Dole gives back one more time

News editor

His step is slower than when he walked the halls of the U.S. Capitol, but the legendary wit and wisdom of former Sen. Bob Dole was as sharp as ever Monday in Marion.

A crowd of about 50 at Marion Community Center paid their respects to the longtime legislator and listened as Dole talked about his career and views about current events.

“I won’t keep you long,” Dole said. “That’s what Elizabeth Taylor said,” making reference to the movie star’s seven husbands. “I’m not here to raise any money, I’m just here to say thank you to the people in this room who have supported me through the years.”

When Dole ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1961, one of his opponents was named Doyle. Dole’s campaign needed to establish a clear distinction between them.

“We decided to serve Dole pineapple juice, and it was served by what we termed ‘Dolls for Dole,’” he said. “If I did that today I’d be arrested.”

The biggest disappointment of Dole’s three decades in Congress was failure to pass a balanced budget amendment during his tenure as Senate majority leader.

“If we’d have passed the balanced budget amendment, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today,” Dole said.

On the other hand, rescuing the financially challenged Social Security system in 1983 was something Dole counts among his best accomplishments.

“Social Security has been in good shape since 1983,” he said. “It’s going to have to be fixed again, I’m not sure when, maybe 10 years, maybe less.”

Never at a lack for an opinion, Dole was critical of President Barack Obama when the topic of illegal immigration came up.

“I think he lacks leadership. I think he doesn’t want to make hard choices,” Dole said.

Looking ahead to 2016, Dole hedged his bets when saying Hillary Clinton would be the Democrat nominee for president.

“Her book sales aren’t as good as they should be,” he said.

Dole doesn’t see a front-runner emerging for the Republicans yet, but he said he would prefer a candidate with experience.

“There are a number of young Republicans in the Congress that want to be president, but they haven’t had any experience. Most of them are freshmen,” Dole said. “They need to learn more about how everything works, and more about foreign policy, because we’re in a mess with foreign policy.”

Dole expressed concern over gridlock in Congress resulting in part from extreme members of his own party.

“We have a group to the far right. They almost fall out of the Capitol they’re so far right,” Dole said. “They just vote no, no, no.”

The crowd reacted enthusiastically to Dole’s remarks, and most stood in line to extend their appreciation and have pictures taken with him.

Dole said his Kansas tour was a chance for him to say thank you, but Mike Connell said the reverse was true.

“This is a man who has served this country all of his life. I think it is only right we be here to honor him,” Connell said.

Dole’s visit gave Jessica Fine a chance to give Dole a special thank you.

“I received a public service scholarship for my undergraduate degree in Bob Dole’s name,” Fine said. As a flute player at Washburn University, Fine played in two concerts where Dole was honored, including one at the Kennedy Center.

“I brought the program with me to show him,” Fine said.

Todd Heitschmidt worked for Dole in 1990 on the farm bill.

“He exemplifies how we should be doing politics today,” Heitschmidt said. “He was able to sit down with folks across the aisle and get things done.

“He’s a hero of mine, and I’m glad he stopped.”

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