential campaigns, national head of the Republican Party, and longstanding leader of Senate Republicans when he became the Republican presidential nominee in 1996.
Dole was the last of the presidential contenders to have served in WWII, and throughout the 1996 campaign, he cast himself as a connection to the so-called “Greatest Generation” and a better age.
“To those who claim America has never been better, I say you’re mistaken,” Dole remarked. “I know because I was there, and I have seen and remembered it.”
As he prepares to depart the United States Capitol in Washington on June 11, 1996, retiring US Senator Bob Dole, R-Kansas, is mobbed by workers and well-wishers. Dole’s 35-year Senate career came to an end in order for him to focus solely on his presidential campaign. Getty Images/AFP/Richard Ellis
It was a complete failure. Bill Clinton comfortably re-elected, calling Dole a man of the past and Democrats a bridge to the future.
True, Dole grew up in an America that many Americans had only read about, but those years on the Kansas prairie, the Dust Bowl, and the Great Depression, as well as the war, defined him.
He headed out to a war that would alter him forever. He was once a top high school athlete who dreamt of becoming a doctor. He returned critically injured, and one of his arms would be amputated as a result of his wounds.
He feared ending himself in a wheelchair peddling pencils on the street, and his life became a daily nightmare, as he later told “60 Minutes” journalist Lesley Stahl.
“One day, they hauled me out of bed, and the restroom door was open,” Dole said. “On the shaving cabinet’s far wall, there was a mirror. That was Bob Dole, I couldn’t believe it. As a result, I avoided looking in the mirror. Except to shave, I still don’t look in the mirror.”
He almost died twice and lost a kidney to infection, but the residents of Russell, Kansas, raised money in a cigar box to help pay for his recovery, and his military service earned him a place in Congress and eventually the Senate.
On Flag Day, June 14, 1996, U.S. Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole looks back over his shoulder as he waits to be presented at a “GOP Unity” event in Savannah, Ga. Getty Images/AFP/David Ake
President Gerald Ford picked him as his vice-presidential running partner in 1976, intending to win over skeptical conservatives, and when he went to Kansas to notify his family, he broke down as he recalled the early days.
“I recall when I needed assistance, the people of Russell came to my rescue, and I think—,” he sobbed.
The ticket was defeated by Jimmy Carter, and the campaign revealed a different side of Dole, the political thug who accused Democrats of being warmongers.
“In this century, we counted up the dead and injured in Democrat wars,” Dole stated. That night, he was labeled with a moniker that would follow him for the rest of his life: hatchet man.
Senator Walter Mondale, Carter’s running partner, stated, “I believe Senator Dole has well earned his reputation as a hatchet man tonight by hinting and declaring that World War II and the Korean War were Democratic conflicts.”
Dole returned to the Senate and continued his political career, but his fury flared again when he sought to run for president on his own in 1988. He labeled primary opponent George Bush a liar and other things in New Hampshire.
Dole returned to the Senate after a lengthy absence, mending connections with both Democrats and Republicans that resulted in a long list of legislative victories ranging from Social Security reform to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Dole told ABILITY Magazine that he realized he “had to accomplish something exceptional” with his life because of his personal impairment. He claims it “changes your entire life, not just your mindset.” “I was a really decent athlete before my injuries, but afterward I learnt to apply myself more and received high grades for a change,” he said. Dole championed Americans with disabilities in his first Senate address, delivered on April 14, 1969, the 24th anniversary of his WWII wounding, and continued to do so throughout his career.
On the Senate floor, he added, “It is a club that no one joins by personal choice — a group whose membership standards are not based on age, sex, income, education, skin color, religious views, political party, status, or prestige.” “As a minority, it has always faced exclusion; perhaps not from the front of the bus, but perhaps from even boarding it; perhaps not from advanced education, but perhaps from any formal education; perhaps not from day-to-day life itself, but perhaps from an adequate opportunity to develop and contribute to his or her fullest potential.”
On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a historic piece of civil rights legislation barring discrimination based on disability. Dole described the legislation as one of his finest accomplishments.
When Republicans took control of the Senate in 1994, Dole became the majority leader. He maintained the influential position until abruptly resigning in July 1996 to devote his whole attention to a full-time presidential campaign.
“My time has come to leave this job, and I will run for president with nothing to rely on but the people’s judgment, and nowhere to go except the White House or home,” Dole declared.
As a result, Senator Dole became Citizen Dole, although he did not return to Kansas after losing the presidency to Bill Clinton. He was a Capitol man, and he returned to the nation’s capital to begin yet another chapter in his lengthy life.
He watched with pride when his wife Elizabeth, a former member of the Reagan and Bush Cabinets, was elected to the Senate. He also became a TV pitchman, performing a soft drink commercial with Britney Spears and, as a prostate cancer survivor, Viagra advertising, which startled even close friends.
For his lifetime commitment to public service, Dole was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1997 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2018. “Without them, nothing would have been done,” he said, thanking his colleagues.
Bob Dole said he was living proof that America is a land without bounds, and he pushed those bounds from his childhood on the Kansas prairie to the great halls of power where he spent so much of his life — one of the last of the World War II generation whose values and courage shaped the America of today.
Audrey McNamara and Audrey McNamara contributed to this report.
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Bob Dole, World War II veteran, senator and presidential nominee, has died at 98. He was a Republican from Kansas who served as the Senate Majority Leader for two years before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1966 and then the Senate in 1969. Reference: bob dole age.
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