Former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas yesterday reached the age of 96, and while often involved in heated political debates over four decades, is now seen as a statesman.
Dole served in the House of Representatives from 1961-1969, and as United States Senator from 1969 to 1996. He was the Chair of the Republican National Committee from 1971-1973; Chair of the Senate Finance Committee from 1981-1985; Senate Minority Leader from 1987-1995; and twice Senate Majority Leader from 1985-1987 and 1995-1996.
He had the distinction of being the Republican Vice Presidential nominee under Gerald Ford in the Presidential Election of 1976, and then the Presidential nominee in 1996, both losing efforts. He is the only person to be nominated for both offices, and lose both offices.
Dole was a combative, and often acerbic politician, who annoyed this blogger and author, but one knew that he was an ultimate patriot and would support Democrats in important and crisis moments over the years, while being a very partisan Republican.
He worked across the aisle with many Democrats, including Senator George McGovern of South Dakota on nutrition issues and food stamps.
He was a war hero, who nearly died in combat in Europe in April 1945, and lost the use of his left arm and limited mobility in his right arm, but that did not stop him from having a public career, and being an advocate for the disabled.
Dole has had a great sense of humor, and has worked to promote bipartisanship, starting the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kansas.
He helped to raise funds for the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2018, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by his former opponent, Bill Clinton, in 1997.
His marriage to Elizabeth Hanford Dole has lasted 44 years, and his wife served as Secretary of Transportation under Ronald Reagan, and as Secretary of Labor under George H. W. Bush, before serving as a US Senator from North Carolina from 2003-2009.
By reaching the age of 96 today, Dole has outlived most of the colleagues of his age group who served in public office, and is one of the last World War II veterans of renown still with us.
Let us hope he reaches 100, although now he is almost exclusively using a wheel chair as he did in saluting his former rival, George H. W. Bush, at the funeral of the 41st President in December 2018.