In recent history there have been men who have lost their bid for the Presidency, but who, after being able to contemplate their character over time, would have been good Presidents. Edmund Muskie of
Maine, who lost the Democratic nomination in 1972 is one,
and Robert Dole, who lost the Republican nomination twice before gaining it in
1996 and losing to President Clinton is another.
Senator Dole is one of history’s most complex actors. A severely injured WWII veteran, a person with both a nasty temper and a great sense of humor, a highly partisan Republican who could be vicious in his attacks on his opponents but who achieved bi-partisan legislative success, his race in 1996 was the wrong person at the wrong time. Had Mr. Dole ran and won in 2000, there would have been no
war, because unlike the winner of that race, Mr. Dole had seen the horror of
war up close and personal, himself a tragic victim of battle.
Mr. Dole has written a piece in the Washington Post describing his life as a defeated Presidential candidate. Unwittingly he partially explains part of Mr. Romney’s problems.
for a long time after my loss to Bill Clinton in 1996, I would lie awake nights wondering what I could have done to change the outcome. Did we rely too much on the Republican base, letting cultural issues define us in a harsh light and driving away independents and suburban voters?
Sound familiar? And like Mr. Romney in 2012 Mr. Dole made the mistake of choosing a lightweight House member with a supposed expertise on tax and fiscal issue for his running mate. Jack Kemp, a man who believed cutting the capital gains tax rate was the key to solving every problem is eerily reproduced in the figure of Paul Ryan. Mr. Dole does not mention his selection of Kemp, but that race should have told Mr. Romney something, that Americans really do not accept the idea that a shallow and single minded member of the House is qualified to be on the ticket.
But Mr. Dole has led an exemplary life of service after his loss, albeit some of it light and some of it with serious accomplishments.
The discovery by others that I had a sense of humor led to an improbable career pitchingVisa, Dunkin’ Donuts and Viagra. (Any second thoughts I may have entertained about the latter were put to rest by a couple of wives who approached me in airports to say, simply, “Thank you, Senator.”) I wrote a couple of books on political humor, got a gig with Jon Stewart offering unconventional commentary on the Bush-Gore election and started the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas to promote constructive, bipartisan debate. I currently work at Alston & Bird, a law firm in
which keeps me plenty busy. Washington
And yes, the accomplishments have been substantial.
the president recruited me as part of the long-delayed effort to build a suitable memorial honoring the sacrifice of 16 million citizen soldiers and all those on the home front who contributed to victory in World War II. Fred Smith of FedEx and I — along with hundreds of volunteers — raised more than $175 million from individuals, veterans groups, state legislatures and corporations.
In all likelihood, such an opportunity would never have come my way but for the 1996 campaign. The same applies to the search for missing persons in Bosnia; the post-Sept. 11, 2001, Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund,for which Clinton and I helped raise more than $100 million; and the presidential commission, which I co-chaired with former health and human services secretary Donna Shalala, to investigate the quality of medical care provided to our soldiers and veterans, especially those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Senator Dole has lead a life of pain because of his war injuries. When meeting him, as this author did once, one had to know to shake hands left handed, because his right arm was horribly mangled. But when you did he was smiling and gracious, and one left with the opinion that yes, he probably would have made a good President, certainly a good man to have had in office on September 11, 2001.
Sadly, if Mr. Romney loses the election no one expects him to lead a life of public service like Mr. Dole did after his loss. Mr. Romney will probably file an amended tax return to get back the taxes he gave up to artificially inflate his tax rate, he will figure out how to earn even more money and pay less taxes than he currently does and live out his life with his basement car garage with the elevators needed to bring his luxury cars to the street.
For Bob Dole, agree or not agree with his positions, elective office was about service to his country. For Mitt Romney elective office is about service to Mitt Romney. A sad commentary of contemporary American politics.