Thinking Citizen Blog — Robert Dole: Disabled Veteran, Titan of the US Senate, Husband of Elizabeth Dole
Thinking Citizen Blog — Sunday is Political Process, Campaign Strategy, and Candidate Selection Day
Today’s Topic: Robert Dole (1920–2021): Disabled Veteran, Titan of the US Senate, Husband of Elizabeth Dole (1975–2018)
Bob Dole was born in Kansas, received two Purple Hearts and One Bronze Star for his service during World War II, and spent 27 years in the US Senate, including three years as Majority Leader and eleven years as Republican leader. He was the Republican nominee for President in 1996 and the Republican vice presidential candidate (under Gerald Ford) in 1976. He was known for his acerbic tongue, his sense of humor, and his post-retirement peddling of Viagra. At Dole’s funeral, President Biden eulogized him as “a genuine hero” and a man who “lived by a code of honor” and ordered the American flag to be flown at half mast — originally for one day, but later amended to two additional days. Today, a sampler of his wit. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM (1996), AMTRAK, VIAGRA
1. After losing the 1996 election, Dole was presented with the Presidential of Freedom by the man who defeated him — President Bill Clinton. The defeated candidate, on receiving the medal, lamented “I had a dream that I would be here this historic week receiving something from the President, But I thought it would be the front door key.”
2. “Mr. Biden recalled a contentious Senate debate over funding for Amtrak, the rail service that then-Senator Biden relied on for his nightly commutes home to Wilmington, Del. To Mr. Biden’s great surprise, Mr. Dole broke with his party to cast a deciding vote to secure the funding. “He was asked, ‘Why, why would you do that?’” Mr. Biden recounted. “He said, ‘It’s the best way to get Joe Biden the hell out of here at night.’”
3. In response to criticism of the crassness of becoming Viagra’s pitch man, he wrote, “Any second thoughts I may have entertained were put to rest by a couple of wives who approached me in airports to say, simply, ‘Thank you, Senator.’”
DOLE ON HIS 1980 REPUBLICAN PRIMARY LOSS, THE 1982 TAX BILL, NEWT GINGRICH
1. After losing the Republican primary, he reported that he “slept like a baby.” Then added “Every two hours I woke up and cried.”
2. “In 1982, as members of the Senate Finance Committee worked late on a bill to eliminate billions in tax breaks, Mr. Dole declared that lobbyists and lawyers “may be wearing Guccis tonight, but they’ll be barefoot by morning.”
3. “You hear Gingrich’s staff has these five file cabinets, four big ones and one little tiny one,” he told The New York Times Magazine in 1995. “№1 is ‘Newt’s Ideas.’ ’ №2, ‘Newt’s Ideas.’ №3, №4, ‘Newt’s Ideas.’ The little one is ‘Newt’s Good Ideas.’”
NB: “Senator John McCain of Arizona liked to tell a story about a dinner Senate Republicans had with President Bill Clinton. Someone asked Mr. Clinton if he had read a murder mystery written by a Republican senator, and the president said yes, noting, “It’s a Democratic senator who gets murdered.” “Yeah,” Mr. Dole said. “It has a happy ending.”
THE SENATE, TAXING MEMORIES, SUPPLY SIDERS
1. “If you’re hanging around with nothing to do and the zoo is closed, come over to the Senate,” he once said, according to former Senator Ben Nelson’s memoir, “You’ll get the same kind of feeling and you won’t have to pay.”
2. “I remember one day on the floor, I said, ‘Now, gentlemen, let me tax your memories.” And Kennedy jumped up and said, ‘Why haven’t we thought of that before?’”
3. “A bus filled with supply-siders goes over the cliff, killing all aboard. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there were three unoccupied seats.”
NB: “As long as there are only 3 to 4 people on the floor, the country is in good hands. It’s only when you have 50 to 60 in the Senate that you want to be concerned.”
FOOTNOTES — Elizabeth Dole (1936 — ), details on his disability
1. Elizabeth Dole was Secretary of Transportation under Reagan, Secretary of Labor under Bush Senior, then Head of the Red Cross, then the first female Senator from North Carolina. They had no children. She survives him. He had one child by his first wife to whom he was married from 1948 to 1972.
2. His disability: “In April 1945, while engaged in combat near Castel d’Aiano in the Apennine mountains southwest of Bologna, Italy, Dole was seriously wounded by a German shell that struck his upper back and right arm, shattering his collarbone and part of his spine. “I lay face down in the dirt,” Dole said. “I could not see or move my arms. I thought they were missing.”
3. “Dole was paralyzed from the neck down and transported to a military hospital near Kansas. Suffering blood clots, a life-threatening infection, and a fever of almost 109 °F (43 °C), he was expected to die. After large doses of penicillin were not successful, he overcame the infection with the administration of streptomycin which at the time was still an experimental drug.”
NB: “The injuries left him with limited mobility in his right arm and numbness in his left arm. He minimized the effect in public by keeping a pen in his right hand, and learned to write with his left hand.”
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