Dole's ploy opens up old wounds

Presidential bid/ playing the veteran card

BOB DOLE, who launched his bid for the US presidency last week, will be basing his campaign on the message that has made Forrest Gump one of Hollywood's all-time greatest box office hits: no matter how great the adversity, the American Dream is within everybody's reach.

The Republican majority leader in the US Senate is striving to do for the physically handicapped what Gump has done for the mentally deficient.

A war wound he suffered in northern Italy in 1945 left Mr Dole crippled for life. A shell explosion shattered his right shoulder and right arm. Back home he underwent seven operations, one to remove a kidney. The doctors' treatment enabled him to resume a functional working life but could do nothing to restore the use of his arm.

For years he could not bear to look at himself in the mirror and to this day he makes a point always in public of perching a pen between his lifeless fingers, pointing upwards like a porcupine spine, so as to avoid the embarrassment of someone reaching out to shake his right hand.

It is a testimony to his courage that after a 35-year political career that has taken him to the top job in the US Congress he should have emerged, aged 71, as the favourite for the Republican presidential nomination. The polls show, besides, that were the election to be held today, he would defeat President Clinton.

All of which makes him fair game for America's political satirists. Or does it? A cartoon strip by Garry Trudeau, the creator of Doonesbury, begs the question whether politicians should be subjected to attacks that stray beyond common decency.

The strip, carried in the Washington Post and other newspapers, depicts Mr Dole in a campaign commercial. "Does my wound stand in vivid contrast to the smooth, untouched skin of Bill Clinton or Phil Gramm?" [the draft- dodging second favourite for the Republican nomination] Dole asks. "You be the judge. Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to ... my old war wound." The wound - Doonesbury-style - comes to life and responds: "Thank you, Bob, thank you. I'm proud to be a political asset."

Needless to say, the letters have poured into the newspaper post rooms. "Disgraceful"; "sleazy"; "insulting"; "indescribably tasteless"; "a moral sewer". "Suffice it to say," said Senator John McCain, of Arizona, from the congressional floor, "that I hold him [Trudeau] in utter contempt." Mr Dole himself remarked that he considered the joke to be "in poor taste".

The offending cartoonist entered the debate in a letter last week to the Washington Post. Mr Trudeau's point was that if his work was tasteless, the victim had brought it on himself.

Mr Dole ran unsuccessfully for the vice-presidency alongside Gerald Ford in 1976. He tried and failed to secure the Republican presidential nomination in 1980 and 1988. During those three campaigns never once did he draw attention to his heroic debility, leading Mr Trudeau to observe: "I had always admired Senator Dole for the dignity and modesty with which he bore the sacrifice of his military service."

But now, as the 1996 election looms, he is venturing on what he knows will be his last opportunity to win the top prize in American politics. For by the time the election comes around, he will be 73, four years older than Ronald Reagan was when he ran for his first presidency. And he has calculated that his chance lies in throwing modesty to the winds and playing the battle-scarred veteran card.

His hallmark sound bite has become: "Maybe there's still one more mission, one more call to service for the Second World War generation." He announced his candidacy on the 50th anniversary of the day his arm was blown up. He flew to Italy earlier this month to film an interview with ABC television's Prime Time Live on the very site of the battlefield where he was wounded.

The nobility of Mr Dole's war record notwithstanding, Mr Trudeau's argument that he is engaging in cynical politics as usual, appears to be reinforced by examination of two of his recent campaign stunts.

Last month Mr Dole wrote to the National Rifle Association (NRA) promising that he would battle to repeal a law banning the commercial sale of assault rifles. As the New York Times said in an unusually intemperate editorial, his "shameless sycophancy" towards the gun lobby reflected not principle but his "slavery" to the fear that his more hawkish rivals for the Republican nomination would turn his right flank.

It also so happens that the NRA is one of the most bountiful funders of Republican presidential campaigns.

But while making money by whatever means is acceptable if you are a politician or a gun-manufacturer, it is not if you happen to be a film-maker.

Last week on the campaign trail in Iowa, Mr Dole made what an aide described as an "aggressive" appeal to the conservative Christian "family values" lobby by way of a speech attacking the purportedly declining mores of Hollywood. Denouncing the entertainment industry as peddlers of sex and violence, he declared: "We must hold Hollywood accountable for putting profit ahead of common decency." To which Forrest might have replied: (viz `Gumpisms, the Wit and Wisdom of Forrest Gump') "If you're ahead, shut up and stay there."

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little