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Dec. 5, 2021, 12:42 p.m. EST

Senate leader, presidential candidate Bob Dole dies at 98

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By Accociated Press

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For all of his bare-knuckle ways, he was a deep believer in the Senate as an institution and commanded respect and even affection from many Democrats. Just days after Dole announced his dire cancer diagnosis, President Joe Biden visited him at his home to wish him well. The White House said the two were close friends from their days in the Senate.

Dole won a seat in Congress in 1960, representing a western Kansas House district. He moved up to the Senate eight years later when Republican incumbent Frank Carlson retired.

There, he antagonized his Senate colleagues with fiercely partisan and sarcastic rhetoric, delivered at the behest of President Richard Nixon. The Kansan was rewarded for his loyalty with the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee in 1971, before Nixon’s presidency collapsed in the Watergate scandal.

He served served as a committee chairman, majority leader and minority leader in the Senate during the 1980s and ’90s. Altogether, he was the Republicans’ leader in the Senate for nearly 11½ years, a record until Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell broke it in 2018. It was during this period that he earned a reputation as a shrewd, pragmatic legislator, tireless in fashioning compromises.

After Republicans won Senate control, Dole became chairman of the tax-writing Finance Committee and won acclaim from deficit hawks and others for his handling of a 1982 tax bill, in which he persuaded Ronald Reagan’s White House to go along with increasing revenues by $100 billion to ease the federal budget deficit.

But some more conservative Republicans were appalled that Dole had pushed for higher taxes. Georgia Rep. Newt Gingrich branded him “the tax collector for the welfare state.”

Dole became Senate leader in 1985 and served as either majority or minority leader, depending on which party was in charge, until he resigned in 1996 to devote himself to pursuit of the presidency.

That campaign, Dole’s last, was fraught with problems from the start. He ran out of money in the spring, and Democratic ads painted the GOP candidate and the party’s divisive House speaker, Gingrich, with the same brush: as Republicans out to eliminate Medicare. Clinton won by a large margin.

He also faced questions about his age because he was running for president at age 73 — well before Biden was elected weeks before turning 78 in 2020.

Relegated to private life, Dole became an elder statesman who helped Clinton get a chemical-weapons treaty passed. He also tended his wife’s political ambitions. Elizabeth Dole ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, then served a term as senator from North Carolina.

Dole also endeared himself to the public as the self-deprecating pitchman for the anti-impotence drug Viagra and other products.

He also continued to comment on issues and endorse political candidates.

In 2016, Dole initially backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for the GOP presidential nomination. He later warmed to Donald Trump and eventually endorsed him.

But six weeks after the 2020 election, with Trump still refusing to concede and promoting unfounded claims of voter fraud, Dole told The Kansas City Star, “The election is over.”

He said: “It’s a pretty bitter pill for Trump, but it’s a fact he lost.”

In September 2017, Congress voted to award Dole its highest expression of appreciation for distinguished contributions to the nation, a Congressional Gold Medal. That came a decade after he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Congress honored Dole again in 2019 by promoting him from Army captain to colonel, in recognition of the military service that earned him two Purple Hearts.

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