With Bob Dole’s passing, Donald Trump is really, truly isolated this time.
Lost on many in the supernova of ‘16 was that the 1996 Republican presidential nominee was the only living former standard-bearer of the Grand Old Party to endorse Manhattan’s most famous export.
“The voters of our country have turned out in record numbers to support Mr. Trump. It is important that their votes be honored and it is time that we support the party’s presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump,” Dole said five, long years ago. “I plan to attend the RNC convention in Cleveland to show my support for our party and our ticket, as I have done my entire life. We must unite as a party to defeat Hillary Clinton.”
The veteran columnist Jeff Greenfield documents the war veteran Dole’s savvy and absolute partisanship in Politico:
Greenfield’s analysis goes on to later sell Dole short as another hapless RINO, perhaps even a closet Dispatch subscriber (a neocon rag). He was simply too old and too partisan to change course.
Yet in the piece Greenfield fails to take account of Dole’s Machiavellian sensibilities. The rise of Trump may have divided the Old Guard, but the Kansas Senator had long been a stalwart of the world of realpolitik long before 2016. As far back as 1976, Dole agreed to knife then-Vice President Nelson Rockfeller and become Gerald Ford’s running mate — a move to the Right to fend off then-Golden State Governor Ronald Reagan.
The bleedin’-Kansan Dole then ran a belligerent campaign against future President George H.W. Bush (as well as future President Joe Biden) in 1988. While the world failed to spin in his direction on both runs, in 1996 he excitedly accepted the mantle of party tribune to run for president again. He failed for a third time, but he got his revenge against the Clinton family by betting on Trump.
On Sunday, Dole was hailed by President Biden, who relayed a conversation from earlier this year:
There was also a heartfelt tribute from Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump (a rare feat):