Bob Dole hasn’t lost his Kansas candor.
And when the former U.S. senator, who is approaching his 90th birthday, speaks out, he still makes news.
In an interview that aired Sunday on “Fox News Sunday,” Dole displayed his well-known ability to cut to the heart of political matters. His voice wasn’t as strong as it once was and his tone was more reflective than aggressive, but he still had a few choice observations for national politicians who, in his opinion, aren’t getting the job done for the people who elected them.
The U.S. Senate, he told interviewer Chris Wallace, may not be broken but, “It’s bent pretty badly.” Members of Congress, Dole said, have forgotten the principal of compromise that he practiced as a Senate leader: Everyone gets something but no one get everything they want. “That’s the way it has to work,” he said.
He described the inability of the Congress to complete basic tasks like a budget as “almost unreal.”
“We weren’t perfect, by a long shot,” Dole said, “but at least we got our work done.”
When he looks at the current situation in Washington, Dole sees plenty of blame to go around. President Obama failed in the early days of his presidency to form relationships that would have helped him work with Congress, Dole said, and continues to be a poor communicator.
“The American people are partly to blame,” he added, because they clamor for less spending — but only if none of the programs that benefit them personally are on the table.
The former senator, however, saved some of his sharpest criticism for his own party. The most quoted line from his Sunday comments appears to be this one about the Republican Party he once led: “ I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says ‘Closed for repairs,’ until New Year’s Day next year and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.”
Dole described himself as a “Republican — none of this hyphenated stuff — I was a mainstream conservative Republican,” but he acknowledged it was unlikely he could pass muster among the conservative base of today’s GOP.
The timing of the Dole broadcast, on Memorial Day weekend, probably was inspired by the former senator’s status as one of the nation’s strongest advocates for military veterans. It’s impossible to argue with his dedicated service to America both in the military and for decades as a political leader.
Dole’s remarks were primarily aimed at federal officials, but they also offer some wisdom that might be useful to members of the Kansas Legislature as they struggle to complete the basic business of the state.