Bob Dole, longtime GOP Senate leader, dies at 98

Bob Dole, who was a Republican Senate leader for 35 years, including as his party’s nominee for president in 1996, died on Sunday at 98 years old.

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced the death. “It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep. At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years,“ said a statement from the foundation, named for his wife, herself a former U.S. senator from North Carolina.

Dole served as a U.S. senator for Kansas for nearly 30 years. In 1976, he was Gerald Ford’s vice-presidential nominee, though the pair was defeated by President Jimmy Carter and his running mate, Walter Mondale.

Dole started his own presidential run in 1980. He later clinched the GOP nomination for the presidency in 1996, losing to the incumbent, President Bill Clinton.

Prior to his political career, Dole served in the Army during World War II, during which he was seriously injured. He became temporarily paralyzed from the neck down, and spent years rehabbing at a military hospital. Both Republican and Democrat figures paid tribute to Bob Dole.

“Bob was an American statesman like few in our history,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “A war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation. And to me, he was also a friend whom I could look to for trusted guidance, or a humorous line at just the right moment to settle frayed nerves. I will miss my friend. But I am grateful for the times we shared, and for the friendship Jill and I and our family have built with Liddy and the entire Dole family.”

Flags at the Capitol will fly at half-staff in honor of Dole, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said Sunday.

“Senator Dole was a war hero, a political leader, and a statesman – with a career and demeanor harkening back to a day when members of the Greatest Generation abided by a certain code, putting country over party. His sharp wit was matched only by his integrity, and he lived his life in a way that made it clear just how proud he was to be an American, and how committed he was to making this country everything he knew it could be,” former President Barack Obama said in a statement.

George W Bush also paid tribute to Bob Dole, who he said “represented the finest of American values.”

“He defended them in uniform during World War II. He advanced them in the United States Senate. And he lived them out as a father, husband, and friend. Our entire family benefitted from that friendship, including my father. I will always remember Bob’s salute to my late dad at the Capitol, and now we Bushes salute Bob and give thanks for his life of principled service,” Bush said in a statement.

Former President Donald Trump hailed Dole as an “American war hero and true patriot.”

“He served the Great State of Kansas with honor and the Republican Party was made stronger by his service. Our Nation mourns his passing, and our prayers are with Elizabeth and his wonderful family,” Trump said in a statement.

At the funeral of his former rival George H.W. Bush in 2018, Dole rose from his wheelchair with the help of an aide and lifted his left hand for a final salute.

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