A Chicken Fried McGovern, Newt’s Good Ideas, and the Senate Zoo: A Dole One-Liner Sampler

During a vice-presidential debate against Walter Mondale in 1976, Senator Bob Dole made one of the scathing lines for which he was known.

“If we add up the killed and wounded in the Democratic wars of this century,” he said, “that would be about 1.6 million Americans, enough to fill the city of Detroit.”

It didn’t go well. Even under fire from some fellow Republicans, Mr. Dole denied using the phrase “Democratic Wars” and then limited the damage. His argument, a spokesperson said, was that it was as unfair to blame Democrats for these wars as it was to blame President Gerald Ford – who led the ticket Mr Dole was running – for Watergate.

Credit…The New York Times Archives

The only thing that stood out from the episode was that Mr. Dole seemed to recognize that he had taken his characteristic sarcasm too far.

But he never stopped using it – against Democrats, Republicans and often himself. Following his death on Sunday at the age of 98, here is a sample of his sharp tongue, including his punches against the supply-side economy and his venomous letter to a former White House official.

During his first presidential campaign in 1980, Mr. Dole joined the fight against President Jimmy Carter.

“I called Carter a Fried Chicken McGovern,” Mr. Dole said, referring to former Democratic candidate George McGovern. “And I withdraw that because I have come to respect McGovern.”

Much like Mr. McGovern’s general election campaign in 1972, Mr. Dole’s primary campaign in 1980 collapsed and burned down. He only won 607 votes in New Hampshire.

If 1980 was a bad year for him, it was a great year for his party: Ronald Reagan won the presidency and Republicans took over the Senate. But Mr Dole was less than satisfied with the particular Republicans who had done so, some of whom he said had risen on an anti-Democrat wave rather than on their own merits.

“If we had known we were going to take control of the Senate,” he said, “we would have fielded better candidates. “

In 1982, as members of the Senate Finance Committee worked late on a bill to eliminate billions in tax breaks, Mr. Dole said lobbyists and lawyers “might wear Gucci this evening, but they will be barefoot in the morning ”.

As the Democratic primary elections began in 1984, Mr. Dole commented on the failure of Senator Ernest F. Hollings’ presidential campaign with a jab whose relevance to his own campaign was certainly not lost on him.

“The first campaign showed Fritz Hollings has the best sense of humor,” he said. “And with 1% of the vote, he’ll need it.”

Four years later, Mr. Dole again ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination. Accused of lacking ‘vision’ he said, ‘We thought we had a monthly vision club just for the media. They said, “It’s bad vision,” and I said, “It’s okay, I’ve got another one.”

Mr. Dole reached the peak of his career after Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, making him the majority leader in the Senate. The victory was led by Representative Newt Gingrich, who would become Speaker of the House. But Mr. Dole was not a fan.

“You hear the staff at Gingrich have these five binders, four big and one tiny,” he told The New York Times Magazine in 1995. “No. 1 is“ Newt’s ideas. ”No. 2 , “Newt’s Ideas.” # 3, # 4, ‘Newt’s Ideas.’ The little one is “Newt’s good ideas”.

Later that year, during a government shutdown, Mr. Dole and Mr. Gingrich announced their support for paying federal workers on leave due to the shutdown.

Wasn’t it absurd, asked a reporter, to pay workers to stay at home rather than just make them work?

Mr. Dole – whose home state, Kansas, received federal payments to farmers for leaving land fallow for environmental reasons – replied, “It’s like a farm program.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Arizona Senator John McCain loved to tell a story about a dinner Senate Republicans had with President Bill Clinton. Someone asked Mr. Clinton if he had read a detective novel written by a Republican senator, and the president said yes, noting, “He’s a Democratic senator getting murdered.”

“Yes,” Mr. Dole said. “He has a happy ending.”

In 1996, Mr. Dole again ran for President.

When one of his rivals for the Republican nomination, Pat Buchanan, accused him of misrepresenting Mr. Buchanan’s record, The Orlando Sentinel reported: “Dole muttered that he only reported what he had read in Buchanan’s columns, and he always assumed they were correct.

Mr. Dole won the nomination. (He then lost to Mr Clinton, 159 votes to 379.) His running mate was Jack Kemp, a former football player who had spent 18 years in the House of Representatives, and whom Mr Dole had previously made fun of.

“There was a certain football player who forgot his helmet and then started talking about supply side theory,” Dole said in an undated remark reported by The Tampa Bay Times.

This was not the first time Mr. Dole has expressed his contempt for the economy on the supply side, the Reagan gospel that lowering taxes and less regulations would strengthen the economy enough to recoup revenue. lost taxes.

“A bus full of supply ships passes over the cliff, killing everyone on board,” he once said. “This is the good news. The bad news was that there were three empty seats.

Not that he supported raising taxes.

“I remember one day on the floor, I said, ‘Now gentlemen let me tax your memories,'” he said during one of his presidential debates with Mr Clinton, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. . “And Kennedy stood up and said, ‘Why didn’t we think about that before? “”

Because he had given up his Senate seat to run for president, Mr. Dole was out of work after his loss.

In a surprising move, he agreed to star in an advertisement for Viagra when it was introduced in 1998. He knew that talking about erectile dysfunction was “a little embarrassing,” he said in the advertisement, “but it is so important to millions of men and their partners.

Mr. Dole embraced the association, most notably on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” in 2002. After Mr. Leno mentioned research showing that Viagra could cause blindness in rare cases, Mr. Dole broke out of laughter in the audience.

“That’s a lot of nonsense, Jay,” he said. “I hate to see this misinformation spread. I know Viagra a little, Bob Dole knows a little more about Viagra, and my vision is perfect. He is 20/20.

“And,” he said, pointing to the leader of Mr. Leno’s group, “you should know better, Jay Leno.”

Mr. Dole was a regular guest on late night shows. He made several lines during an appearance on the “Late Show” with David Letterman in 1998, including reflecting on the length of his career in the Senate: 35 and a half years.

Of course, he added, “Senator Thurmond has been there – well, let’s see, he came with Chester Arthur.”

When asked by Mr. Letterman if he always visits the Senate, Mr. Dole replied, “I don’t go up very often because I can’t vote anymore and the others vote badly.

Mr. Dole did not hesitate to criticize the institution in which he spent 35 years. “If you’re hanging around doing nothing and the zoo is closed, come to the Senate,” he once said, in the memoir of former Senator Ben Nelson. . “You will have the same kind of feeling and you won’t have to pay. “

Like many members of the Republican old guard, Mr. Dole has become increasingly critical of the party leadership – but still supported Donald J. Trump for president in 2016.

The Republican National Committee should put up a sign “that says” closed for repair “until next year’s day and spend that time examining positive ideas and programs,” he told Fox News in 2013. Discussing who might be elected to today’s party, he added, “Reagan wouldn’t have made it. Nixon certainly couldn’t have done it, because he had ideas.

There was a certain irony in the criticism, because Mr. Dole had castigated a former White House press secretary who had written a book critical of the administration of George W. Bush.

“There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who do not have the courage to speak out or resign if there is disagreement with the boss or colleagues,” he wrote in a scorching letter from 2008 to former public servant Scott McClellan, adding, “When the money starts flowing, you should donate it to a worthy cause, like ‘Bite the hand that fed me. “”

But Mr. Dole was nothing if he was not aware of himself.

“I was supposed to go for the jugular,” he once said, reflecting on his comment on the “Democratic Wars” in 1976. “And I did – mine. “

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