Bob Dole gears up to barnstorm Kansas again

04/18/2014 5:28 PM

04/18/2014 5:28 PM

Bob Dole ran for national office four times, so we’ve known that he’s game for about anything.

I remember a 2011 homecoming out in Russell, Kan., when the locals were determined that the former senator ride down Main Street atop a fire truck named for his father. A month shy of birthday No. 88, Dole pert near had to be hoisted up the steep steps to get to his seat. Even then, he was on a precarious perch high above the crowd.

But Dole was all for it, even if it did come after knee surgery, a bout with pneumonia and a yearlong stay at Walter Reed after a fall at home.

So maybe it’s not all that surprising the now 90-year-old is headed our way again next week just to get back and see folks and maybe relive the glory days on the campaign trail.

“I’m not running for anything,” he said.

But, man, is he acting like it. On Monday, it’s Olathe, Ottawa and Paola. On Tuesday, Hiawatha, Holton, Troy and Lawrence. On Wednesday, he’ll hit Atchison and Leavenworth. (Find his schedule at


On Thursday, we found out that this is only the first leg of his barnstorming tour. In mid-May, it’s 16 more Kansas cities, including a stop in Wyandotte County.

“I am looking forward to enjoying lots of cookies along the way — preferably oatmeal raisin and chocolate,” Dole said.

Are you sure you’re not running for anything?

I’ve never seen anything like it. And you probably haven’t either.

So much of the Dole story has become part of political mythology. His upbringing in the shadow of the grain elevator. His days as a soda jerk, where he groomed his trademark dry wit. His nearly mortal wounding on an Italian hillside just days before World War II’s end. His fear of becoming an invalid who sold pencils on Main Street, which surely fueled an unceasing ambition. His discovery by political guru Huck Boyd in 1960 when Boyd spotted a light burning at midnight on the Russell County Courthouse’s second floor.

Boyd walked in and found prosecutor Dole not yet done for the day. Less than a year later, Dole was in Congress.

In 1988, he arguably was a New Hampshire snowstorm away from the White House. He went on to become the longest-serving Senate Republican leader in history. He saved food stamps, extended Social Security and aided disabled Americans.

And he played a supporting role in ushering in the bitter partisanship that still grips Capitol Hill.

He is an American original. And he’s coming home again.


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