The press is suddenly all full of praise for war hero Bob Dole...now that he's dead
The press is all full of praise for war hero, Senate leader, and former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole...now that he's dead.
Back when he was alive, though, he was painted as a man who was "dark," "mean," and like a "doberman." It seems fake news got its start early, and it's striking how like the Trump era those times were.
Yet even in that pre-internet era, the truth was out there.
When I was a college student in the 1980s, I worked for Brooks Brothers in San Francisco. I went on a trip to Washington for something or other and stopped into the local B2 store. I chatted with the manager and asked him about his best celebrity customers. Who were the best customers among the famous people who shopped for suits at Brooks Brothers in Washington, the customers who were so pleasant to deal with in real life — who were utterly kind to everyone from the humble tailors to the sales staff — that the store would gladly fall over itself to do anything for them? In San Francisco, one of our wonderful customers like this was Alastair Cooke.
His answer? Bob Dole.
That tells us a lot about the quality of the press coverage that Dole got during his lifetime, now that he has passed at the age of 98.
Today, the press is praising Bob Dole as a war hero and statesman, as well it should. But that wasn't what the media were saying when he was alive and running for president in 1996.
In the pinched and creepy little minds of the press, even in that era, Bob Dole was dark. He was mean. He was "the dark prince of Washington gridlock." He was the "hatchet man." He was old and evil. He scared little kids. They ran stuff like this:
And although he had spent decades trying to live down his reputation as a ''hatchet man,'' he finished his campaign on a note of bitterness. —New York Times, Nov. 8, 1996
It was in his self-appointed role as President Nixon's defender on the Senate floor that Mr. Dole first earned his damaging — and enduring — reputation as a hatchet man. (So antagonistic was Mr. Dole, former Senator William B. Saxbe memorably observed, that "he couldn't sell beer on a troopship.") —New York Times, June 21, 1996
Twenty years ago, as the Republican vice presidential candidate, Dole was labeled a "hatchet man" for an ill-advised comment about "Democrat wars." This time, Dole steered clear of bitter personal attacks. —Los Angeles Times, Oct. 7, 1996
At various stages of his political career, he has shown no sign of conscience about attacking his opponents with every kind of vicious attack, at least in campaign. Dole was picked by Ford as his vice-presidential candidate (replacing Nelson Rockefeller, who actually served as Ford's VP) precisely to serve as his attack dog, and Dole played that role with obvious relish. —RealChange, unsourced, 1998
Actually, Dole was funny. He made people laugh in the Senate, a place where bloviators abounded. He understood irony, he had a comic's gift for detachment, he could laugh in the face of both danger and tragedy, and he could easily bring others along to share it. That's what humor is.
He also was extremely nice in person, in situations where no cameras were on him, as the Brooks Brothers manager told me. But never mind that one little experience — read the comments section in this Fox News story about all the many acts of kindness Dole did to many grateful people coming out of the woodwork to write their experiences on the Fox News comments section — act after act, each different and wonderful. Comments sections can often be full of trolls saying ugly things. But these commenters have only words of praise and fascinating anecdotes for the great man who did so much good in so many different ways.
So let's take a look at how the press treated Dole in those Clinton years, when media people sought to demonize him for running for president:
Here's a sample from the "new journalism" Tom Wolfe wannabes at Mother Jones in 1996, a piece called "The Dark Side: What You Need to Know about Bob Dole," written by a leftist lunatic:
The legend of Dole's dark side is as old as Mother Jones. In 1976, as President Ford's running mate, he blamed the deaths and injuries of 1.7 million American soldiers on "Democrat wars." He derided Jimmy Carter as "Southern-fried McGovern." Running for president in 1988, he told Vice President Bush, on live national television, to "stop lying about my record." He dismissed Bush as "a qualified loser" and ordered a sidewalk heckler to "get back in your cave."
Dole's anger wouldn't seem so dark if his appearance weren't so menacing. His left eyebrow hangs thick and low, so that when he tilts his head down and gazes forward, a dark pupil floats up to the shaggy ridge, glaring out of the hollow of its socket. His gravelly voice, an uninflected baritone, churns like a chain saw in low gear. His delivery style is a vicious deadpan. After firing off a volley, his lips, instead of curling into a kidding smile, hang open humorlessly and then swing shut like the torpedo door of a submarine.
Dole's only salvation from this insidious agreeableness is his dark side. Though he's now financially secure, Dole grew up poor and, unlike Gramm, nurses an undying grudge against the rich. Slamming shut tax loopholes in 1982, he swore that corporate lobbyists–"Gucci lawyers," he called them–"are going to be barefoot after this is done." Years later, Dole bragged in the New York Times about passing the 1982 bill over the objections of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In the 1988 presidential campaign, his most infamous broadsides were aimed at George Bush's family wealth. And lest anyone think him incapable of defying a corporate sponsor, Dole excoriated Time Warner last year for profiteering from gangsta rap, despite his history of receiving large donations from the company's executives.
On the fake news side, there also was this:
And, unlike some politicians decades younger, he was sharp as a tack to the end. https://t.co/jJKTt0xMYZ— Mollie (@MZHemingway) December 5, 2021
The real problem, of course, was that MoJo and all the others hated what Dole stood for:
The danger of a Dole presidency isn't that he'll turn nasty. The danger is that he'll turn nice. When Dole decides to go along with the crowd, that crowd is generally conservative. He opposes labor laws, consumer protection legislation, medical price controls, environmental regulations, and campaign finance reform. His cultural orthodoxy is paleo-American, not Christian: He gets more exercised about rap music, bilingualism, and self-critical American history textbooks than about abortion. Likewise, on foreign policy, he's an ultrahawk and a frequent ally of Jesse Helms.
Sound familiar, as in eerily familiar?
Instead of reporting the truth about Bob Dole and who he was, they created this shockingly false and distorted picture of him as this dark "mean-spirited" Trump-like character, back in the time when Trump was playing the tabloids with his love interests and dancing at Studio 54.
Pollsters were about as bad, too. They were just getting started with the push polls for political purposes back in the mid-1990s. Here's the Wall Street Journal from 1996, noting the oversampling of Democrats intended to give Bill Clinton an artificial advantage:
The GOP's presidential candidate was relatively weak, but he was respected for his integrity and competence and was seen, correctly, as being near the center of his party. Opinion surveys showed the president [Bill Clinton, who won his 1996 re-election against Dole] receiving high marks for his political skills and energy but a consistent majority of those polled said that they did not trust him. Taken together, these data were inconsistent with the landslide that most of the election polls predicted.
It suggests that Dole should have won that 1996 presidential election, were it not for the non-stop media distortions about Dole and the phony push polls suggesting that resistance to the corrupt Clinton machine at the time was futile.
They're still doing the old "dark, negative" dreck in some quarters. Here's Politico from yesterday:
The counterpoint to Dole's self-effacing humor was a simmering dark side. In what was meant to be a genial TV interview with the two candidates the night of the New Hampshire, Dole snidely told Bush to "stop lying about my record." Earlier in the day, Dole had brushed off a voter asking him to defend his tax raising record — "Go back in your cave," Dole grumbled.
I guess we're supposed to be outraged by those remarks, which would be known these days as "mean tweets." Dole, by the way, was a hearty supporter of President Trump.
Politico did write an otherwise decent obituary of Dole in that piece, based on what's at the top of it, noting his charm and humor, with a quote from former Klansman turned Democrat big shot Robert Byrd, whom Dole (to his credit) clashed with repeatedly. Politico wasn't around in 1996 to write the nasty stuff seen earlier, but its account squares with what the rest of the press is doing: praising Dole now, while falsely painting Dole as "dark" and "mean-spirited" in the past.
Lefties, meanwhile, are continuing to act grossly on Twitter, which is increasingly replacing news. Here are a couple of them, starting with a Steele dossier–linked Democrat operative:
Condolences to Dole’s family, he was fortunate to live a long and prosperous life but let’s not forget he made a fortune as one of Manafort’s close associates, one of Deripaska’s first DC lobbyists, and fully backed Putin’s Trump regime; that’s not integrity, honor, or admirable. https://t.co/i38zDDYquj— Alexandra Chalupa (@AlexandraChalup) December 5, 2021
On the low-I.Q. side, there was this:
These people are actual psychos pic.twitter.com/77HgzDfNSS— Libs of Tik Tok (@libsoftiktok) December 5, 2021
You can't unsee that.
How very emblematic of what the news has become today. Where did that creature, who couldn't have been alive in 1996, get that bizarre hate?
The press is speaking out of both sides of its mouth on the matter of Dole. What leaped out at me was how long the written pieces in those days were, and how they actually tried to pay some lip service to both sides of the issue, even as they propagated that nonsense about Dole being "dark." We don't see that kind of writing now; we just get that character in the photo above as a news substitute.
But the hypocrisy is obvious. Leftists can and do speak well of the Republicans who have passed. But let's not forget that deep down, they've got the spirit of that finger girl and tell a different and false story when such heroes are alive. Back in 1996, Bill Clinton once told his consultant at the time, Dick Morris, after hearing some bad poll news, that "we'll just have to win, then." That seems to be the root of the rot, and it's been all downhill since then.
Image: Twitter screen shot.
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