Reviews | I was Bob Dole’s press secretary. That’s what I learned from him.
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Mr. Dole, arguably America’s greatest practitioner of the laconic phrase since Calvin Coolidge, has often found his humor lost to reporters a fraction of his age.
Once, on the campaign plane, a reporter asked Mr. Dole a common question: What was the one thing he wanted every voter to know about himself?
He could have responded like a politician and thrown a bumper sticker slogan or summoned a teardrop. Instead, he dismissed the silly question with a simple “beat me up.” “
What followed, of course, were iron-eared stories about Mr. Dole devoid of a sense of vision, written by reporters devoid of a sense of humor.
Yet he didn’t take it personally. He rarely vilified a journalist for doing reporting work. Once almost left for dead on a battlefield in WWII, he had seen worse than a bad story or even a lost election.
It’s true, Mr. Dole lost in 1996 and he had no illusions about who would be responsible. The capsule summary of this campaign presents him as a weak candidate.
But by then, American politics was already on the path to the polarized and poisoned place we occupy today. If Bob Dole’s authenticity and reluctance to indulge in tricks or demonize his opponents were weaknesses, does that say more about him or what politics was becoming?
Bob Dole had principles and even a partisan, yes. But he lifted his fighting spirit with humility, humor and respect. If that made him weak, US policy would be stronger with more weakness.
Nelson Warfield is a political media consultant who served as the National Press Secretary for Senator Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign.
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