It was one of those moments that brought us all to look at our own-selves and what’s really important in life. In a world of divisiveness, Bob Dole showed us what respect really means. Despite being immobile, Dole signaled over to an aide to assist him in standing for the national anthem prior to the ceremony. Dole, age 95, using a wheelchair, stood-up with the help of an aide at the funeral of George H.W. Bush in the United States Capitol Rotunda on December 4, 2018, and saluted to pay his respects to the late 41st President of the United States.
On the TODAY show this morning, 1/31/2019, Savannah Guthrie sat down with Bob Dole and his wife to discuss why he felt compelled to stand and salute the late President. Once fierce political rivals, the two men later became close personal friends.
“I wanted to pay my respects, so I wanted to stand up and maybe bow my head,” the one-time Republican presidential nominee told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie in an exclusive interview. “But I got on my feet — it’s almost like my subconscious was moving my left arm. I didn’t go there with the intent to salute, but I did.”
Bush died Nov. 30, 2018, at age 94. He and Dole were contemporaries with a long rivalry that reached back to when Bush replaced Dole as chairman of the Republican National Committee in the Richard Nixon era.
Multiple bruising battles to become the Republican presidential nominee followed. Somehow, a deep bond emerged between the two.
“You know, George Bush and I were close friends. We also had some rather tough races against one another,” Dole said. “But he was my friend and he did a great job as president. And so did his son.”
Dole’s wife, former Labor Secretary and North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, said she felt so much pride in her husband during that “beautiful” moment.
“I think it lifted people’s spirits,” she told TODAY.
The couple soon heard from people from around the world describing the salute as a powerful moment.
“It just kind of gave people a lift at a time when there’s so much divisiveness,” she said.
Dole is the last World War II veteran to have been the presidential nominee of a major party. During the campaign, Dole’s advanced age was brought up, with critics stating that he was too old to be President. However, Dole is still alive as of 2019, over two decades since the election.
In his election night concession speech, Dole remarked: “I was thinking on the way down in the elevator – tomorrow will be the first time in my life I don’t have anything to do.” Dole later wrote “I was wrong. Seventy-two hours after conceding the election, I was swapping wisecracks with David Letterman on his late-night show”. During the immediate aftermath of his 1996 loss to Clinton, Dole recalled that his critics thought that “I didn’t loosen up enough, I didn’t show enough leg. They said I was too serious . . . It takes several months to stop fretting about it and move on. But I did.” On his decision to leave politics for good after the 1996 presidential election campaign, despite his guaranteed stature as a former Senate leader, Dole stated “People were urging [me] to be a hatchet man against Clinton for the next four years. I couldn’t see the point. Maybe after all those partisan fights, you look for more friendships.
One of the nice things I’ve discovered is that when you’re out of politics, you have more credibility with the other side . . . And you’re out among all kinds of people, and that just doesn’t happen often for an ex-president; he doesn’t have the same freedom. So it hasn’t been all bad.
On January 17, 2018, Dole was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his service to the nation as a “soldier, legislator and statesman.”
Ref. NBC/TODAY, today.com, Wikipedia
Photo courtesy of Bing via nypost.com