Bob Dole dies

By Mike Hayes and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 4:47 PM ET, Sun December 5, 2021
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4:18 p.m. ET, December 5, 2021

Looking back at the life and legacy Bob Dole

US Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole delivers his campaign speech at the Pontchartrain Center in New Orleans on October 30, 1996.
US Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole delivers his campaign speech at the Pontchartrain Center in New Orleans on October 30, 1996. (J. David Ake/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Republican Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole died Sunday morning at 98-years-old, according to a statement released by his family.  

"Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep. At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years,” the statement said.

Bob Dole was a Republican Party stalwart and presidential hopeful who espoused a brand of plain-spoken conservatism as one of Washington's most recognizable political figures throughout the latter half of the 20th century.

He had announced in February that he was being treated for advanced lung cancer.

Dole, who was seriously wounded during World War II, had suffered a series of health ailments in previous years. In 1991, he received surgery for prostate cancer, received abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery in 2001, was hospitalized in 2005 after a fall in his home and was treated for a leg infection in 2009.

Arriving in Washington at the dawn of the Kennedy administration, Dole would serve for 27 years as a US senator from Kansas, including two stints as the Senate majority leader, though he might be best known for his unsuccessful run as the Republican presidential nominee against Bill Clinton in 1996, his third attempt at the White House. He also served as President Gerald Ford's running mate in 1976 after Nelson Rockefeller declined to stay on as vice president.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff in honor of former Sen. Bob Dole's death, her spokesman tweeted. 

If you're just reading in, here were some of the reactions from Democrats and Republicans to Dole's death:

  • President Joe Biden released a statement on the passing of former Republican Senator Bob Dole, commemorating the late senator's accomplishments and praising him for his years of service. "Bob was an American statesman like few in our history. A war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation. And to me, he was also a friend whom I could look to for trusted guidance, or a humorous line at just the right moment to settle frayed nerves," Biden said.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris praised Bob Dole for his life of service to the country. "Senator Bob Dole was a war hero and patriot, who devoted his life to service," Harris said in a statement. "Today, Doug and I are thinking of Sen. Elizabeth Dole and the entire Dole family as we remember the life of a great American."
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Bob Dole for "both conservative victories and big bipartisan achievements" in his more than 10 years as the Republican leader in the Senate. "Whatever their politics, anyone who saw Bob Dole in action had to admire his character and his profound patriotism," McConnell said in the statement.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Bob Dole “a towering leader who embodied courage and excellence in public service," in a statement.
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement, tweeted today, that Bob Dole "dedicated himself to the American experiment and its deepest ideals."
  • House Minority Whip James Clyburn praised Bob Dole calling him a "true statesman who served his country with distinction for 79 years," in a tweet.
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence paid tribute to Bob Dole, calling him a "truly great man" and offered sympathies and prayers to Dole's wife Elizabeth and the Dole family.
  • Former President Barack Obama released a statement Sunday following the death of former Sen. Bob Dole saying in part, “His sharp wit was matched only by his integrity, and he lived his life in a way that made it clear just how proud he was to be an American, and how committed he was to making this country everything he knew it could be.”

4:07 p.m. ET, December 5, 2021

Pelosi calls Bob Dole "a towering leader who embodied courage and excellence in public service"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Bob Dole “a towering leader who embodied courage and excellence in public service," in a statement.

She said Dole was “a man of his word” and recounted his achievements on the battlefield and in the halls of Congress.

Earlier today, Pelosi ordered the flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff in honor of Dole, her spokesperson said.

Read Pelosi's full statement:  

“Today our nation mourns the loss of a towering leader who embodied courage and excellence in public service: Senator Robert Dole. Paul and I join all Americans in paying tribute to this extraordinary patriot. 
“Upon receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Senator Dole challenged us ‘not to question American ideals or replace them, but to act worthy of them.’ Senator Dole lived up to this challenge, devoting his entire life in service to the county he loved and to our cherished national values for which he fought.
“With great valor and heroism, he put his life on the line in the mountains of Italy to defend our democracy from the perils of fascism, earning two Purple Hearts for his sacrifice. From the battlefield to the United States Senate, he served our county with great integrity. He was a man of his word. As Senate Majority Leader and presidential candidate, Senator Dole championed our men and women in uniform and the hidden heroes who care for them each day. Alongside his beloved wife, Senator Elizabeth Dole, he honored our nation’s most sacred pledge: just as his fellow soldiers refused to leave him behind on the battlefield, we must leave no veteran behind when they come home.  
“From the Well of the House to the Floor of the Senate, from presidential candidate to elder statesman, he also never failed to raise his powerful voice on behalf of Americans living with disabilities. He was a force in enshrining essential protections into law with the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, and he served as an inspiration himself to millions. 
“As we honor his life, let us resolve to live up to his challenge and carry on his mission. May it be a comfort to his loving wife, Elizabeth, and his dear daughter, Robin, that a grateful nation joins them in mourning on this sad day.”

3:44 p.m. ET, December 5, 2021

Former President Trump statement says Bob Dole "was an American war hero and true patriot for our Nation"

Former President Donald Trump released a statement following the passing of former Republican senator Bob Dole.

"Bob Dole was an American war hero and true patriot for our Nation. He served the Great State of Kansas with honor and the Republican Party was made stronger by his service." Trump said in a statement. "Our Nation mourns his passing, and our prayers are with Elizabeth and his wonderful family."

3:24 p.m. ET, December 5, 2021

The Bidens spoke to Elizabeth Dole earlier today, White House says 

Earlier today, President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden spoke on the phone with Elizabeth Dole on the passing of her late-husband Bob Dole, according to a White House pool report.

From the pool:

Per the White House: Earlier today, President Biden and the First Lady spoke on the phone to Senator Elizabeth Dole to express their sincere condolences at the passing of her husband, Senator Bob Dole.

3:10 p.m. ET, December 5, 2021

Vice President Harris praises Dole for his life of service

Vice President Kamala Harris has also released a statement praising Bob Dole for his life of service to the country. 

"Senator Bob Dole was a war hero and patriot, who devoted his life to service," Harris said in a statement. "Today, Doug and I are thinking of Sen. Elizabeth Dole and the entire Dole family as we remember the life of a great American."

Read the VP's full statement:

3:04 p.m. ET, December 5, 2021

Bill Clinton says Dole's example "should inspire people today and for generations to come"

From CNN's Colin McCullough

Former President Bill Clinton praised Bob Dole on Twitter for dedicating “his entire life to serving the American people.” 

Clinton went on to say that Dole’s example “should inspire people today and for generations to come.”

Bill Clinton ran against Bob Dole in the 1996 presidential election. Clinton was running for re-election and defeated Sen. Dole in that campaign.

Read his tweet:

3:04 p.m. ET, December 5, 2021

Barack Obama says Dole "lived his life in a way that made it clear just how proud he was to be an American"

From CNN’s Liz Turrell

Former President Barack Obama greets former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on May 25, 2015.
Former President Barack Obama greets former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on May 25, 2015. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Former President Barack Obama released a statement Sunday following the death of former Sen. Bob Dole saying in part, “His sharp wit was matched only by his integrity, and he lived his life in a way that made it clear just how proud he was to be an American, and how committed he was to making this country everything he knew it could be.”

Read Obama's full statement:

Michelle and I were saddened today to hear about the passing of Senator Bob Dole. Senator Dole and I differed on policy, and I didn’t serve with him in the Senate. But I did get to know him over the years, and for that I will always be grateful.
Senator Dole was a war hero, a political leader, and a statesman — with a career and demeanor harkening back to a day when members of the Greatest Generation abided by a certain code, putting country over party. His sharp wit was matched only by his integrity, and he lived his life in a way that made it clear just how proud he was to be an American, and how committed he was to making this country everything he knew it could be.
Our thoughts are with Elizabeth – who has lived her own remarkable life of service – and all those who knew and loved a true American hero.

2:45 p.m. ET, December 5, 2021

Dole was fiercely partisan, but understood compromise was needed to get things done, says Wolf Blitzer

From CNN's Wolf Blitzer / Written by CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

CNN's Wolf Blitzer discussed the life of the late Bob Dole and the legacy the former US senator left.

"He always had a sense of what was right for America," Blitzer told CNN's Fredericka Whitfield.

"In the last few weeks we also lost Gen. Colin Powell, another great American hero, and now Bob Dole. It's something to reflect on, to learn from, and especially for some of the politicians who are operating today, to go back and take a look at Bob Dole's career. Sure there were fights and sure he got into political arguments with the opposition, even within his own party, but you know what? He always had a sense of what was right for America... and he was willing to do that, and I think all of us are grateful. And I think I speak for all of us when I want to express our deepest condolences to his wife Elizabeth Dole, to his family, to Robin Dole, and I think I speak for all of us when I say: May he rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing," Blitzer said.

He noted that Dole can serve as an example of how politicians can get through divisiveness.

"I think the best advice was the example that he showed, that he was, yes, a fiercely partisan, conservative, Republican from the state of Kansas, but he was also someone who understood that in order to get things done for the American people, you have to compromise. You have to make deals. You fight for what you believe in, but in the end you have to come up with something that's realistic, something that's going to pass," Blitzer said.

He added, "I think if people go back and study Bob Dole's history, Bob Dole's example and how he worked with Democrats, I think that they will learn something and maybe he'll have an impact on the political divisiveness that's going on right now in our country which, you know, is pretty intense."

2:03 p.m. ET, December 5, 2021

President Biden remembers Bob Dole: "I will miss my friend. But I am grateful for the times we shared"

From CNN’s Sam Fossum & Joe Johns

US Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, right, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC  on July 26, 1995 as Senator Joseph Biden, left, D-DE, looks on.  (Luke Frazza/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, right, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on July 26, 1995 as Senator Joseph Biden, left, D-DE, looks on. (Luke Frazza/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden has released a statement on the passing of former Republican Senator Bob Dole, commemorating the late senator's accomplishments and praising him for his years of service.  

"Bob was an American statesman like few in our history. A war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation. And to me, he was also a friend whom I could look to for trusted guidance, or a humorous line at just the right moment to settle frayed nerves," Biden said in the written statement. "I will miss my friend. But I am grateful for the times we shared, and for the friendship Jill and I and our family have built with Liddy and the entire Dole family."

Read the President's full statement:

A month after being sworn in as President, one of the first conversations I had with anyone outside the White House was with our dear friends, Bob and Elizabeth Dole, at their home in Washington. Bob had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, and I was there to offer the same support, love, and encouragement that they showed me and Jill when our son Beau battled cancer, and that the Doles have shown us over the half century we’ve been friends. 
Like all true friendships, regardless of how much time has passed, we picked up right where we left off, as though it were only yesterday that we were sharing a laugh in the Senate dining room or debating the great issues of the day, often against each other, on the Senate floor. I saw in his eyes the same light, bravery, and determination I’ve seen so many times before. 
In the Senate, though we often disagreed, he never hesitated to work with me or other Democrats when it mattered most. He and Ted Kennedy came together to turn Bob’s lifelong cause into the Americans with Disabilities Act — granting tens of millions of Americans lives of greater dignity. On the Social Security Commission, he led a bipartisan effort with Pat Moynihan to ensure that every American could grow old with their basic dignity intact. When he managed the bill to create a federal holiday in the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. — a bill that many in his own caucus opposed — I will never forget what he said to our colleagues: “No first-class democracy can treat people like second-class citizens.”
Another bipartisan effort, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, provided school meals and food for nursing mothers and young children. It saved the lives of countless young people who would otherwise have died in infancy — and brought dignity to tens of millions of families at home and abroad. This work, for Bob, was about more than passing laws. It was written on his heart.
Bob was an American statesman like few in our history. A war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation. And to me, he was also a friend whom I could look to for trusted guidance, or a humorous line at just the right moment to settle frayed nerves. I will miss my friend. But I am grateful for the times we shared, and for the friendship Jill and I and our family have built with Liddy and the entire Dole family.
Bob was a man to be admired by Americans. He had an unerring sense of integrity and honor. May God bless him, and may our nation draw upon his legacy of decency, dignity, good humor, and patriotism for all time.