Bob Dole

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I don't know if that's good.

Robert Joseph "Bob" Dole (July 22, 1923 - December 5, 2021) was best known as a former Republican United States Senate Majority Leader and Senator from Kansas from 1969 to 1996. He was the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, but was defeated by incumbent Bill Clinton in the election.


  • As long as there are only 3 to 4 people on the floor, the country is in good hands. It's only when you have 50 to 60 in the Senate that you want to be concerned.
    • Reported in Tom Crisp, The Book of Bob: Choice Words, Memorable Men (2007), p. 134.
  • I mean, there's always somebody in somebody's administration who jumps out early, sells a book, and goes after the guy who hired him, … I don't know if that's good. It may be good business; it's not good politics.
  • If something happened along the route and you had to leave your children with Bob Dole or Bill Clinton, I think you would probably leave them with Bob Dole.
    • Reported in New York Magazine‎ (April 29, 1996), v. 29, no. 17, p. 13.
  • Something is wrong with America. I wonder sometimes what people are thinking about or if they're thinking at all.
    • Reported in Tom Crisp, The Book of Bob: Choice Words, Memorable Men (2007), p. 113.
  • At least she's the president of something, which is more than I can say.
    • About his wife, Elizabeth Dole, reported in William B. Whitman, The Quotable Politician‎ (2003), p. 125.
  • If Lincoln had an affair with a slave woman, it would be an outrage, but when Clinton does it with one of his staff, everyone is okay with it.
    • Reported in Tom Crisp, The Book of Bob: Choice Words, Memorable Men (2007), p. 126
  • If we had known we were going to win control of the Senate, we'd have run better candidates.
    • Attributed to Bob Dole by Charlie Cook, "The Democrats' Wild Ride," Cook Political Report, (June 12, 2010)
  • I once called Carter a chicken fried McGovern and I take that back because I've come to respect McGovern.
    • At the Republican debate in Iowa in 1980, reported in Dennie Hall, "Memorable barbs may incite laughter", News Oklahoma (December 26, 2004). The candidates were asked if they had done anything that they regretted.

Quotes about Dole

  • Even more distressing is how insignificant many of the subjects I wrote about look in retrospect. I spent months covering Senator Bob Dole’s run for president. I traveled on Dole’s plane, jockeyed to interview him, followed him across the country like a teenaged Led Zeppelin groupie. In 1996, Bob Dole was a big deal. It’s hard now to understand why. That’s true for so many people I covered. We thought they were important. Now they’re forgotten. A surprising number of them are dead, though I guess that shouldn’t be surprising. Death and irrelevance are coming for all of us. That’s the one certain thing. Repeat that to yourself every morning, and things fall into perspective. Most of what we think matters really doesn’t.
    • Tucker Carlson, The Long Slide: Thirty Years in American Journalism (2021)
  • Dole, like many from his generation, presumably did not know how to handle LGBTQ+ issues, and most likely out of unfamiliarity didn’t do much for our community, which was also being left behind while he was in the Senate. However, when he ran for president in 1988, Dole lambasted his competitors for their AIDS-bashing speeches, saying, "There is, you know, such a thing as compassion." At that time and during that tragedy, getting anyone in power to show some compassion was a rarity. In 1995, running for president again (he became the GOP’s nominee in 1996), Dole clumsily flip-flopped with a donation sent to him by the Log Cabin Republicans. He accepted it, then sent it back saying he didn’t agree with the gay group’s agenda, then accepted it again, saying it had something to do with a mail mishap. It was rather embarrassing, to say the least. I think that’s how Dole approached LGBTQ+ issues, out of embarrassment, with hidden compassion. During the late ’80s to mid-’90s, most members of Congress were older white men, and the last thing in the world they wanted to talk about was "homosexual" issues. This is why the government was tragically so late in the game when it came to fighting AIDS.
  • Dole gave up his Senate seat after serving for over 30 years when he ran for president, so once Clinton was in office, Dole had little sway over policy, but he was opposed not only to gays in the military but also to same-sex marriage, and that was as late as 2014, before same-sex marriage became legal nationwide. By then, Dole was in his 90s, and most likely still stuck in his ways. We can’t say that Dole was an ally, but I’m not so sure he should inspire our ire. He was from a generation that is disappearing at a very rapid rate. They were raised during a time when things like speaking about sexuality were taboo. Who really knew what was in his heart? I just always thought about the two guys I knew who worked for him, who loved him very much. However, we can — and should — commend him for his tremendous sacrifice during World War II. He nearly died defending our country and lived with his disabilities astonishingly until age 98. He was, and is, a legitimate American hero. Because of him and his generation, we are free — at least for the time being, and hopefully after 2024.
  • We can also commend him for his comity. When he became the GOP leader in the 1980s, he said, “I don’t wait for the consensus. I try to help build it.” He was not only successful in working with the very liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy, Democrat from Massachusetts, in getting the historic ADA passed, but also worked with Democrats to help expand food stamp and school lunch programs, and to create nutrition programs for low-income pregnant women, mothers, and young children. He also played a leading role in passing a ramped-up clean air act, public housing laws, and an extension of the Voting Rights Act. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Dole was sitting in McConnell’s seat right now and understood the assault on voting rights that are currently taking place in state legislatures? He would understand the urgency to pass a bill to help strengthen and protect voting rights for all. And wouldn’t it be nice if Dole, who could be equally crusty as the other men in Congress and who had an acerbic wit, could nonetheless have had a leadership role in getting to the bottom of the January 6 insurrection? He fiercely loved democracy, the Senate, and our Constitution perhaps like no other member of Congress in history. And that’s because he almost died from all of that. He would surely want to convict anyone — even the former president — who betrayed all that he revered and stood for. I heard that he wept while the Capitol was under assault.
  • When I attended the signing of the ADA, I was fortunate enough to sit behind and catty-corner to Dole during the ceremony, and I watched his reaction during the entire event because he was so close to me. When President George H.W. Bush gave him full credit for bringing such sweeping legislation to fruition, I saw Dole quickly wipe away a tear. A man from his generation was loath to cry in public. But when I saw that moment of emotion from him, I remembered his worrying about a dehydrated young man trying to get a job in Congress. Dole might not have been our biggest ally for queer rights, but he might go down in history as being one of American democracy’s most notorious defenders and biggest advocates, and that’s how he should be remembered.
  • Now people call Bob Dole a moderate. Bob Dole is not a moderate. Bob Dole is an extremely conservative person.
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