US political giant Bob Dole, who challenged Bill Clinton, dies at 98

Bob Dole, who overcame disabling war wounds to become a sharp-tongued US Senate leader, a Republican presidential candidate and a symbol of his dwindling generation of World War II veterans, has died. He was 98.

Bob Dole challenged Bill Clinton for the US Presidency in 1996 (File image).

Bob Dole challenged Bill Clinton for the US Presidency in 1996 (File image).

His wife, Elizabeth Dole, said in an announcement posted on social media that he died early on Sunday morning in his sleep.

Dole announced in February 2021 he had been diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer.

During his 36-year career on Capitol Hill, Dole became one of the most influential legislators and party leaders in the Senate.

He shaped tax policy, foreign policy, farm and nutrition programs, and rights for the disabled, enshrining protections against discrimination in employment, education and public services in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dole devoted his later years to the cause of wounded veterans, their fallen comrades at Arlington National Cemetery and remembrance of the fading generation of World War II vets.

He tried three times to become president. The last was in 1996, when he won the Republican nomination only to see President Bill Clinton re-elected.

Through all of that he carried the mark of war. Charging a German position in northern Italy in 1945, Dole was hit by a shell fragment that crushed two vertebrae and paralysed his arms and legs.

The young Army platoon leader spent three years recovering in a hospital and never regained use of his right hand.

He was a deep believer in the Senate as an institution and commanded respect and even affection from many Democrats.

Just days after Dole announced his dire cancer diagnosis, President Joe Biden visited him at his home to wish him well.

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Biden recalled in a statement Sunday that one of his first meetings outside the White House after being sworn-in as president was with the Doles at their Washington home.

“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,” Biden said.

“I saw in his eyes the same light, bravery, and determination I’ve seen so many times before.”

Dole won a seat in Congress in 1960, representing a western Kansas House district. He moved up to the Senate eight years later when Republican incumbent Frank Carlson retired.

He served as a committee chairman, majority leader and minority leader in the Senate during the 1980s and 90s.

Altogether, he was the Republicans’ leader in the Senate for nearly 11 years, a record until Mitch McConnell broke it in 2018.

In September 2017, Congress voted to award Dole its highest expression of appreciation for distinguished contributions to the nation, a Congressional Gold Medal. That came a decade after he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Congress honoured Dole again in 2019 by promoting him from army captain to colonel, in recognition of the military service that earned him two Purple Hearts.

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