Robert Joseph "Bob" Dole (born July 22, 1923) is an attorney and retired United States Senator from Kansas from 1969–1996, serving part of that time as United States Senate Majority Leader, where he set a record as the longest-serving Republican leader. He was the Republican nominee in the 1996 U.S. Presidential election and the Republican vice presidential nominee in the 1976 U.S. Presidential election. Dole is special counsel at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Alston & Bird. In 2007, President George W. Bush appointed Dole as a co-chair of the commission to investigate problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, along with Donna Shalala.
In April 1945, while engaged in combat in the hills of northern Italy, he was hit by German machine gun fire in his upper right back. His right arm was also badly injured. He had to wait nine hours on the battlefield before being taken to the 15th Evacuation Hospital. He began his recovery at Percy Jones Army hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he met future fellow politicians Daniel Inouye and Philip Hart. His right arm was paralyzed; Dole often carries a pen in his right hand to signal that he cannot shake hands with that arm.
The hospital where he recovered from his wounds, the former Battle Creek Sanitarium, is now named Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in honor of the three former U.S. Senators treated at the hospital: Philip Hart, Daniel Inouye and Dole himself.
Also in 1952 Dole became the County Attorney of Russell County, serving in that position for eight years. In 1960, Dole was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Kansas' 6th Congressional District, located in central Kansas. In 1962, his district was merged with the 3rd District in western Kansas to form the 1st Congressional District, a huge 60-county district that soon became known as the "Big First." Dole was reelected that year and twice thereafter without serious difficulty.
In 1968 he defeated Kansas Governor William H. Avery for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate to succeed retiring Senator Frank Carlson, subsequently being elected. He was re-elected in 1974, 1980, 1986, and 1992 , before resigning on June 11, 1996 to focus on his Presidential campaign. He only faced one truly enthusiastic and well-financed challenger – in 1974 by Congressman Bill Roy. Much of Roy's popularity was in response to the fallout from Watergate. Dole would win re-election in 1974 by only a few thousand votes. While in the Senate he served as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1971 until 1973, the ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee from 1975 to 1978, and the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee from 1979 to 1980.
When the Republicans took control of the Senate after the 1980 elections, Dole became chairman of the Finance Committee in 1981, serving until 1985. From 1985, when Howard Baker of Tennessee retired, until his resignation from the Senate, Dole was the leader of the Senate Republicans, serving as Majority Leader from 1985 until 1987 and again from 1995 to 1996. He served as Minority Leader from 1987 to 1995. Following the advice of conservative William Kristol, Dole flatly rejected the health care plan of Bill Clinton, remarking, "There is no crisis in health care."
Dole had a moderate voting record and was widely considered to be one of the few Kansas Republicans who could bridge the gap between the moderate and conservative wings of the Kansas Republican Party. As a Congressman in the early '60s he supported the major civil rights bills, which appealed to moderates. When Johnson proposed the Great Society in 1964–65, Dole voted against some War on Poverty measures like public-housing subsidies and Medicare, thus appealing to conservatives. Dole's first speech in the Senate in 1969 was a plea for federal aid for the handicapped. Later, he joined liberal Senator George McGovern to lower eligibility requirements for federal food stamps, a liberal goal that was supported by Kansas farmers.
Dole's hawkishness on the Vietnam War and on crime issues kept him in good standing with the right wing. When they heard Nixon might make Dole chairman of the Republican National Committee, half the Republican Senators protested, especially moderates who feared he would direct party assets to conservatives. They were wrong, as Dole in fact offered something to all Republican factions.
In 1976, Dole ran unsuccessfully for Vice President on a ticket headed by President Gerald Ford. Incumbent Vice President Nelson Rockefeller had withdrawn from consideration the previous fall, and Dole was chosen. He stated during the Vice Presidential debate, "I figured it up the other day: If we added up the killed and wounded in Democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans — enough to fill the city of Detroit". The remark backfired. In 2004, Dole stated that he regretted the remark.
Dole made a more serious bid in 1988. He started out strong by solidly defeating then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in the Iowa caucus—Bush finished third, behind television evangelist Pat Robertson. However, Bush recovered in time to defeat Dole in the New Hampshire primary. The New Hampshire contest between the two was particularly bitter although they differed little on the issues. After the returns had come in on the night of that primary, Dole appeared to lose his temper in a television interview. Dole was interviewed live in New Hampshire on NBC by Tom Brokaw, who was in the NBC studio in New York. It happened that Bush was right next to Brokaw in the studio. Brokaw asked Bush if he had anything to say to Dole. Bush responded "No, just wish him well and meet again in the south." Dole, apparently not expecting to see Bush, when asked the same question about the Vice President said "Yeah, stop lying about my record"; largely in response to a very tough New Hampshire Bush commercial which accused Dole of "straddling" on taxes. This remark prompted some members of the media to perceive him as angry about the loss. That slowed his momentum and he was not able to recover. Bush defeated him again in South Carolina and went on to the nomination and ultimately, the Presidency.
Dole was the early front runner for the GOP nomination in the 1996 presidential race. He was expected to win the nomination against underdog candidates such as the more conservative Senator Phil Gramm of Texas. However populist Pat Buchanan upset Dole in the early New Hampshire primary, with Dole finishing second and former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander finishing third. Publisher Steve Forbes also ran and broadcast a stream of negative ads. At least eight candidates ran for the nomination.
Dole eventually won the nomination, becoming the oldest first-time presidential nominee at the age of 73 years, 1 month (Ronald Reagan was 73 years, 6 months in 1984, for his second presidential nomination). In his acceptance speech, he stated Let me be the bridge to an America that only the unknowing call myth. Let me be the bridge to a time of tranquility, faith, and confidence in action, to which incumbent president and Democratic nominee Bill Clinton responded, We do not need to build a bridge to the past, we need to build a bridge to the future.. He however had been forced to spend more on the primary than he had planned and until the convention in San Diego faced federal limits on campaign spending. He hoped to use his long experience in Senate procedures to maximize publicity from his rare positioning as Senate Majority Leader against an incumbent President but was stymied by Senate Democrats. On June 11th, 1996, he resigned his seat to focus on the campaign, saying he was either heading for "The White House or home".
The incumbent, Bill Clinton, had no serious primary opposition. Dole promised a 15% across-the-board reduction in income tax rates and made former Congressman and supply side advocate Jack Kemp his running mate. Dole also found himself criticized from both the left and the right within the Republican Party over the convention platform, one of the major issues being the inclusion of the a Human Life Amendment. Bill Clinton framed the narrative against Dole early, painting him as a mere clone of unpopular then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, warning America that Bob Dole would work in concert with the Republican Congress to slash popular social programs, like Medicare and Social Security, dubbed by Clinton as "Dole-Gingrich. Bob Dole's tax-cut plan found itself under attack from the White House, who said it would "blow a hole in the deficit" which had been cut nearly in half during his opponent's term. Dole was defeated by President Clinton in the 1996 election. Clinton won in a 379-159 Electoral College landslide, capturing 49.2% of the vote against Dole's 40.7% and Ross Perot's 8.4% who drew equally from both candidates.
He is the only person in the history of the two major U.S. political parties to have been his party's nominee for both President and Vice President, but who was never elected to either office.
Dole has worked part-time for a Washington, D.C. law firm, and engaged in a career of writing, consulting, public speaking, and television appearances. This has included becoming a television commercial spokesman for such products as Visa, Viagra, Dunkin' Donuts and Pepsi-Cola (with Britney Spears), and as an occasional political commentator on the popular American interview program Larry King Live and has guested a number of times on Comedy Central's satirical news program, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He was, for a short time, a commentator opposite Bill Clinton on CBS's 60 Minutes. He guest-starred as himself on NBC's Brooke Shields sitcom Suddenly Susan in January 1997 (shortly after losing the presidential election). On the Larry King show he had a heated exchange with Democratic presidential primary candidate Wesley Clark in which he correctly predicted that Clark would lose the New Hampshire primary and other primaries.
The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, housed on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kansas, was established to bring bipartisanship back to politics. The Institute, which opened in July 2003 to coincide with Dole's 80th birthday, has featured such notables as former President Bill Clinton and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Dole has written several books, including one on jokes told by the Presidents of the United States, in which he ranks the presidents according to their level of humor. President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in early 1997 for his service in the military and his political career. He received the American Patriot Award in 2004 for his lifelong dedication to America and his service in World War II.
Dole's legacy also includes a commitment to combating hunger both in the United States and around the globe. In addition to numerous domestic programs, along with former Senator George McGovern(D-South Dakota), he created an international school lunch program through the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which helps fight child hunger and poverty by providing nutritious meals to children in schools in developing countries. This program has since led to greatly increased global interest in and support for school-feeding programs - which benefit girls and young women, in particular - and won McGovern and Dole the 2008 World Food Prize.
In December 2004, Dole had a hip-replacement operation, which required him to receive blood thinners. One month after the surgery it was determined that he was bleeding inside his head. He spent 40 days at Walter Reed, and when he was released, his "good" arm, the left, was of limited use. He told a reporter that he needed help to handle the simplest of tasks, since both of his arms are injured. He undergoes physical therapy for his left shoulder once a week, but doctors have told him that he might not regain total use of his left arm.
Dole is special counsel at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Alston & Bird. On April 12, 2005, Dole released his biography One Soldier's Story: A Memoir (ISBN 0-06-076341-8), which talks of his World War II experiences and his battle to survive his war injuries.
On September 18, 2004, Senator Dole offered the inaugural lecture to dedicate the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service at which he chronicled his life as a public servant as well as discussed the importance of publice service in terms of defense, civil rights, the economy, and in daily life.
Dole married Phyllis Holden, an occupational therapist at a veterans hospital, in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1948. His daughter, Robin, was born in 1954. Dole and Holden divorced in 1972. Holden remarried in 1973 and was widowed in 1978. She then married for the third time in 1979. She now goes by Phyllis Dole-Macey.
Dole has been married to Senator Elizabeth Dole, née Hanford of North Carolina since 1975. Elizabeth ran unsuccessfully for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2000 and was elected to the United States Senate in 2002.