[Editor’s note: The original version of this article contained quotes apparently attributed to Bob Dole and his office]
“I certainly disagree with the Democrats. They can’t pass any of their agenda; they are the work horses, we are the racehorses. I was the slower horse.” (from Secretary of Health and Human Services, Ron Batory, 1996)
The November General Election might be termed a true racehorse election. Holes opened when George W. Bush was elected in 2000, subsequently filled with the leaders of the modern Democratic Party. What we’ve seen is a three-horse race with Senators Donald Trump and Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren battling for supremacy.
Senator Bob Dole helped form these leaders when he first ran for president in 1968. He offered a more measured approach than that of Walter Mondale and Nelson Rockefeller to attempting to deal with Vietnam, and he won the support of many independents. At the party’s Democratic National Convention that year, he called on delegates to fall back on the party’s nominated candidate, if the party “ran out of the script.”
A whole decade and a world away, Sen. Bob Dole solidified his reputation as a war leader on Memorial Day in 1991. On a windy day in Washington, D.C., Dole called for American forces to be ordered to destroy Saddam Hussein’s military forces in Iraq. During the first Gulf War, Dole positioned himself as one of the toughest peacetime Vietnam War veterans in Congress. As a congressman and senator, he voted against every measure introduced in Congress concerning the war, including those that drew down the U.S. troop levels in Vietnam.
From Veterans Affairs
While Dole had previously enjoyed a reputation as a political rock-ribbed conservative, this speech showed a very different side of the Kansas Republican. He may have had a New York accent and an outgoing manner, but he also had experience working in the President Nixon administration and the Veterans Affairs department in the mid-80s.
As the secretary of Veterans Affairs, Dole helped to lead the transition of the Department of Veterans Affairs from a government agency to a federal entity. Back then, Congress made laws for the VA as required by law, but a bureaucrat would not have been able to enforce those laws on other branches of government.
One of Dole’s biggest jobs was to attempt to get the Veterans Administration disability claims process worked out. Dole promised that if he were president, veterans would never have to wait more than 60 days to file their claims. The transformation involved helping veterans create their own case, and the changes would ultimately save the VA money.
Changes But Without Reform
“The ways we handle veterans are archaic; they are unacceptable.” (from Time magazine, May 21, 1999)
In 2008, when Dole announced that he would be running for president as a Republican, he declared that our veterans need a “new system” for resolving their claims. He criticized the VA’s bureaucracy, as it was “wrong” and “illegitimate.”
At that time, Dole did not fully realize that, according to the Administrative Procedure Act, any agency over which Dole had jurisdiction was required to revise procedures that were not “proper or reasonable.” The APA had not been revised since it was passed in 1953, but revisions were first required by a 1991 Supreme Court decision, “Agency Regulation Guidelines,” which described the role of the APA in doing away with ineffective regulations.
Unhappy With His Dole Commission Report
In 1989, Dole met with an editorial board of newspapers to answer questions about his Dole Commission Report. Instead of making important recommendations that would have benefited our veterans, the Dole Commission largely blamed the VA, (PDF) informing Americans that the problem was laid at the feet of its bureaucrats, when in fact, the problem was funding.