Former Kansas Senator Robert J. “Bob” Dole died Sunday at the age of 98, according to a statement from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.
“Senator Robert J. Dole passed away early this morning in his sleep,” the statement said. “When he died at the age of 98, he had faithfully served the United States of America for 79 years. A statement from the Dole family will be released shortly.
Dole was best known as the Republican presidential candidate in 1996, running against incumbent Democratic President Bill Clinton, who was at the peak of his popularity after joining the political center. Although Dole lost in a landslide, his warnings that Clinton could not be trusted were later confirmed by the sex scandal that led to Clinton’s impeachment.
Born in 1923 in the small town of Russell, Kansas, Dole was a student and athlete at the University of Kansas when World War II broke out. He enlisted a year later in the US Army Reserve Corps and was posted to active service in June 1943.
As the Topeka Capital-Journal recalled earlier this year:
Rotating around several American camps and attending the Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning in Georgia, Dole was deployed to Italy as a second lieutenant in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division in late 1944.
But just months after this deployment began, Dole on April 14, 1945, led an assault on Hill 913 north of Castel D’Aiano, with soldiers taking heavy artillery and aerial fire. When he saw another soldier fall, Dole went to help him shoot him into a manhole, and as he came out he felt a strong prick in his shoulder.
Dole collapsed on the battlefield and it took nine hours before medics could evacuate her to a field hospital. He would spend the next two and a half years at Percy Jones Army Medical Center in Battle Creek, Michigan in a head-to-hip cast, having lost a kidney and complete use of his right arm.
He received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster. He held a pen in his right hand so that people would not be alarmed by his disability when they encountered him.
Dole then attended the University of Arizona and returned to Kansas, where he received an undergraduate and law degree from Washburn University in Topeka in 1952. By then he had already was elected to the Kansas State House of Representatives and launched his political career. . He served as a Russell County attorney and won election to the United States House for four consecutive terms in the 1960s before running for senator in 1968. He was re-elected four times.
In 1976, Dole entered presidential politics as the running mate of incumbent President Gerald Ford, who lost to Jimmy Carter. He would then lead Republicans in the Senate, as majority and minority leader, before stepping down in 1996 to focus on his ill-fated presidential campaign. He remained involved in politics, in part thanks to his second wife, Elizabeth Dole, who represented North Carolina in the US Senate from 2003 to 2009, and in part thanks to his own commentary.
Despite being considered an establishment figure, Dole has supported President Donald Trump – not without criticism, but with admiration for Trump’s policies and his achievements in power. In 2017, Dole openly praised Trump’s first trip to Europe, including his speech in Warsaw on the need to defend Western civilization. In the 2020 presidential election, Dole spoke out in defense of Trump against the Presidential Debates Commission, saying she appeared to be biased against the president.
Oddly and somewhat controversially, after his political retirement, Dole also became an early promoter of Viagra, the breakthrough erectile dysfunction drug in men. In doing so, he removed the stigma of the disease and the drug, opening up a new world of sexual freedom for middle-aged and older couples.
Robert Dole will remain widely admired, both for his military heroism and for his public service, one of the greatest Americans to ever win the presidency.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent eBook Ni Free ni Fair: The 2020 US Presidential Election. His latest book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni scholarship recipient. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.