Longtime Republican Lawmaker Bob Dole Dead at 98

Bob Dole at a 2016 Veterans Day ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Bob Dole, the longtime Republican senator, former presidential hopeful, and decorated World War II veteran, died in his sleep on Sunday. He was 98.

Back in February, Dole revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer and said he was starting treatment. “While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own,” Dole said then. His death was announced by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, an organization established in 2012 by his wife, former senator Elizabeth Dole, to support and honor the nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers.

From 1969 to 1996, the Kansas native represented the state in the United States Senate and served as Senate majority leader for the last 11 years of his tenure. (He was the party’s longest-serving leader until Mitch McConnell of Kentucky surpassed that record in 2018.) In 1996, he became the Republican nominee for president — one of the oldest first-time presidential nominees at age 73. Decades earlier, President Gerald Ford had selected Dole to be his running mate in the 1976 presidential election.

ABC News notes that the lawmaker wrote in his memoir that his experiences fighting for the U.S. Army in World War II defined his life: “Adversity can be a harsh teacher, but its lessons often define our lives. As much as we may wish that we could go back and relive them, do things differently, make better, wiser decisions, we can’t change history. War is like that. You can rewrite it, attempt to infuse it with your own personal opinions, twist or spin it to make it more palatable, but eventually the truth will come out.” Dole was critically injured by a German shell in Italy in 1945, but was able to recover after 39 months in and out of military hospitals.

In 1997, months after losing the presidential election, then-President Bill Clinton presented Dole with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. “Through it, we honor not just his individual achievement but his clear embodiment in the common values and beliefs that join us as a people,” Clinton said before placing the medal around his erstwhile rival’s neck. Dole was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2018.

Later in his life, as national chairman of the World War II Memorial Commission, Dole helped to raise more than $197 million to construct a national memorial to honor the 16 million Americans who served in the armed forces during the war.

Dole also became a pitchman after leaving office, including appearing in ads for Viagra. (Dole developed erectile dysfunction after undergoing prostate surgery, and made efforts to raise awareness about the problem.)

According to the Washington Post, Dole “was often critical of the Republican Party after leaving office, telling audiences that it had become too conservative.” Yet he remained loyal to the party and became the only former GOP presidential candidate to endorse Trump in 2016.

Longtime Republican Lawmaker Bob Dole Dead at 98