Bob Dole Was A Hero For Another America

A better one in many ways.

On Sunday former Senator Bob Dole, Republican of Kansas, died. He was 98. Dole had been the Republican veep nominee in 1976, he lost, and the presidential nominee in 1996. He lost then too. He led Republicans in the Senate for 11 years.

Dole was known for his dark acerbic sense of humor, a far cry from the milquetoast mediocrity of most politicians. He was an embodiment of the postwar Washington establishment and believed in pay as you go spending. Thus he was not adverse to tax hikes to balance the books.

He was what used to be known as a Main Street Republican. And there’s the nuance, for the American main street of the mid to late 20th century was a far different place than it is today. It was absolutely another locale and time in myriad ways. Many better, some not.

His loyalty to the DC establishment seems strange to us, as we identify that hydra with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and George Soros. Joe Biden is kind of an afterthought. But his DC, Dole came to Washington in 1960, was the just finished term of Eisenhower, the beginning of Jack Kennedy as president, and the initial stages of the Mercury Program. The nation was an identifiably more conservative place in the social, cultural, and political sense. It was before the American suicide attempt of the mid to late 60s. It was then a Washington establishment in most ways worthy of respect and loyalty.

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However, his loyalty to America and its structure went deeper than that, deeper than mere politics. He found it on the dust blown plains of Kansas and on the hills of Italy. If you’d like to read good reporting on it, and also on Joe Biden’s background, read Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes. The book is a chronicle of the 1988 election season and its contenders. Dole was there and the story of his recovery from wounds suffered with the 10th Mountain in Italy during the closing days of WWII is inspiring. Dole himself tells it this way.

“I thought it was mighty odd that a kid from Kansas who had seen a mountain up close only once in his life would be assigned to lead a platoon of mountain troops…I could see my platoon’s radioman go down … After pulling his lifeless form into the foxhole, I scrambled back out again. As I did, I felt a sharp sting in my upper right back. Some high-explosive bullet entered my right shoulder, fractured my vertebrae in my neck. I — I saw these — things racing — my parents, my house. I couldn’t move my arms, my legs. The consensus of the doctors who examined me was that my condition was much worse than originally thought, and I would probably die—soon.”

But Dole didn’t die. He fought his way through nine operations and three years of rehabilitation. Even after that his left side was permanently damaged. But it just fueled his ambition to succeed and serve his country. No public whining, no blaming fate, he just strove ahead and became a great American in the process. Yes, perhaps greatness for another America. Though there are those of us left who can still make out courage, honor, and patriotism in a man. We remember them in Bob Dole.

David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

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Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
8 months ago

Was he a RINO in policies, voting or did he like Pres Trump?

8 months ago

this man showed his LOVE for this country in so many ways and still had it until his passing — so sorry for his loss and may he REST IN PEACE

Patrick Cross
Patrick Cross
8 months ago

Compared to Dole, today’s politicians are weak-kneed pussies

8 months ago

Fair Winds and Following Seas on your Voyage to Valhalla. Well deserved.