World War II veteran, Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole has died at 98

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Washington – Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the World War II veteran who Republicans said would overthrow President Bill Clinton from the White House in 1996, has died, the Elizabeth Foundation said on Sunday. Dole. He was 98 years old. He had been diagnosed stage 4 lung cancer in February 2021.

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation said Dole died early Sunday morning in his sleep.

When Dole became the Republican presidential candidate in 1996, it was the culmination of more than half a century in the national limelight as a member of Congress, senator, running mate, two running mate. presidency, national president of the Republican Party and longtime leader of the Senate Republicans.

Dole was the last of the presidential candidates to serve in WWII, and in the ’96 campaign he offered himself as a link to the so-called bigger generation and another better time.

“To those who say it was never the case so that America was never better, I say you are wrong, and I know it because I was there, I have it. saw it and remember it, “Dole said.

It did not work. Bill Clinton called Dole a man of the past and a bridge to the future Democrats and was easily re-elected.

It was true that Dole had come of age in an America that many voters had only heard of, but those days in the Kansas prairie – the days of the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression – and the war defined it. .

Once a high school star athlete who dreamed of becoming a doctor, he’s gone into a war that will change him forever. He came back seriously injured, and these injuries would cost him the use of an arm.

He feared he would end up in a wheelchair selling pencils on the street, and as he later told “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl, his life has turned into a living nightmare.

“They got me out of bed one day and the bathroom door was open,” Dole said. “There was a mirror on the back wall of the shaving cabinet. I couldn’t believe it was Bob Dole. So I didn’t look at myself in the mirror. I still don’t look at myself in the mirror except to shave. “

On two occasions he nearly died and lost a kidney due to infection, but the residents of Russell, Kansas raised money in a cigar box to help pay for his rehabilitation, and his war toll earned him a seat in Congress and later in the Senate.

In 1976, hoping to convince dubious Tories, President Gerald Ford chose him as his vice-presidential running mate, and when he returned to Kansas to tell the people of the house about it, he collapsed in remembering the early days.

“I remember when I needed help, the people at Russell helped me out, and I think…” he said, starting to cry.

The ticket lost to Jimmy Carter, and the campaign brought out another side of Dole, the political shooter who accused Democrats of being warmongers.

“We have added up the killed and wounded in the Democratic wars of this century,” Dole said. He was tagged that night with a tag that would keep him for the rest of his life: The Man with the Ax.

“I think Senator Dole more than earned his reputation as a henchman tonight by implying and declaring that World War II and the Korean War were democratic wars,” said Senator Walter Mondale, running mate of Carter.

Dole returned to the Senate and resumed his political career, but when he attempted to run for President on his own in 1988, his temper took hold again. In New Hampshire, he called his main opponent George Bush a liar and more.

Once again, Dole returned to the Senate, rebuilding relationships with Democrats and Republicans that led to a long list of legislative accomplishments, from Social Security reform to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dole said CAPACITY Magazine that because of his own disability, he knew he “had to do something special” with his life. It “changes your whole life, not just your attitude,” he said. “Before my injury I was a pretty good athlete, but after that I learned to apply myself more and got good grades for a change,” he said. Dole advocated for Americans with disabilities in his first Senate speech on April 14, 1969 – the 24th anniversary of the day he was injured in World War II – and continued to do so throughout his career.

“This is a group that no one joins by personal choice – a group whose membership requirements are not based on age, gender, wealth, education, skin color, religious beliefs. , the political party, the power or the prestige, “he told the Senate. ground. “As a minority, it has always known exclusion; maybe not excluding the front of the bus, but maybe even getting on board; perhaps not the exclusion from pursuing higher education, but perhaps from the experience of a formal education; maybe not the exclusion from the day – everyday life itself, but maybe a proper opportunity to grow and contribute to one’s full potential. “

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark civil rights law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, was enacted by President George HW Bush on July 26, 1990. Dole said he viewed this act as one of his greatest accomplishments. more proud.

When the Republicans won a majority in 1994, Dole became the majority leader in the Senate. He held the powerful post until his resignation dramatically in July 1996 to focus on his candidacy for the full-time presidency.

“My time to leave this office has come, and I will seek the presidency with nothing to fall back on but judgment of the people, and nowhere to go but the White House or home,” Dole said.

And so Senator Dole became a Dole Citizen, but when he lost the presidency to Bill Clinton, he did not return home to Kansas. He was a man from Capitol Hill and returned to Washington to open another chapter in his long life.

He proudly watched his wife Elizabeth, a former member of the Reagan and Bush Cabinet, be elected to the Senate herself. And, in a move that surprised even close friends, he became a television pitchman – advertising a soft drink with Britney Spears and, as a prostate cancer survivor, commercials for Viagra as well. .

Dole was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1997 and the Congress Gold Medal in 2018 for his long-standing dedication to public service. He thanked his colleagues, “because without them nothing would have been accomplished”.

Bob Dole said he was living proof that America is a land without limits, and he pushed those limits from the Kansas prairie of his youth to the great corridors of power where he spent so much of his time. life – one of the last of this world The WWII generation whose values ​​and courage were so instrumental in shaping America today.

Audrey McNamara contributed to this report.

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