By Robert Parry & Sam Parry
- Bob Dole: Grumpiest Old Man or Fixer
WASHINGTON -- The national media has heckled Bob Dole these past
few weeks over his intemperate outbursts when he was questioned
about tobacco's addictiveness and about his snubbing of the
The media seems amazed that Dole would snarl at NBC's smiling
Katie Couric over a tobacco question, or imply that former
Surgeon General C. Everett Koop had been "brainwashed," or growl
that the NAACP's invitation was a plot to "set me up."
A few of these press articles have reminded readers of Dole's
hatchet man role as President Ford's vice presidential
running-mate in 1976, when Dole memorably labeled all the
nation's 20th Century wars, including World War II, as "Democrat
wars." But the national media continues to promote the
conventional wisdom that Bob Dole is a man of genuine decency
and true character, even though he may be running a lousy
Overwhelmingly, journalists buy the portrait of the honorable
Bob Dole that was painted a few years ago by biographer Richard
Ben Cramer in What It Takes. Much of that respect springs
from Dole suffering severe wounds as a young lieutenant fighting
the Germans on the Italian peninsula in World War II. Without
doubt, Dole demonstrated personal toughness in battling back
from his injuries which required years of surgery and left his
right arm paralyzed.
So the media "take" is that Dole is a good man who has served
his nation admirably, but has suddenly surpassed the movie
characters played by Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau to become
the "grumpiest old man." In one such New York Times column,
Frank Rich postulated three explanations for Dole's new nasty
behavior: 1, he's returning to the "dark Dole" of 1976 fame; 2,
he's hopelessly addicted to his tobacco contributions; or 3,
he's completely out-of-date even with the tobacco industry's
latest spin on what's hazardous to your health.
Grumpy or Corrupt?
While there may be some truth to all of Rich's theories, there
is a fourth alternative that the national media seems unwilling
to contemplate: that Bob Dole has been a corrupt political fixer
for almost his entire career, that his image as a man of decency
and character is a myth.
There's little note, for instance, that the Kansas senator first
rose to national prominence as a bare-knuckled defender of
Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.
Dole idolized Nixon, who also rose from humble origins to the
heights of national power.
Dole loved the way Nixon would bait anti-war demonstrators with
a mocking wave of the "peace sign." And when senators from both
parties questioned Nixon's "Vietnamization" program in the late
1960s, Dole "would chase departing senators off the floor and
into the cloakroom or hallway, where he would yell at them for
opposing Nixon," Dole's former aide Stanley G. Hilton reported
in his 1995 book, Senator for Sale.
Dole grew so contentious in the Senate and developed such a
reputation as "Nixon's Doberman pinscher" that Ohio's Republican
Sen. William Saxbe once remarked that "Dole is so unpopular here
that he couldn't even sell beer on a troop ship."
But Nixon, who knew the value of loyal hatchet men, elevated
Dole to chairman of the Republican National Committee, an
institution which soon was wounded by the Watergate activities
of Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President, CREEP. One of
the Watergate burglars, James McCord, received part of his pay
from Dole's RNC.
Some of the CREEP slush funds also went to Dole to pay for a
1971 trip that the senator made to Vietnam to report back
favorably on Nixon's policies. Dole was implicated, too, in the
ITT scandal and the pay-offs to Republicans from milk producers
who wanted higher milk subsidies.
But one of Dole's most notorious political dirty tricks came in
1974 when his links to Nixon and Watergate were threatening his
re-election. Dole faced a popular Democratic congressman named
William Roy, a doctor who had performed 10 abortions during his
career. On the Sunday before the election, Catholic churchgoers
in Kansas found their car windows plastered with leaflets
showing dead fetuses in garbage cans and praising Dole's strong
Two days later, Dole edged Roy by a single percentage point.
Roy's campaign manager Bob Brock then traced the money for the
fetus leaflets back to the Dole campaign, though Dole denied
authorizing the ads. Brock believes his success in that
investigation earned him a spot on Nixon's famed "enemies list"
and harassment from the Internal Revenue Service.
Back in the Senate, Dole's dark side often revealed itself to
his helpless staff. In Senator for Sale, Dole speechwriter
George Gilder described Dole as a cynical tyrant who would fly
into rages and humiliate the people who worked for him. Dole
had a "gloomy view of the world," Gilder said, and a "hostility
to ideas and affirmative visions."
Throughout his long Senate career, Dole intervened for rich
corporations that had contributed to his campaigns and causes.
For instance, when billionaire oilmen Charles and David Koch
were confronting Senate allegations that their company stole
more than $30 million in oil from Indian reservations, Dole
disrupted the investigation with diversionary attacks against
witnesses. After that, the Kochs became major contributors to
Dole and the Republican Party.
In the late 1980s, "Doberman pinscher" Dole returned to tear at
Republican special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, who was
investigating the Iran-contra crimes of the Reagan-Bush
administration. Dole repeatedly frustrated Walsh's work by
hectoring him over petty issues, such as whether Walsh should
have paid his local taxes in Washington, D.C., rather than his
home state of Oklahoma.
On Christmas Eve 1992, lame-duck President George Bush killed
the Iran-contra case by pardoning former Defense Secretary
Caspar Weinberger and five other Iran-contra defendants. Two
months later at the Conservative Political Action Conference,
Dole openly boasted about his efforts to derail Walsh's criminal
"Over the years, I've taken to the Senate floor on countless
occasions to detail the dismal record of Lawrence Walsh," Dole
declared in a hard-edged Kansas twang. "I've discussed his
record of courtroom embarrassments, ...his violation of
Washington D.C. tax laws, ...his first-class air fares, the
lavish office space. He has a hotel room at the Watergate which
he never uses and I've suggested that he provide it to the
homeless." The room erupted with laughter.
"I've talked about his breakfasts, his paid-for room service and
dinners provided by the American taxpayers," Dole continued.
"I've even discussed term limits for special prosecutors.
(Guffaws and applause) I've discussed his blatant interference
into the American political process, ...his frequent violations
of national security regulations. Besides all that, I don't
have many complaints about Lawrence Walsh." (More laughter)
Though Walsh was a lifelong Republican, Dole said he sniffed
some questionable political loyalties among Walsh's deputies.
"We checked out a lot of the staff," the senator announced, with
a hint of conspiracy in his voice. "We found out their
political leanings and we checked on their political
contributions. Nobody here got any. (Laughter) So it seems
to me it's time for Lawrence Walsh to move on to some other line
of work." (Applause)
Like his hero Nixon, Dole saw nothing wrong with compiling an
"enemies list." One could imagine the furor today if Democratic
Senate Leader Tom Daschle conducted an investigation into the
"political leanings" of the staff surrounding Whitewater special
prosecutor Kenneth Starr.
Yet, since the easily bored Washington media was tired of Walsh
and the Iran-contra scandal by 1993 and generally admired Dole
as a pragmatist, no journalist demanded to know who paid for the
investigation into the "political leanings" of Walsh's staff or
how that information was used. Stories attacking Walsh's staff
prosecutors had appeared on the Wall Street Journal editorial
page and in other conservative publications.
Obstruction of Justice
It also passed largely unnoticed that Dole's speech contested
none of Walsh's factual findings. Late in his investigation,
Walsh had discovered that nearly every senior official in the
Reagan-Bush national security hierarchy had lied under oath as
part of the Iran-contra cover-up. Walsh had uncovered what
looked like a six-year obstruction of justice masterminded
inside the Oval Office by the nation's highest executive
With the Christmas Eve pardons, Bush had protected himself and
his "out-of-the-loop" lie as well as a host of other senior
Republicans from being held accountable for their crimes. From
the Senate floor, Dole had provided important political cover
for the cover-up. Dole had perfected the role that he had
understudied during Nixon's Watergate scandal.
In so doing, Dole proved himself an able accessory to the
pattern of secret illegal government actions that have distorted
and dominated the American political process in recent years.
There is no reason to believe that a Dole Presidency would not
mean more of the same.
(c) Copyright 1996 -- Please Do Not Re-Post
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