Bogota, Kansas — Down in this community of fifty-four households, where it was said that Bob Dole had said the proper thing fifty-thousand times, the presence of the late US senator and failed presidential candidate looms large.
For those who fell under his influence—and perhaps for those whose actions tended to overawe the odds—he was the arch-consultant of their little lives, the master enforcer, the never-failing source of affirmation, and to them he was a person who knew exactly what they were feeling and what they were thinking.
Bourbon County, where the average annual salary is $24,000, is a place of few more pretensions, and despite its conservatism it was long a safe haven for Dole. His many visits here—first in 1969, when he first ran for his first term as a congressman, and then six more times before he rose to the job of senator—took place in the shadow of a quarry, surrounded by the farms of a long-forgotten demographic, a brief Civil War outpost that survived a 1904 eruption, when nearby Craters of the Moon, as it is now known, erupted like the Whirlpool crater in Yellowstone, scarring the center of the county.
Plainly, Bob Dole was about as anti-Washington as an elected official could be, and compared to the senator from Kansas, Sen. Pat Roberts, he was a wonderful elder statesman, a kind of young Charlie Wilson on the Senate floor. “I won’t ever tell you his politics,” said one close friend. “He was just Bob to me.”
These days, Bob Dole, or “Cotton,” as Bob Dole calls him, would like to be known for his reputation, for his name, not the party affiliation that he was forced to resign last spring when a federal grand jury indicted him on eight counts of felony and misdemeanor violations of the campaign finance law. “I’m just a living embodiment of the most important principle in the land,” he said the other day, “that if you are decent and honest and do what you think is right, people will applaud you and you will be respected by your fellow citizens.” He set down this belief as if it were the prevailing set of ethics. “If you play politics to the highest possible level,” he said, “there will be some who will not like you and will bring accusations and create a crisis where none is required. But you must be your own man. Never retreat, do not kowtow to the frivolous accusations of the haters. As I am not, you will be respected and with it the final peace of heaven and no condemnation in the eyes of thy Lord and your Maker.”
He had been asked on the day of his indictment whether he would still run for president as a Republican, and he had answered honestly: “I’ve had my run. I don’t think I can be president.” But he knew that the opening “name-check” came from his old friend, Dwight Eisenhower, who died two days earlier, and he felt that if all the descendants of John and Abigail Adams were to vote for Bob Dole they would nonetheless reject their worthiness for such a privileged place in history.
“I didn’t like the man that I met as Senator,” said Louise Osborn, whose family have run nearby Dole River Valley Bakery for a century, but who has never met the man. “He was really nasty and mean-spirited. I would take any chance to get rid of him. He was a reactionary, just like Donald Trump.” She laughed. “You know, maybe he’ll come back here and be a challenger for our president.”
Read more Bob Dole obituaries