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Robert Joseph "Bob" Dole (born July 22, 1923) is an attorney and retired United States Senator from Kansasmarker 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 his party's 1996 presidential nominee but lost the election to incumbent Democrat Bill Clinton. He was the Republican vice presidential nominee in the 1976 U.S. Presidential election, but lost the election to Walter Mondale, who ran on the Jimmy Carter ticket. Dole is 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 Centermarker, 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 Carolinamarker.

Early years

Dole was born in Russell, Kansasmarker, the son of Bina N. (née Talbott; 1904-1983) and Doran Ray Dole (1901-1975). His father, who had moved the family to Russell, Kansasmarker while Dole was still a toddler, had made a living by running a small creamery. During the Great Depression, which hit Kansasmarker very hard, the Dole family moved into the basement of their home and rented out the rest of the house. As a boy, Dole took many odd jobs around Russell; he would later work as a soda jerk in the local drug store.Dole graduated from Hebron High School in the spring of 1941 and enrolled at the University of Kansasmarker the following fall. Dole, a star high school athlete in his native Russell, earned a coveted spot on the Kansas Jayhawks basketball team under legendary coach Phog Allen. 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, Dole returned to being a law student. He attended the University of Arizonamarker from 1948 to 1951 and earned his degree from Washburn University School of Law in 1952.

World War II and recovery

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

In April 1945, while engaged in combat near Castel d'Aianomarker in the Apennine mountains southwest of Bolognamarker, Italymarker, he was hit by German machine gun fire in his upper right back. 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." He had to wait nine hours on the battlefield before being taken to the 15th Evacuation Hospital. He began a recovery that would last until 1948 at Percy Jones Army hospital in Battle Creek, Michiganmarker, where he 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 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.

Dole was three times decorated for heroism, 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. After graduating from law school at Washburn Universitymarker in Topekamarker, Dole was admitted to the bar and commenced the practice of law in his hometown of Russellmarker 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 Districtmarker, 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

1982, Dole as a Senator
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, having in the end graphically painted Roy as pro-abortion. 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 Tennesseemarker 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, as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs 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.

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. 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 ran for the 1980 Republican Presidential nomination, eventually won by Ronald Reagan. Despite his fame from the '76 campaign, Dole was viewed as a lower tier candidate, trailing not only Reagan but George Bush, Howard Baker, John Connally, and John Anderson. He 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, KS on November 9, 1987. At the ceremony, he 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. 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 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 NH, he was not able to recover. Dole, viewed by many as a micromanager who could not effectively oversee a presidential campaign while serving as a senator, 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 were 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 Carolinamarker 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 by instead choosing Indiana Senator Dan Quayle.

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 Pennsylvaniamarker. 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. 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 11, 1996, he resigned his seat to focus on the campaign, saying he was either heading for "The White Housemarker 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 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. 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. 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, Kansasmarker, 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, he 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. 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 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.

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

On September 18, 2004, Senator Dole offered the inaugural lecture to dedicate the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Servicemarker at which he 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, President George W. Bush appointed Dole and Donna Shalala co-chairs of a commission to investigate problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Centermarker.

Personal life

Dole married Phyllis Holden, an occupational therapist at a veterans hospital, in Battle Creekmarker, Michigan in 1948. His daughter, Robin, was born in 1954. Dole and Holden divorced in 1972. Holden remarried in 1973 to Lou Buzick, was widowed in 1978, and married for a third time in 1986 to her former childhood sweetheart, Benjamin Macey. She died on April 22, 2008.

Dole has been married to Former Senator Elizabeth Dole, née Hanford, of North Carolinamarker since 1975. Elizabeth ran unsuccessfully for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2000 and was elected to the United States Senate in 2002, losing her seat in 2008 to Democrat Kay Hagan.

Parodies in popular culture

Dole has a habit of referring to himself in the third person and is known for carrying a pen in his paralyzed hand. During the New Hampshire primaries in 1996, for example, he 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. Dole appeared personally on SNL in 1996 shortly after losing the Presidential election. He even lampooned his own caricature of his third-person references and criticized Macdonald as doing "an impersonation of Dan Aykroyd doing (him)."
  • MADtv featured Bob 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 Bob Dole, who nominates himself, citing, "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 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 Bob 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.
  • Dole appears in the Futurama episode "A Head in the Polls" in the "Closet of Presidential Losers", claiming that "Bob Dole needs company. LaRouche won't stop with the knock knock jokes."
  • In the 3rd Rock from the Sun episode where Harry Solomon runs for City Council, he at one point addresses Dick with Bill Clinton's thumbs up sign, then shifts into third person and displays a pen in his right hand. He promptly claims he "appeals to both sides."
  • In a segment for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Bob 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, Bob 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 commented.
  • 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".

Electoral history


  • Dole, Bob: One Soldier's Story: A Memoir. (2005). HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-076341-8
  • James W. Ceaser and Andrew E. Busch: Losing to Win: The 1996 Elections and American Politics Rowman & Littlefield, 1997
  • Clinton, Bill: My Life. (2005) ISBN 1-4000-3003-X
  • Robert E. Denton Jr.: The 1996 Presidential Campaign: A Communication Perspective Praeger Publishers, 1998 online
  • Elovitz, Paul: "Work, Laughter and Tears: Bob Dole's Childhood, War Injury, the Conservative Republicans and the 1996 Election." Journal of Psychohistory (1996) 24(2): 147–162. Issn: 0145-3378
  • Joshua Wolf Shenk: "The Best and Worst of Bob Dole," Washington Monthly, Vol. 28, July 1996 online
  • Kerry Tymchuk, Molly Meijer Wertheimer, Nichola D. Gutgold: Elizabeth Hanford Dole: Speaking from the Heart Praeger, 2004


  1. Dole, Shalala to investigate Walter Reed problems -
  2. Ancestry of Robert Dole (b. 1923)
  3. "Losing the War" by Lee Sandlin
  4. Richard Lacayo, "Where's the Party? Time August 19, 1996 online version
  5. Online NewsHour: Previous Vice Presidential Debates Lend Perspective to Edwards, Cheney Face-Off - October 5, 2004
  6. 1996 Bob Dole acceptance speech
  7. Mr. Clinton's Bridge
  8. New York Times, May 16, 1996: Dole says he will leave Senate to focus on presidential race.
  9. Clinton And Dole, Face To Face, Spar Over Medicare And Taxes - New York Times
  10. Business Week, 09/02/96: Medicare, taxes and Bob Dole: a talk with the president.
  11. AllPolitics - Presidential Election Exit Poll Results
  12. 2004 Shining Star of Perseverance Media Release
  13. Clinton School Speakers
  14. Saturday Night Live Transcripts
  15. YouTube - Bob Dole Thinks Bob Dole Should Run

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