Biden honors ‘giant of our history’ Bob Dole at US Capitol
Published 11:27 pm Thursday, December 9, 2021
By Lisa Mascaro
AP Congressional Correspondent
WASHINGTON — Bob Dole lay in state Thursday at the U.S. Capitol, as the president and others gathered to pay tribute to a “giant of our history” who served the country in war and in politics with pragmatism, self-deprecating wit and a bygone era’s sense of common civility and compromise.
President Joe Biden, a longtime friend, said Dole, the former Republican senator, presidential contender and World War II veteran, should have the final word as he read from his colleague of 25 years’ own observation that he had served the country best when putting “principles over party.”
“Truth of the matter is, as divided as we are, the only way forward for democracy is unity — consensus — the only way,” Biden told those gathered. “We may follow his wisdom and his timeless truth and reach consensus on the basic fundamental principles we all agree on.”
The morning ceremony brought about 100 invited guests and congressional leaders as Dole’s casket, draped with the American flag, sat under the dome. Dole, who served nearly 36 years in Congress, died Sunday at the age of 98.
Biden said Dole “belongs here, in this place, this temple to liberty and temple to possibility.” The president said of Dole, “He, too, was a giant of our history.”
The service will be the first of several in Washington commemorating 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 livestreamed at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, and his motorcade is expected to stop by later at an event with actor Tom Hanks honoring his life and military service before the casket travels to his Kansas hometown and the state capital. He is to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Dole was being honored among the “pantheon of patriots” — his casket placed atop the Lincoln catafalque that has been used since 1865.
Pelosi kissed the hand of Dole’s wife, Elizabeth Dole, and greeted his daughter, Robin Dole, who were seated near Biden, before telling those gathered that Dole’s “principled leadership” was long respected “on both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol.”
Black draperies hung on doorways under the Capitol dome in preparation for the service. The chairs were set up, socially distanced for COVID-19 protocols. A lectern was positioned in a way that the statue of another Kansan, Dwight Eisenhower, would be seen in the background behind the day’s speakers.
Elizabeth Dole appeared to cry as she approached the casket and reached out her hand.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, now the longest-serving Republican Senate leader, 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 isn’t the only Kansan who meets those standards,” McConnell said in a speech earlier this week.
Born a child of the Dust Bowl in Russell, Kansas, Bob Dole suffered paralyzing and near-fatal wounds after being shot in World War II that sent him home with a severely damaged right arm that he could not use to shake hands. Instead, Dole held a pen in it and reached out with his left as a way to put greeters at ease.
He served as a Kansas state legislator before running for Congress in 1960, joining the House for eight years then going on to win the Senate seat. He was the GOP’s presidential nominee in 1996, his third and final campaign for president — a race he never won.
After memorial events Saturday in Kansas, Dole’s family plans to return with his casket to Washington. He will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery, though the date for the burial has not been set.