Bob Dole, longtime Senate leader and 1996 GOP presidential nominee, dies at 98

Dole was a conservative who focused on balanced spending, deficit reduction, and foreign policy, but he was never beholden to the party line. He co-authored food stamp legislation with a progressive icon, persuaded President Ronald Reagan to push through tax increases and commiserated with President Bill Clinton over dealing with Newt Gingrich.

In 1996, Dole ran against Clinton for the Republican presidential nomination, 20 years after he had been the party's vice presidential nominee. He was the only American politician to lose both times.

President Joe Biden praised his former Senate colleague as a friend and an American statesman like few in our history.

Biden said that Bob was a man to be admired by Americans. He had a sense of honor and integrity. May God bless him, and may our nation draw upon his legacy of decency, dignity, good humor, and patriotism for all time.

The White House said that the president and first lady spoke with Elizabeth Dole to express their sympathies.

Dole was wary of the trappings of Beltway life. In 1986 Dole inspired a fellow D.C. pillar and frequent Senate sparring partner, Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, to break protocol on the Senate floor and address Dole directly.

"I have learned a lot from you," he said. It is that tenacity and courage and stick-to-itiveness that help to lighten our day. It's a pleasure to serve with you.

His 1996 run for president brought him the most national attention, but his four-plus decades in politics left an imprint on U.S. policies. By the early 1990s, Dole thought he had given everything to his country. He went to the Normandy beaches in 1994 on the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

He said that he thought there was one more chance for service for his generation.

Dole resigned his Senate seat in June 1996 with typical bluntness, claiming he had no place to go but the White House or home. Jack Kemp was chosen as his running mate in a show of conservative appeasement.

The two made for an odd couple.

Dole had the weight of 11 years as the Republican Senate leader behind him. He was dubbed the member of Congress with the best sense of humor.

Kemp was a technocrat and the force behind the 1981 tax cut. Dole criticized the bill as a budget-bloating bill, causing Kemp to retort: "In a recent fire, Bob Dole's library burned down." Both books were lost. He had not finished coloring one of them.

Kemp was dubbed the member of Congress with the worst sense of humor.

President Bill Clinton made a point during the presidential debate while Bob Dole listened.

Clinton portrayed Dole as old and out of touch when he was the GOP nominee. Clinton used Dole-Kemp as a bridge to a better America of the past in his acceptance speech. Clinton said that we don't need to build a bridge to the past but to build a bridge to the future.

Clinton tied Dole to the government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, even though Gingrich was behind them. Clinton tacked to the center after failing to take advantage of his 1992 campaign proposals of bold, progressive government programs like universal health care.

People just remember how Dole referred to himself.

Bob Dole said during the primaries that he was going to be the Republican nominee.

In the general election, Dole said he wouldn't veto the bills.

Dole said in the first debate that Bob Dole keeps his word.

Dole said he got the name out when asked about his proclivity.

Clinton carried 31 states and the District of Columbia in his victory.

Clinton said in a statement on Sunday that he enjoyed his combat, and that he didn't have to give more. He did. The power of that example should encourage people to serve in public service.

While Dole got his name out to the entire country, he had already spent three-plus decades at the center of most budget, tax and foreign policy discussions. He cared more about getting the bill passed than he did about ideological rigidity.

According to his former chief of staff, he always wanted the incremental win. His general philosophy was when was the last time you lost?

She summed up Dole's mindset, "Never say never until it's done."

He had that attitude throughout his life.

Dole enlisted in the Army at the age of 19 after leaving Kansas University, and was promoted to second lieutenant in the 10th Mountain Division.

The German army was engaged by Dole's division on April 14, 1945, in Italy. More than 500 people were killed when the Americans pushed the Germans off the ground.

Dole went to assist the fallen soldier. German gunfire ripped through his back, spine, and shoulder. Dole was immobile and out of consciousness for hours.

Dole dictated a letter to his mother from the hospital, saying that some German thought he was a good target.

It was hours before a medic could get to him. He was in the hospital for three years and had to have a number of surgeries, including a lost shoulder. He lost more than 70 pounds, but his right arm was not functional and he only had a few fingers on his left hand.

Dole was unable to take notes during law school, but he was able to memorize the lectures. He began his journey in politics when he returned to Kansas. Dole continued to show up to the D.C. law firm even into his 80s, and he had a barber comb in his back pocket for decades.

The center of the Dust Bowl in Russell, Kan., was where Dole was born, where people had to constantly scoop dust out of their home.

His parents lived in a one-story brick house.

Four of us kids and my parents lived in the basement apartment for years so we could rent out the ground floor. My mother taught sewing.

One of Dole's grandfathers lost his land during the Great Depression, while the other was a tenant farmer.

Dole said that they do not come from any money in their family.

Dole had a plan when he was a kid. Dole saved $26 from odd jobs to buy a bike for his family so they could have paper routes.

He was in the military for a while.

Dole wrote about his recovery in his 2005 memoir, "One Soldier's Story."

He was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives after running for office a few years after the recovery. He became county attorney in Russell County two years later. Dole had to sign the papers for his grandfather's welfare check each month, a sobering moment that would likely inform his later work on welfare programs.

He said it was a hard thing to do.

Dole moved his career to Washington after being elected to the House of Representatives. He became a Republican Party leader after winning a seat in the Senate.