At the Capitol, Biden pays homage to ‘American great’ Bob Dole.
Bob Dole was put to rest in the United States Capitol on Thursday, as President Barack Obama and others paid homage to a “American giant” who served the nation in war and politics with pragmatism, self-deprecating humour, and a bygone era’s sense of common decency.
President Joe Biden arrived at the Capitol, and Dole’s coffin was brought into the Rotunda draped in the American flag by a military escort. Biden is slated to speak during the morning ceremony for the former Republican senator and presidential candidate, which will be attended by special visitors and legislative leaders. Dole, who served in Congress for over 36 years, died Sunday at the age of 98.
“Bob Dole was an American giant for those of us who had the distinction of calling him a friend,” President Joe Biden said in a speech in Kansas City on Wednesday.
Dole, a Republican, was described by Biden, a Democrat, as “a guy of remarkable bravery, both physical and moral fortitude.”
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“A combat hero who went above and beyond,” Biden remarked. “In World War II, he came dangerously close to losing his life for his nation. “Among the great generation’s greatest.”
The current event is the first of many planned in Washington to honour Dole’s life and impact. The public is not allowed to attend Thursday’s function at the Capitol or Friday’s burial at the Washington National Cathedral. Dole’s burial, though, will be webcast live from the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, and his motorcade is planned to pass by later for a celebration celebrating his life and military service with actor Tom Hanks before the coffin continues to his homeland of Kansas and the state capitol.
Dole was a “patriot from the outset,” according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and a “exemplary person to serve with in Congress.”
“He served at a period when there was mutual respect across the aisle and throughout the Capitol, even while there was disagreement on many matters,” Pelosi said on Wednesday. “I found him to be a trustworthy individual. “Everyone did it.”
In preparation for the event, black curtains were draped over doors under the Capitol dome. For COVID-19 procedures, around 100 seats were set up, socially separated. A lectern was placed such that the statue of another Kansas state senator, Dwight Eisenhower, would be seen in the backdrop behind the speakers for the day.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the longest-serving Republican Senate leader, said Dole admired Eisenhower, describing him as a hero who personified “the greatest attributes of the American people.”
In a speech earlier this week, McConnell added, “We can state with confidence that Eisenhower isn’t the only Kansan who satisfies those qualifications.”
According to a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation, McConnell expressed concern 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 about his role planning that day for Donald Trump, the former president. Trump has asked his supporters to march to the Capitol in protest of Biden’s electoral win being certified.
Unes’ position with the Dole family has been terminated, according to Dole family spokesman Steve Schwab.
Unes, a former Dole campaign aide, “volunteered his time to work on the advance team for this week’s memorial activities,” according to Schwab. Elizabeth Dole, Dole’s wife, was “previously uninformed” of Unes’ activity, according to Schwab, and after he informed her, she “removed his volunteer engagement.”
Unes did not react to a request for comment right away. The New York Times was the first to break the news.
Bob Dole, a Dust Bowl kid from Russell, Kansas, was wounded in World War II and sustained paralysing and near-fatal wounds, leaving him with a badly injured right arm that he couldn’t use to shake hands. Instead, Dole extended out with his left hand, holding a pen, to put greeters at rest.
He worked as a county attorney and a Kansas state lawmaker after getting a law degree before running for Congress in 1960, serving in the House for eight years until winning a Senate seat. In 1996, he ran for president for the Republican Party for the third and last time – a contest he never won.
After losing the presidential election to incumbent Democrat Bill Clinton, Dole’s sharp wit was on show when he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom only days before the 1997 inauguration.
“I, Robert J. Dole do solemnly vow oh, sorry, wrong speech!” McConnell said when it came time for Dole’s comments, he stepped at the stage and said, “I, Robert J. Dole do solemnly swear oh, sorry, wrong speech!”
But, when it may have helped him gain more votes, such humour was seldom visible on the campaign trail or in his public comments.
Instead, Dole was seen as a Republican “hatchet man,” a Nixon protege and head of the Republican National Committee during the Watergate scandal. He went on to be Gerald Ford’s sharp-tongued vice presidential running partner in another lost election.
But it was during Dole’s lengthy tenure in the Senate that he learned the importance of working with Democrats and gained some of his greatest enduring accomplishments, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, which guarantees accessibility as a civil right to this day.
Dole defied his own party at times, most notably on a major tax measure, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.
In February 2021, the former senator revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Biden paid a visit to Dole at his Watergate compound residence.
After an employee came into an office building with a gun in his backpack a few hours before the memorial was to begin, Capitol Police shut off a section of the Capitol complex. A charge of carrying a handgun without a licence was filed against the guy.
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