My favorite thing about Bob Dole was Norm MacDonald’s impression of him. Norm always did it in the third person. Bob Dole needs some sleep. Bob Dole is out of here. Bob Dole lost another election.
Bob Dole had a sense of humor and they say he liked Norm’s impression of him. Unfortunately for Bob, his humor was old man humor.
After Bob Dole fell off a stage at a campaign rally (which Norm used in his SNL skits), he joked, “Even before I hit the ground, my cell phone rang. It was a trial lawyer saying, ‘I think we have a case here.'” Everybody laughed. He told the same joke at his first debate against Bill Clinton. Again, everybody laughed, including Bill Clinton. He told the joke again at the second debate against Clinton. This time, nobody laughed…except Bill Clinton. It was almost like Bill Clinton felt sorry for Bob Dole. Bill Clinton knew he was going to win the election and was never in any real danger from Bob Dole.
Bob Dole was elected to the Senate in 1969 and ran in 1976 as President Gerald Ford’s vice-presidential pick. During his debate with Walter Mondale, he griped about “Democrat wars” and all the lives lost in them. He served and lost the use of his right arm in one of those “Democrat wars.” So, it was weird. But the world wars were not “Democrat” wars. Hell, neither war was even started by the United States.
After that loss, he said, “Bob Dole says you won’t have Bob Dole to kick around anymore.” I made that up.
After losing with Ford in 1976, Bob Dole ran for president in 1980 and lost the nomination to a guy named Ronald Reagan. Dole didn’t just lose the nomination to Reagan. He lost it to five other candidates and came in seventh. He said, “Bob Dole shall return.” I made that up too.
He ran again in 1988 and did much better than seventh and actually won the first primary…and then he lost the rest to George H. W. Bush. He even got mad about it and said on national television after losing a primary, “Bob Dole doesn’t like George Bush lying about Bob Dole’s record.” I twisted that one around a little.
Dole ran again in 1996 and Richard Nixon told him, “If the economy is strong, Bill Clinton will beat Bob Dole.” In the primaries, Bob Dole struggled but finally defeated such exciting Republican stalwarts as Lamar Alexander, Phil Gramm, and Pat Buchanan. Dole won the primary and had to sell Bob Dole to a nation still angry about him, Newt Gingrich, and the GOP shutting down the government and four years of doing nothing except attack Bill Clinton…who had extremely high approval ratings. Bob Dole had to run saying, “Bob Dole doesn’t know who this Newt Gingrich is you speak of.” Bill Clinton was popular and the economy was doing great. Unfortunately for Bob Dole, he was running against one of the best politicians America had ever seen.
I was there. I remember Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich campaigning against the government when a white nationalist terrorist bombed a government building in Oklahoma City killing 168 people, including children. The public was done with the anti-government stuff Republicans had been using against Clinton…and here was one of the champions of that hate campaign, that helped inspire a terrorist attack, running for president. America was a different place in the 1990s than it is during the Trump era where hate sells.
During his acceptance speech for the nomination, Bob Dole said, “Bob Dole will be a bridge to an America that only the unknowing call myth. Let Bob Dole be the bridge to a time of tranquility, faith, and confidence in action.” I twisted that one too. Bill Clinton came back with, “We do not need to build a bridge to the past, we need to build a bridge to the future.” That was pretty much all she wrote for the 1996 election. Bill Clinton could have gone on vacation for the rest of the campaign after that. Bill Clinton was coasting the same way Barack Obama did after John McCain selected a screaming numbnut banshee from Alaska as his veep candidate.
There was a faction of the Republican Party called the “Let Bob Dole be Bob Dole” faction. I’m assuming there was a faction called “Let Bob Dole be anyone other than Bob Dole.” But he was Bob Dole running against Bill Clinton who was being Bill Clinton.
Bob Dole resigned from the Senate to focus on the campaign saying, “Bob Dole has nowhere to go but the White House or home.” I twisted that one too, but just a little.
Voters sent Bob Dole home. He lost 379-159 in the electoral college. Slight sidebar: Clinton got 379 and Trump claims his 304 electoral votes in 2016 was a higher number. Biden got 306 in 2020.
The problem for Bob Dole is that there never was a good reason to make Bob Dole president. Can you think of one? Oh yeah…because we had to slow down the economy and destroy the surplus Bill Clinton created? We didn’t need Bob Dole for that. George W. Bush took care of it in the early 2000s.
Today, people are talking about Dole as one of the last civil Republicans and how he was always able to compromise, but Bob Dole endorsed Donald Trump after he secured the 2016 nomination. Bob Dole is the only former presidential nominee to endorse Trump. He was also the only one to attend the 2016 Republican National Convention. Dole endorsed Trump again in 2020 and complained the debates, where Trump brought COVID, were biased against him. At the very least, Bob Dole admitted Joe Biden beat Trump and the claims of election fraud were bullshit.
So, I’m sorry but I’m not on this bandwagon of praise for Bob Dole. He was likable enough but not very exciting. And in the end, he was still a Republican who was OK with race-baiting and shitty policies that would make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Trump’s racism was not a dealbreaker for Bob Dole.
The only reason Bob Dole wanted to be president was that Bob Dole wanted to be president. He died yesterday at the age of 98. Surprisingly, Norm MacDonald died before he did. If there is a Heaven (there’s not), Norm gets to crack on Bob Dole and Burt Reynolds.
Creative note: I listened to some Verbena while drawing today’s cartoon, but my streaming service is pissing me off. For some reason, Amazon Music did an update that hides the songs in my playlist but not the artists. This really pisses me off.
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