Dec 13, 2021 • 56M

Podcast: Bob Dole, Warts and All

Doug Bell on the late Senator, in all his complexity

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Bob Dole being honored by Joe Biden at 2013 event (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Dying is never pleasant but if you have to do it, there are few better consolations than knowing that Joe Biden will deliver your eulogy. The American president is a man acquainted with grief and he brings to memorial occasions a rare gift for expressing it in a way that always rings as heartfelt. Biden’s recent speech  at Senator Bob Dole’s funeral was no exception.

As moving as Biden’s eulogy was, it shouldn’t be the last word on Dole. Funeral testimonies tend to accentuate the positive, while historical judgement demands a rounded view.

In an earlier post, I had suggested that Dole was torn between the conflicting demands of statesmanship and partisanship. To flesh out this a bit more, and to discuss Dole’s remarkable life and ornery personality, I chatted with Doug Bell, who listeners will know as a frequent guest. 

One area of agreement that Doug and I had is that Dole in all his prickliness is a far more intriguing than the waxwork champion of bipartisanship hailed in some of the obituaries. Dole lived an eventful life: the hardscrabble poverty of rural Kansas, the heroic service in World War II, the life-shattering war wound, the stoic recovery, the shift in politics from moderation to the hard right, the affinity with Richard Nixon, and finally the embrace of Trump. It was a roller coaster life, which Doug and I discuss in all its splendour and shame.

(Post edited by Emily M. Keeler)

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