Bob Dole: Biden leads tributes to a ‘dear friend’on December 5, 2021 at 9:03 pm

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Tributes have been paid across the US political divide to the late Republican leader Bob Dole.

Bob Dole delivers a speech in 1996

Image source, Reuters

US President Joe Biden has led tributes from both sides of America’s political divide to veteran Republican Bob Dole, who has died aged 98.

President Biden said Dole was a “dear friend” and “an American statesman like few in our history”.

Dole was a long-time senator for Kansas who ran as the Republican party’s presidential nominee in 1996, losing to the Democrat Bill Clinton.

He was also a World War Two veteran who nearly perished on the battlefield.

News of Dole’s death was announced by his wife’s foundation, which said he had “served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years”.

Dole’s opponent in the 1996 election, Bill Clinton, said Dole’s example should “inspire people today and for generations to come”.

Former Republican President George W Bush said Dole “represented the finest of American values”, while his Democratic successor Barack Obama called him a “war hero, a political leader, and a statesman”.

In Congress, Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the flags at the US Capitol to be flown at half-mast in tribute.

The Senate’s Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Dole lived “the kind of full, rich, and deeply honorable American life that will be impossible for any tribute to fully capture”.

Dole grew up in Kansas during the Great Depression and survived injuries that cost him the use of his arm and right hand, before embarking on a political career that saw him elected five times as US Senator for Kansas and serving as both Senate majority and minority leader.

He was vice-presidential candidate for Gerald Ford in 1976, losing to Democrats Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale.

Dole was a distant second to Bill Clinton in the 1996 presidential race, coming up against a youthful incumbent at a time when the economy was booming.

Politically, he was known as a pragmatist, willing to work with Democrats on bipartisan initiatives, in particular on disability rights.

He also had a reputation for blunt speaking and a sharp, sometimes self-deprecating wit.

After what was perceived to have been a gaffe in a 1976 vice-presidential debate, he said: “I was supposed to go for the jugular. And I did – my own.”

When Bill Clinton gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1997, he started reading the oath taken when presidents are sworn in, before joking “sorry, wrong speech”.

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