Bob Dole death: Former Republican presidential candidate and long-serving senator dies, aged 98

Grievously wounded during World War II, the Kansas lawmaker became a leading advocate for disability rights legislation

John Bowden
Sunday 05 December 2021 22:00
Dole became emotional when speaking about his recovery from war injuries
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Former Sen Bob Dole, the longtime Republican politician who ran for president and vice president amid decades of service in DC, died on Sunday.

A statement from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, the organisation founded by his wife, stated that Mr Dole had died “peacefully” in his sleep. He was 98.

“It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep. At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years,” said the group in a brief statement released on Twitter.

The former senator was known to have been battling lung cancer.

Mr Dole drew distinction among members of the GOP establishment by being the only living former GOP presidential candidate to endorse former President Donald Trump for both his 2016 and 2020 bids for the White House. Despite his longstanding support for Mr Trump and the latter’s rightward shift of the GOP, Mr Dole did not embrace the false claims of widespread fraud shared by Mr Trump and others in his party after the 2020 election.

"He lost the election, and I regret that he did, but they did," Mr Dole said in his last major sit-down interview with USA Today in July. "He had Rudy Giuliani running all over the country, claiming fraud. He never had one bit of fraud in all those lawsuits he filed and statements he made."

"I'm a Trumper," the former GOP senator said, while adding later in the interview: "I'm sort of Trumped out, though."

Dole being greeted by three different presidents – former president Obama, current president Trump and future president Biden

The longtime Kansas lawmakers first joined Congress as a member of the House in 1961. Exactly eight years later, he would leave the House and join the Senate after he succeeded the state’s retiring GOP senator. He would go on to remain in the Senate until 1996. In his final years as a senator, he was credited for rallying GOP opposition to President Bill Clinton’s efforts to reform the US healthcare system.

Mr Dole was remembered by many as one of the rare advocates for disability rights legislation among his GOP colleagues, and lobbied his party unsuccessfully to support a UN treaty setting international standards for the rights of persons with disabilities in 2012.

His wife, Elizabeth Dole, held a number of positions in government as well, including Labor Secretary and US senator from North Carolina. Since leaving office, she founded an organisation bent on helping caregivers of US military veterans. Mr Dole himself was a veteran of World War II, having served in the Army and being severely wounded by a German shell while fighting in Italy.

Reactions began pouring in from around Washington on Sunday as news of Mr Dole’s death was announced.

“Bob was a man to be admired by Americans. He had an unerring sense of integrity and honor. May God bless him, and may our nation draw upon his legacy of decency, dignity, good humor, and patriotism for all time,” said President Joe Biden, who ordered flags at half-staff until Thursday in mourning.

“Throughout his life, Bob Dole always put his country first. I first met him as a Senate intern 40 years ago, and I was lucky enough to work with him on the effort to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities nearly a decade ago. Even then, his capability, his persistence, and sense of humor that served him so well as a Senator shone through. My thoughts are with Elizabeth and his daughter Robin in this difficult time,” said Sen Chris Coons.

“When I think of the greatest generation, I think of Senator Bob Dole — a man who dedicated his life to serving our country. Rest In Peace, my friend. Ann and I will be praying for Elizabeth, their family, and loved ones,” tweeted Senator Mitt Romney, a fellow Republican who himself ran for president in 2012.

Former President George W Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, added in a statement that they were “saddened” by the passing of a “great patriot”.

“[W]e bushes salute Bob and give thanks for his life of principled service”, they continued.

Donald Trump issued his own statement as well later Sunday afternoon, praising Mr Dole’s war record and service.

“Bob Dole was an American war hero and true patriot for our Nation. He served the Great State of Kansas with honor and the Republican Party was made stronger by his service. Our Nation mourns his passing, and our prayers are with Elizabeth and his wonderful family,” said Mr Trump.

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