Biden pays homage to “giant of our history” Bob Dole at the United States Capitol


WASHINGTON – Bob Dole lay in the United States Capitol on Thursday as the President and others gathered to pay tribute to a “giant in our history” who served the country in war and in politics with pragmatism, self-deprecation and a bygone past the sense of common civility and the compromise of the time.

Longtime friend US President Joe Biden said former Republican Senator, presidential candidate and World War II veteran Dole should have the final say as he reads from his 25-year colleague of observation that he had served the country better when putting “principles above the party”.

“The truth is, as divided as we are, the only way forward for democracy is unity – consensus – the only way,” Biden told the assembled people. “We can follow his wisdom and timeless truth and come to a consensus on the basic fundamentals we all agree on.”

The morning ceremony was attended by around 100 guests and congressional leaders as Dole’s casket, draped in the American flag, stood under the dome. Dole, who served almost 36 years in Congress, died Sunday at the age of 98.

Biden said Dole “belongs here, in this place, this temple of freedom and this temple of possibility.” The president said of Dole: “He too was a giant in our history. “

The service will be the first of several in Washington to commemorate Dole’s life and legacy. Thursday’s event at the Capitol and Friday’s funeral at the Washington National Cathedral are closed to the public. But Dole’s funeral will be televised live at the WWII memorial on the National Mall, and his motorcade is expected to stop later at an event with actor Tom Hanks honoring his life and military service. before the casket made its way to his Kansas hometown and state capital.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Dole was honored among the “pantheon of patriots” – her coffin placed atop the Lincoln catafalque which has been in use since 1865.

Pelosi kissed the hand of Dole’s wife, Elizabeth Dole, and daughter, Robin Dole, who were seated beside Biden, before telling those gathered that Dole’s “principled leadership” had long been respected. ” on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol. “

Black drapes hung from the doors under the dome of the Capitol in preparation for the service. The chairs have been installed, socially distanced for COVID-19 protocols. A lectern was placed so that the statue of another Kansas statesman, Dwight Eisenhower, was seen in the background behind the daytime speakers.

Elizabeth Dole appeared to cry as she approached the coffin and held out her hand. She and First Lady Jill Biden kissed before the President spoke.

Senator Mitch McConnell, now the longest-serving leader of the Republican Senate, said earlier that Dole idolized Eisenhower, calling the former president and general a hero who embodied “the finest qualities of the American people.”

“We can say with certainty that Eisenhower is not the only Kansan to meet these standards,” McConnell said in a speech earlier this week.

McConnell had raised concerns that an event planner for the memorial service, Tim Unes, had been subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the deadly Jan.6 attack on the Capitol over of his role in planning that day for former President Donald Trump, according to a person who was granted anonymity to discuss the private conversation. Trump had urged his supporters to come to Capitol Hill to fight against certification of Biden’s election victory.

Dole family spokesman Steve Schwab said in a statement Thursday that the Unes role has been terminated.

Schwab said Unes, a former Dole campaign staffer, had “volunteered his time to be part of the forward team for this week’s commemorative events.” Schwab said Elizabeth Dole “was not aware” of Unes involvement and once he informed her she “terminated her volunteer role.”

Unes did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The story was first reported by The New York Times.

Born a child of the Dust Bowl in Russell, Kansas, Bob Dole suffered crippling and near-fatal injuries after being shot during World War II which sent him home with a badly damaged right arm he could not use to shake hands. Instead, Dole held a pen in it and reached out with his left hand to put the hosts at ease. His town had raised funds to help him recover.

After earning a law degree, he worked as a county attorney and was a Kansas state legislator before running for Congress in 1960, joining the House for eight years and then winning the Senate seat. He was the GOP presidential candidate in 1996, his third and final presidential campaign – a race he never won.

Dole’s quick wit was evident after losing the presidential race to incumbent Democrat Bill Clinton, who awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom days before the 1997 inauguration.

McConnell said this week that at the time of Dole’s remarks, he stood at the podium and began, “I, Robert J. Dole… I solemnly swear… oh, sorry, bad speech!”

But this humor was rarely seen during the election campaign or in his public statements, where it could have helped him gain more votes.

Instead, Dole was seen as a GOP “ax man”, a Richard Nixon mentee and Chairman of the Republican National Committee during the Watergate era. He became Gerald Ford’s sharp-tongued vice-presidential running mate, another lost race.

On Thursday, McConnell noted that Dole was “the last of the greatest generation to run for president.”

But it was during Dole’s long career in the Senate that he saw the value of reaching Democrats and achieved his most enduring achievements – most notably the Americans with Disabilities Act which to this day guarantees a standard accessibility as a civil right. .

At times Dole has stood up to his own party, especially over a historic tax bill, and helped create the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised Dole on Thursday’s service as an American “who redefined and elevated what it means to serve a country.”

Current and former lawmakers from both sides have joined the service. Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy joined but did not speak.

Dole announced in February 2021 that he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Biden visited him at his home in the Watergate complex.

Hours before the memorial began, Capitol police locked down part of the Capitol complex after a staff member entered an office building with a gun in their bag. The man was arrested for carrying a weapon without a license.

Associated Press Editors Kevin Freking, Colleen Long, Mary Clare Jalonick, Michael Balsamo contributed to this story


Kevin E. Boling