Bob Dole was icon of calmer political past – Daily Breeze


Former Republican war hero, senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole, who died this week at age 98, has been widely eulogized as the last of the World War II generation of political leaders.

That’s an apt description given the era (the 1960s until the 1990s) he served in Congress, but it also reflects the passing of a more collegial style of politics.

Dole had a “demeanor harkening back to a day when members of the Greatest Generation abided by a certain code, putting country over party,” said former President Barack Obama.

NBC noted the outpouring of bipartisan tributes following his death.

Even Donald Trump, who has uttered ungracious comments about departed public figures including Colin Powell, praised Dole as a “true patriot.”

The glowing tributes, which recall his humor and pragmatism, didn’t mean the former Kansas senator was a milquetoast.

As obituaries note, Dole was a GOP partisan who defended Richard Nixon during Watergate and made frequent acerbic jabs, such as the time he referred to the “Democrat wars in this century” and called Jimmy Carter a “chicken-fried” version of liberal presidential nominee George McGovern.

But he softened those edges with homespun humor.

“If you’re hanging around with nothing to do and the zoo is closed, come over to the Senate. You’ll get the same kind of feeling and you won’t have to pay,” he once said.

The New York Times recalled one of his presidential debates with Bill Clinton, when Dole joked about the time he said on the Senate floor, “Now, gentleman, let me tax your memories,” and one tax-hiking Democrat jumped up and said, “Why haven’t we thought of that before?” He also zinged members of his own party — and frequently made fun of himself.

The key difference between Dole’s approach and the one now common in Washington, D.C., is he believed “very strong partisanship could coexist with bargaining and deal-making,” Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Bernstein put it.

In line with this belief, Dole championed policies such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the expansion of food stamps. He also supported President Ronald Reagan’s effort to bring order to America’s immigration system by providing amnesty to immigrants in the country without documentation.

Say what you will about any of Dole’s stances on any particular issue, but Dole did “attempt to solve the nation’s problems” and was willing to work across party lines to do it.

The outpouring of sympathy from Democratic and Republican officials reflects not only admiration for Dole’s storied career, but a longing for a time when politics was more about governing than waging grudge matches.



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