The wisdom of Robert Dole

I think it is safe to say that many readers of the Manchester Journal have never heard of Senator Dole, or perhaps only have some vague idea that he was a politician, but know very little about his background and his accomplishments. Recently in an interview on Fox News, he decried the machinations of extreme right-wing Republican crazies and offered advice about what steps the Republican Party should consider taking in the future.

Robert Dole, born in 1923, represented Kansas in the United States Senate from 1969 to 1996 and in the House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969. In the 1976 presidential election, he was the party's nominee for vice president, President Ford's running mate, and in the presidential election of 1996, Dole was the Republican nominee for president against Bill Clinton.

It can truly be said that Robert Dole is 100 percent a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool American hero and patriot. A second lieutenant in the Army's Mountain Division, in April 1945 he was seriously wounded in his back, his right arm, and his leg. It took him 20 months in an army hospital to fully recover from his wounds. He was decorated three times, receiving two Purple Hearts for his injuries and the Bronze Star with combat "V" for valor for helping a wounded fellow officer retreat to safety.

Speaking in a TV interview, Bob Dole said that he no longer recognizes the Republican party that he helped lead for years. He said the party should hang a "closed for repairs" sign on its door until it comes up with a few positive ideas, because neither he nor Reagan would feel comfortable in its membership. Dole went on further to say they probably would not have been able to accomplish anything.

"It seems to be almost unreal that we can't get together on a budget or legislation," said Dole. "I mean, we weren't perfect by a long shot, but at least we got our work done." According to Dole, the current Congress can't even do that, thanks to a furiously oppositional Republican party, and that's what has left mainstream conservatives like himself and John McCain shaking their heads in disgust.

According to Dole, the difference between the current crop of Tea Party lawmakers and Mr. Dole's generation is not simply one of ideology. While the Tea Party is undoubtedly more extreme, Mr. Dole spent years pushing big tax cuts, railing at regulations, and blocking international treaties. But when the time came to actually govern, Republicans used to set aside their grandstanding, recognize that the two-party system requires compromise, and make deals to keep the government working on the people's behalf.

The current generation simply refuses to do it. Its members want to dismantle government and don't particularly care what traditions of mutual respect get smashed at the same time. "I'm not all that interested in the way things have been done before around here," said Senator Marco Rubio in Florida. This corrosive mentality, which has been standard in the House since 2010 or 2011, has now invaded the Senate. Rubio is one of several senators who have blocked the basic function of government, namely a conference committee to work out budget differences between the House and Senate, so that the Congress can start passing appropriation bills. Ted Cruz of Texas admitted that he didn't even trust House Republicans to practice blackmail properly. They have been backed by Mitch McConnell the minority leader who wants extremist credentials for his reelection. And John McCain now says that the Tea Partiers are absolutely out of line and setting a bad precedent. "We're here to vote, not here to block things," McCain said.

"We're here to articulate our positions on the issues and do what we can for the good of the country and let the process move forward." The do-nothing behavior of Congressional Republicans has led to the creation of sequester, blocked action on economic growth and climate change, prevented reasonable checks on gun purchases, and threats to blow up hard-fought compromise on immigration. Mr. Dole's word should remind his party that it is not only abandoning its past, but damaging the country's future.

As I have written before, the right-wing Republican ideologies just don't get it. They continue to live in the past, they continue to offer all programs and old solutions that didn't work then and that won't work now. In that same interview a few weeks ago, Mr. Dole even offered this idea, "Perhaps we ought to abandon the Republican Party as it is now, start a new party with a new name embracing all of the great Republican traditions and positions and ideals and philosophies that have been so beneficial to the greatest number of Americans throughout its history, a party for all of the people, not as we see today the party for the one percent."

Hal DeBona lives in Dorset.


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