Walter Shapiro on Bob Dole.
Political Observer comments.
It takes Walter Shapiro sometime to break though the fog of his engaging, if a bit labored, nostalgia for Bob Dole:
Not everything about that career was admirable. In 1974, Dole faced the toughest Senate reelection fight of his career against Bill Roy, a revered Kansas obstetrician who had served two terms in Congress. In a guttersnipe move for Kansas politics in that era, Dole railed against the handful of legal abortions to save the life of a mother that Roy had performed, during a career in which he delivered 5,000 babies. Calling Roy an “abortionist,” Dole roused enough social conservatives to eke out a 13,000-vote victory.
In many ways, the saddest act of Dole’s political career was the last one, as he (unlike every other living GOP presidential nominee) endorsed Trump for president and attended the 2016 GOP convention in Cleveland. Maybe this ill-considered decision was an old man’s final grasp for relevance, or maybe it reflected a stubborn, misplaced allegiance to the permanently changed Republican Party. At least in his final interview, in July, with Susan Page of USA Today, Dole admitted that Biden had won the 2020 election fairly and described himself as “sort of Trumped out.”
All The Reader need do is to read some of the selected quotes from Barry Goldwater’s 1964 acceptance speech, that in its way prefigures Samuel P. Huntington, and the Republican Party’s trajectory, over generations, as it journeyed toward Trump, though it was not an inevitability!
I can see and I suggest that all thoughtful men must contemplate the flowering of an Atlantic civilization, the whole world of Europe unified and free, trading openly across its borders, communicating openly across the world. This is a goal far, far more meaningful than a moon shot.
I can see this Atlantic civilization galvanizing and guiding emergent nations everywhere.
I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
The rise of Ronald Reagan and his use of ‘Welfare Queens Driving Cadillacs’ racism in ‘76 & ‘80, and his declaration of his belief in ‘States Rights’ at the Neshoba County Fair:
I believe in states' rights; I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level. And I believe that we've distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the constitution to that federal establishment. And if I do get the job I'm looking for, I'm going to devote myself to trying to reorder those priorities and to restore to the states and local communities those functions which properly belong there.
Bob Dole was a Republican, in all its prejudicial small minded iterations , while claiming to be the rightful inheritor of a long and proud ‘Conservative Tradition’. Dole endorsed Trump, in sum, he was about the Party! Given Mr. Shapiro’s talent as a writer to evoke time, place and an uneven, an incomplete character analysis of Dole, his concluding paragraph wallows in bathos:
But the best measure of Dole’s political career is a question that Trump has made sadly relevant: Would you feel confident in American democracy if this person were the leader of the opposing political party? During the era when Bob Dole personified Republican leadership on Capitol Hill and the years in which he ran for president, America would have been in capable hands no matter which party ruled Washington. If only one could say that today.