One of the figures of American politics has passed away. Former Republican Senator Bob Dole died in his sleep Sunday morning at the age of 98. In February, the former senator announced that he had advanced lung cancer. A veteran of World War II, three-time candidate for the Republican nomination, he finally entered the presidential race in 1996, but was defeated by Bill Clinton.
Shortly after the announcement of his death by the founding of his wife Elizabeth Dole, current President Joe Biden hailed an “American statesman like few in our history”, “a war hero”, but also “a friend” having “a sense of honor and infallible integrity”. He ordered all federal flags at half mast until Thursday. “America has lost one of its heroes, our family has lost its rock,” the Dole family said in a statement.
“A true patriot”, according to Donald Trump
Politicians have paid homage to a man who, according to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “believed in America’s uniqueness with all his heart.” “Anyone who saw Bob Dole in action necessarily admired his character and his deep patriotism,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. For ex-President Donald Trump, Bob Dole was “an American war hero and a true patriot” who “served the great state of Kansas with honor and made the Republican Party stronger”.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Barack Obama spoke on Twitter of “a war hero, a political leader, and a statesman” whose generation placed “the country above the party”. Senator Bernie Sanders, a figure on the left, praised a man who “served his country with courage on the battlefield and with dignity in the Senate.” The Democratic President of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, ordered the half masting of the flags of the Capitol in honor of this “man of his word” who “personified courage and excellence in the public service”.
Senator Bob Dole was a war hero, a political leader, and a statesman—with a career and demeanor harkening back to a day when members of the Greatest Generation abided by a certain code, putting country over party. Our thoughts are with Elizabeth and the Dole family.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 5, 2021
Unhappy candidate for the White House
Bob Dole, dismissed by Ronald Reagan in 1980 in the battle for the Republican candidacy, then by George Bush senior in 1988, persisted and finally won in 1996. Faced with young Clinton, Bob Dole embodied the precepts of rural America. ‘before the 1960s: family, religion, patriotism, integrity, modesty, work and respect for the word given. The outgoing Bill Clinton will easily win against the 73-year-old who seemed outdated in the age of television politics.
During the campaign, the Republican, who said he had “suffered hardships” and was “not afraid to lead”, had notably criticized the Democrat for having offended the army by wanting to open its doors to homosexuals. Twenty years earlier, Bob Dole had already lost the 1976 presidential election, this time as a running mate, alongside Gerald Ford.
Still tanned, with piercing black eyes
Born July 22, 1923, Robert Joseph Dole grew up in Russell, a small town in Kansas (center). Returning a medalist but seriously injured from the Second World War, he underwent operation after operation for three years. At the cost of exceptional tenacity, he learns to walk again and regains control of his body, with the exception of his right arm. The people of Russell joined together to pay for his operations, as they rallied around the young lawyer he became and who entered politics in 1952. He was elected to Congress in 1961, first as a Representative, then as senator from Kansas, beginning a 35-year parliamentary career.
In the Senate, this slender and always tanned man, with a piercing black gaze, is known for his mastery of negotiation and the art of compromise, but also for his humor. “He has obtained both conservative victories and great breakthroughs bringing together the two parties,” Mitch McConnell said on Sunday, calling him “a constant leader and master in legislative matters”.
In retirement, Bob Dole continued to attack the Democrats, notably fighting Barack Obama’s health insurance reform plan. His wife Elizabeth Dole had a distinguished political career herself: Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Labor and Senator from North Carolina. Outside of politics, he did not hesitate to advertise Pepsi and Viagra on television.