Robert "Bob" Dole, U.S. Senator

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Robert Joseph Dole

Birthplace: Russell, Russell County, Kansas, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Doran Ray Dole and Bina M Dole
Husband of Elizabeth "Liddy" Dole, U.S. Senator, U.S. Secretary of Labor and Transportation
Ex-husband of Phyllis Dole (Holden)
Father of Private
Brother of Kenneth Dole; Private; Private; Private and Private

Occupation: U.S. Senator
Managed by: Stanley Welsh Duke, Jr.
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Robert "Bob" Dole, U.S. Senator

Robert Joseph "Bob" Dole (born July 22, 1923) is an American attorney and politician. Dole represented Kansas in the United States Senate from 1969 to 1996, was Gerald Ford's Vice Presidential running mate in the 1976 presidential election, and was Senate Majority Leader from 1985 to 1987 and in 1995 and 1996. Dole was the Republican party nominee in the presidential election of 1996, but he lost to incumbent Democrat Bill Clinton. Dole is currently special counsel at the Washington, D.C. office of law firm 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, a former member of the Clinton cabinet. Dole is married to former U.S. cabinet member and former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Hanford Dole of North Carolina. Bob Dole is currently a member of the advisory council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

Early years

Bob Dole was born in Russell, Kansas, the son of Bina N. (née Talbott; 1904–1983) and Doran Ray Dole (1901–1975). His father, who had moved the family to Russell while Dole was still a toddler, made a living by running a small creamery. Among his father's customers was the father of Arlen Specter who ran a junkyard in the town and used Dole's scales to weigh junk. Specter, who was six years younger than Dole and graduated Russell High School in 1947, was not a Dole contemporary although Specter's brother Morton Specter and Dole's brother Kenny Dole were friends. During the Great Depression, which hit Kansas very hard, the Dole family moved into the basement of their home and rented out the rest of the house. As a boy, he took many odd jobs around Russell, and he would later work as a soda jerk in the local drug store.

Dole graduated from Russell High School in the spring of 1941 and enrolled at the University of Kansas the following fall. Dole had been a star high school athlete in Russell, and influential Kansas basketball coach Phog Allen traveled to Russell to recruit him to play for the basketball team. While at KU, Dole played for the basketball team, the track team, and the football team. In football, Dole played at the end position, earning varsity letters in 1942 and 1944. While in college, he joined the Kappa Sigma fraternity, where he later became one of the "Men Of The Year". Dole's study of law at KU was interrupted by World War II. After the war, he returned to being a law student. Dole attended the University of Arizona from 1948 to 1951 and earned his degree from Washburn University School of Law in 1952.

Dole grew up in a house at 1035 North Maple in Russell (38.895352°N 98.861034°W) and it remained his official residence throughout his political career.

World War II and recovery

In 1942, Dole joined the United States Army's Enlisted Reserve Corps to fight in World War II. Dole became a second lieutenant in the Army's 10th Mountain Division.

In April 1945, while engaged in combat near Castel d'Aiano in the Apennine mountains southwest of Bologna, Italy, Dole was hit by German machine gun fire in his upper right back and his right arm was also badly injured. As Lee Sandlin describes, when fellow soldiers saw the extent of his injuries all they thought they could do was to "give him the largest dose of morphine they dared and write an 'M' for 'morphine' on his forehead in his own blood, so that nobody else who found him would give him a second, fatal dose." Dole had to wait nine hours on the battlefield before being taken to the 15th Evacuation Hospital, where he began a recovery that would take until 1948 at Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan (where Dole met future fellow politicians Daniel Inouye and Philip Hart). His right arm was paralyzed; Dole often carried a pen in his right hand to signal that he could not shake hands with that arm.

The hospital where Dole recovered from his wounds, the former Battle Creek Sanitarium, is now named Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in honor of three patients who became United States Senators: Dole, Philip Hart and Daniel Inouye.

Dole was decorated three times, receiving two Purple Hearts for his injuries, and the Bronze Star with combat "V" for valor for his attempt to assist a downed radio man.

Political career

Dole ran for office for the first time in 1950 and was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, serving a two-year term.[9] After graduating from law school at Washburn University in Topeka, he was admitted to the bar and commenced the practice of law in his hometown of Russell in 1952.

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 re-elected that year and twice thereafter without serious difficulty.

U.S. Senate

In 1968, Dole defeated Kansas Governor William H. Avery for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate to succeed retiring Senator Frank Carlson, subsequently being elected. Dole was re-elected in 1974, 1980, 1986, and 1992, before resigning on June 11, 1996 to focus on his Presidential campaign. Dole 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, having in the end graphically painted Roy as pro-abortion. While in the Senate, Dole 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. Dole 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, as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs Dole 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 Dole would direct party assets to conservatives. They were wrong, as Dole in fact offered something to all Republican factions.

Presidential politics

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. Dole stated during the Vice Presidential debate with Walter Mondale, "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.

Dole ran for the 1980 Republican Presidential nomination, eventually won by Ronald Reagan. Despite Dole's fame from the '76 campaign, he was viewed as a lower tier candidate, trailing not only Reagan but George Bush, Howard Baker, John Connally, and John Anderson. Dole received only 597 votes (less than 1%) in the New Hampshire primary and immediately withdrew.

Dole made a more serious bid in 1988, formally announcing his candidacy in Russell, Kansas, on November 9, 1987. At the ceremony, Dole was presented with the cigar box that had been used to collect donations for his war-related medical expenses. The box contained $100,000 in campaign donations. Dole 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 a week later. 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, contributing to his "hatchet man" image earned during his tenure as RNC chairman and the '76 campaign.

Despite two big wins in South Dakota and Minnesota a week after New Hampshire, Dole was not able to recover. Viewed by many as a micromanager who could not effectively oversee a presidential campaign while serving as a senator[citation needed], he did not hire a full time campaign manager, former TN Senator Bill Brock, until the fall of 1987, well after Bush's team had been in place. Despite raising almost as much money as the Bush campaign, the Dole campaign spent its money faster and was vastly outspent in the contests held after IA, NH, MN, and SD. Despite a key Dole endorsement by Senator Strom Thurmond, one of many Republican senators who supported their leader, Dole was defeated by Bush again in South Carolina in early March. Several days later, every southern state voted for Bush in a "Super Tuesday" sweep. Another big victory in Illinois persuaded Dole to withdraw from the race. Dole was at the top of Bush's list for a vice presidential candidate, but Bush surprised the political community[citation needed] by instead choosing Indiana Senator Dan Quayle.

1996 presidential campaign

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 and more moderate Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. 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 tranquillity, 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.". Dole 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. Dole 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 11, 1996, Dole 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 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 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". 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, as pundits had long expected, by Bill 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.

Dole 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 Viagra, Visa, 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. Dole was, for a short time, a commentator opposite Bill Clinton on CBS's 60 Minutes. Dole 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 Dole had a heated exchange with Democratic presidential primary candidate Wesley Clark in which Dole correctly predicted that Clark would lose the New Hampshire primary and other primaries. In 2001, Dole, at age 77, was treated successfully for an abdominal aortic aneurysm by vascular surgeon Kenneth Ouriel. Dr. Ouriel said Dole "maintained his sense of humor throughout his care."

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. On January 18, 1989, Dole was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Reagan. Then, on January 17, 1997, President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service in the military and his political career. Dole 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), Dole 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 recent years, Dole has struggled with health problems. In December 2004, he had a hip-replacement operation, which required him to receive blood thinners. One month after the surgery it was determined that Dole was bleeding inside his head. He spent 40 days at Walter Reed, and upon release his "good" arm, the left, was of limited use. Dole told a reporter that he needed help to handle the simplest of tasks, since both of his arms are injured. Dole 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. In 2009, he was hospitalized for an elevated heart rate and sores on his leg for which he underwent a successful skin graft procedure. In February 2010, he was hospitalized for pneumonia after undergoing knee surgery. He spent 10 months at Walter Reed, recovering from the surgery and experienced 3 bouts with pneumonia. Dole was released from the hospital in November 2010. However, in January 2011, Dole was readmitted to Walter Reed Hospital and spent about six days there, being treated for a fever as well as a minor infection.

Dole is special counsel at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Alston & Bird. On April 12, 2005, Dole released his autobiography 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.

Dole also was responsible for a large amount of funds raised for the U.S. National World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.

On June 28, 2004, Dole was named 'Shining Star of Perseverance' by the Assurant Employee Benefits WillReturn Council.

On September 18, 2004, Dole offered the inaugural lecture to dedicate the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service at which Dole chronicled his life as a public servant as well as discussed the importance of public service in terms of defense, civil rights, the economy, and in daily life.

In 2007, Dole joined fellow former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, and George Mitchell to found the Bipartisan Policy Center, a non-profit think tank that works to develop policies suitable for bipartisan support.

That same year, President George W. Bush appointed Dole and Donna Shalala co-chairs of a commission to investigate problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Dole appears in the 2008 award-winning documentary on Lee Atwater, Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story. In the film, Dole says, "I don't comment on Atwater." Additionally, "This isn't politics, this is garbage."

Personal life

Dole married Phyllis Holden, an occupational therapist at a veterans hospital, in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1948. Their daughter, Robin, was born in 1954. Dole and Holden divorced in 1972. Holden died on April 22, 2008.

Dole has been married to Former Senator Elizabeth Dole, née Hanford, of North Carolina since 1975. Mrs. Dole ran unsuccessfully for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2000 and was elected to the United States Senate in 2002, to succeed the retiring Republican Jesse Helms. However, she lost her seat in 2008, a heavily Democratic year, to Kay Hagan.

Parodies in popular culture

Dole is known for carrying a pen in his paralyzed hand and has a habit of referring to himself in the third person. During the New Hampshire primaries in 1996, for example, Dole told supporters "You're going to see the real Bob Dole from now on." By April, a National Review columnist termed the habit "irritating". The habit has been much-parodied in popular culture:

Dole has been parodied on Saturday Night Live by Dan Aykroyd and Norm Macdonald. His caricature constantly refers to himself in the third person. He appeared personally on SNL in 1996 shortly after losing the Presidential election. Dole even lampooned his own caricature of his third-person references and criticized Macdonald as doing "an impersonation of Dan Aykroyd doing (him)." His appearances on SNL, Suddenly Susan, and other comedy shows prompted him to tell a interviewer "You have no idea how many people have said they'd have voted for me if they'd known I had a sense of humor!"
MADtv featured Dole (played by David Herman) appearing at the 1996 election as Dolemite.
In an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington", the Springfield Republican Party holds a secret meeting where they are deciding on a Congressional nominee. All of the attendees agree on the nomination of Krusty the Clown except for Dole, who nominates himself, citing in the third person, "Maybe Bob Dole should run. Bob Dole thinks Bob Dole should. Actually, Bob Dole just wants to hear Bob Dole talk about Bob Dole. BOB DOLE!" In the episode "Brawl in the Family", Dole attends another secret conference of the Springfield Republican Party to give an inspirational reading from the Necronomicon.
In "Treehouse of Horror VII", the 1996 Halloween special episode of The Simpsons (and just days before the 1996 presidential election), both President Bill Clinton and Bob Dole are abducted by aliens. While being abducted, Dole remarks, "Bob Dole doesn't need this."
In the Family Guy episode "Mr. Griffin Goes to Washington", Peter meets Dole, who states, "Bob Dole is a friend of the tobacco industry. Bob Dole likes your style..." then repeatedly refers to himself in third person until he eventually falls asleep.
The still-living head of Dole appears in the Futurama episode "A Head in the Polls". At the Head Museum, in the "Closet of Presidential Losers", Dole says "Bob Dole needs company. LaRouche won't stop with the knock knock jokes."
Damon Wayans makes fun of Dole in a stand up comedy sketch, implying that Dole is a pimp from another galaxy, come to America to pimp the nation.
In the 3rd Rock from the Sun episode where Harry Solomon runs for City Council, Harry at one point addresses Dick with Bill Clinton's thumbs up sign, then shifts into third person and displays a pencil in his right hand. Harry promptly claims that he "appeals to both sides."
In a segment for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Dole appeared on stage to present his book Great Presidential Wit, and while doing so denied Leno's earlier statements about it being possible for Viagra consumption to lead to blindness in men. "I know a little about Viagra... Bob Dole knows a little about Viagra," Dole claimed, and then proceeded to act as though he were losing his vision. In another segment, Dole jokingly claimed—in the third person—that he had once been part of the cast of Friends but later resigned to run for President of the United States of America. "Bob Dole should have stayed with Friends," he said.
In an episode of Johnny Bravo, Dole is parodied as a dinosaur that held a pencil in its right hand and kept referring to itself in the third person as "T-Rex".
In an episode of South Park (Spontaneous Combustion), in a scene with Gerald Broflovski in his office, Dole is heard on the radio mentioning that he can 'get it up' while using his name in third person. The joke was that Gerald was suffering with erectile disfunction.
On The Dana Carvey Show, he was portrayed by Robert Smigel as being borderline senile and tended to yell his name out of context, or as a replacement for other words or names. "Bob Dole is proud to present the next Vice President of the Bob Dole", "Why won't Bob Dole debate me?", or yelling "DOLE" when scared. He was also out of touch with modern day and believed the United States to have only 48 states. He eventually picked Strom Thurmond as his running mate, to make himself appear "more youthfull and vigerant".
Although Bob Dole accused the band Cannibal Corpse of undermining the national character of the United States, lead singer George Fisher said in an interview that he met Bob Dole in 2001 and stated, "he was actually a nice guy and admitted that he owned our album Gallery of Suicide."
In the Pinky and the Brain episodes "Pinkasso" and "Where The Deer and The Mousealopes Play" a senator by the name of Bob Del Monte refers to himself in third person.
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Robert "Bob" Dole, U.S. Senator's Timeline

July 22, 1923
Russell, Russell County, Kansas, United States