Tag Archives: Bob Dole

Is this election going to set a low-turnout record?


Some months ago I mentioned to friends that I thought the 2016 election would produce a low-turnout result.

My friends laughed me out of the proverbial room. Why? They were certain that if the major-party presidential nominees were going to be Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald J. Trump that they would energize their parties’ respective bases like no other candidate could do.

Well, here we are. Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee; Clinton hasn’t quite achieved presumptive status yet, but she’s going to be the Democratic nominee, just as she boasted the other day to CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

What do I think now about the turnout?

It’s going to be low. How do I know that? I don’t know it.

But the talk all around Pundit World centers on the high negative feelings that both candidates engender among voters. Trump polls about 70 percent unfavorable; Clinton’s unfavorable rating sits at around 60 percent.

The previous low-turnout record belongs to President Bill Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, who ran against each other in 1996. Clinton won re-election that year with just 49 percent of eligible Americans actually voting that year. Clinton, of course, didn’t collect a majority that year, winning a healthy plurality, just as he did four years earlier; third-party candidate Ross Perot sucked enough votes away to deny the president a majority.

I have to agree with those who say that Clinton and Trump both are deeply wounded frontrunners. Trump’s failings are too numerous to mention; at every level one can mention, Trump is the most unfit major-party candidate ever to seek the presidency. Clinton’s been scrutinized carefully for more than two decades and she continues to suffer from this perception that she’s shifty and untrustworthy.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say — either to me directly or to others — that they’re going to sit this one out. Republicans cannot vote for Clinton, even though they cannot stomach the idea of Trump carrying their party’s banner into battle.

Democrats aren’t going to walk the plank in favor of Trump.

Where do they turn? A third-party candidate still might emerge to capture the imagination of voters who are disgusted with the major parties’ selections.

If no one emerges, well, this election is looking as though it will set a dubious record for non-involvement.

Is that a mandate the winner will embrace?

Can politics intrude on a politician’s day job?

DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-FL, speaks at the Democratic National Committee's Womens Leadership Forum Issues Conference in Washington, DC on September 19, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

I’ve long wondered something about full-time politicians who take on jobs outside of the job they were elected to do.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz? Well, she’s my latest example.

Schultz is a Democratic member of Congress who represents southern Florida. She also is chair of the Democratic National Committee.

She’s certainly not the first full-time pol to assume duties unrelated to her congressional work. Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole once represented Kansas while serving as chair of the Republican National Committee. Interestingly, he resigned his Senate seat when the GOP nominated him to run for president in 1996; he said he couldn’t do both things at the same time, so he decided to set aside his Senate duties.

Schultz doesn’t do that. No, she runs the Democratic Party while serving her constituents in south Florida.

How well does she do either job, or both?

This issue of running for a higher office while holding down an elected job already has come up during the 2016 presidential campaign. GOP contender Marco Rubio has been criticized for missing many Senate votes while stumping for his party’s nomination. New Jersey Democrats made noise about seeking Gov. Chris Christie’s ouster after Christie declared he wanted to be the Republican nominee this year.

Other members of Congress are seeking the presidency this year. To my knowledge there’s been little said about how well they’re doing their current job while they seek to be elected to another one.

Schultz was re-elected in 2014 by a wide margin, so I guess her constituents think she’s doing all right.

It’s fair to wonder though: How does she deal with purely local issues? How much attention do her constituents get from her — or her staff — when they have concerns about their Social Security or military pension checks?

Schultz has a big job running a major political party. She also has a big job representing her constituents on Capitol Hill; the latter job also pays her $175,000 annually, plus all the ancillary perks she and her colleagues get while serving in Congress.

I occasionally wonder whether politicians who hold down full-time government jobs can do those jobs adequately when other matters divert their attention from the duties they were elected to perform.


Pals still reach across the aisle on Capitol Hill

dole and inouye

Collegiality isn’t dead in Washington, D.C., after all.

I’m not reporting anything new here; I’m merely passing on an interesting Texas Tribune piece about how some Texas members of Congress — who are generally conservative to ultra-conservative — have become friends with some New York liberal members of Congress.

It does my heart good to read of this kind of thing.

Bipartisanship lives in the halls of Congress, reports Abby Livingston in an article published by the Tribune.

She notes how East Texas U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, one of the House of Representatives’ conservative firebrand, routinely saves a seat next to him for the State of the Union speech for Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat. Gohmert is adamantly opposed to further gun regulation; Maloney, however, is just as adamantly in favor of it.

According to the Tribune: “It’s not hard to be friends with people who are honest, and she sees many important issues, to me, very differently,” Gohmert said. “But I know she wants what’s best for the country, but we just have different beliefs as to what that is.”

You want another example? U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has become good friends with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Cruz is a Republican (of course!) and Gillibrand is a Democrat; Cruz is ultraconservative; Gillibrand is ultraliberal.

As the Tribune reported: “I have always been impressed with people who stand up for principle when it matters and when there’s a price to be paid,” Cruz said of Gillibrand in a June interview.

Partisanship often has morphed into personal attacks for a number of years in the halls of Congress. Perhaps it showed itself most dramatically when then-GOP Vice President Dick Cheney told Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy to “go f*** yourself” during a heated exchange on the floor of the Senate.

That’s the bipartisan spirit, Mr. Vice President.

It wasn’t always this way, of course. Members of both parties shared common bonds that quite often transcended partisan differences. Not many years ago, that commonality was forged by World War II, with combat veterans joining together to pursue public service careers while sitting across the aisle from each other.

Two examples come to mind.

U.S. Sens. Bob Dole, a Kansas Republican, and Daniel Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat, both suffered grievous injuries fighting the Nazis in World War II. They were both injured in separate battles in Italy near the end of the war in Europe. They were evacuated and spent time in the same rehab hospital in the United States.

They became fast friends and bridge partners. They took that friendship with them to the Senate. Tom Brokaw’s acclaimed book “The Greatest Generation” tells of this friendship that went far beyond the many political differences the two men had.

Sens. George McGovern, a South Dakota Democrat, and Barry Goldwater, an Arizona Republican, both were World War II aviators. McGovern was as liberal as they come; Goldwater was equally conservative. They, too, became close friends while serving in the Senate. Both men survived the harrowing crucible of aerial combat while fighting to save the world from tyranny.

Their political differences were vast, but so was their friendship.

Many of us have lamented the bad blood that flows between Democrats and Republicans in Congress. I’ve been one of those who’s complained about it.

As the Texas Tribune reports, though, collegiality still can be found … if you know where to look.


Tea party winning as it's losing

It’s time to give credit where it most definitely is due to the tea party wing of the once-Grand Old Republican Party.

Even when it loses it wins.

Take the race for U.S. senator in Mississippi this week. Sen. Thad Cochran beat back a stout challenge from tea party Republican Chris McDaniel. But did Cochran campaign in the GOP runoff on his ability to work with Democrats, or on his ability to funnel lots of money to his home state? Oh no. He campaigned on his conservative record — which he has established — and by telling Mississippians that he’s as conservative as they are.


I am no longer paying much never-mind to these predictions of the tea party’s death, resurrection and death yet again. The tea party wing of the GOP has won the debate.

It has dragged normally thoughtful conservatives into the rage pit right along with them. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is as “establishment Republican” as they come. Now, though, he’s suing President Obama because the president has taken some executive action that has angered the tea party wing of the GOP. That means Boehner is mad, too.

Here in Texas, tea party Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick yanked Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst so far to the right that Dewhurst never got his legs under him or found his voice. He looked and sounded awkward trying to be as out there as Patrick, who’s smooth, articulate and glib. Patrick beat Dewhurst in the Texas GOP runoff.

Across the state, Republicans are sounding more alike all the time — meaning they’ve adopted the do-nothing mantra so popular among tea party officeholders in Washington.

There once was a Republican Party with pols who could work well with Democrats. Two come to mind immediately: the late U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois and former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas. There’ve been others, but those two men stand out in my own mind. Dirksen was pals with President Lyndon Johnson and helped LBJ enact civil rights and voting rights legislation in the mid-1960s. Dole was a dear friend of the late Democratic U.S. Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota. It helped that the two men both were World War II heroes and had a shared bond of military service. They also worked hand-in-hand on anti-hunger legislation.

Dole and Dirksen would be laughed out of the Senate chamber today.

The tea party’s strength can be seen in the debate that’s raging within the Republican Party — if you want to call it that when virtually all Republicans now are singing off the tea party song sheet.

The tea party, therefore, is winning, even when it’s losing.

Cruz needs a visit to the ‘woodshed’

OK, I have to make one more point about Sen. Ted Cruz’s latest rant involving his Republican Party elders.

He’s disrespecting two of them in a big way.

Cruz took it upon himself to suggest that Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Bob Dole didn’t stand for “principles” when they ran unsuccessfully as the GOP nominees for president in 2008 and 1996, respectively.


What’s so very troubling about this whipper-snapper’s comments is that he has called out two of more distinguished war heroes ever to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Cruz, let me add, never served his country’s military.

Dole shot back immediately at Cruz. “Senator Cruz needs to check the record before passing judgment,” the 90-year-old Dole said in a statement. “I was one of President Reagan’s strongest supporters, and my record is that of a traditional Republican conservative.” Ah yes, “traditional conservative.” That’s how Dole describes himself. He’s the kind of conservative who’s fallen out of favor with the current corps of firebrands who are mounting a takeover of a once-great political party. Cruz is the non-traditional conservative, to be sure. Indeed, he’s becoming the non-traditional senator, a Lone Ranger.

For the record, Dole suffered grievous wounds fighting the Nazis near the end of World War II. He lost the use of his right arm and was nearly killed on an Italian battlefield in April 1945.

And Sen. McCain? He was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and spent more than five years being tortured as a prisoner of war by his communist captors. He, too, suffered terrible wounds when his plane was shot down over Hanoi and he parachuted into a lake in the middle of the city.

These men need no lecture about honor or principle — particularly from a loudmouth such as Ted Cruz.

That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Texas’s Cruz missile misfires once again

You have to love that Ted Cruz.

He gets elected to the U.S. Senate and immediately makes a name for himself — while embarrassing many of the people he purports to represent.

The Texas Republican did it again today, speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference in which he denigrated the likes of Sens. Bob Dole and John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — all of whom ran for president but lost to Democratic opponents.


It was Cruz’s criticism of Dole that drew the most intense response from McCain.

“All of us remember President Dole, and President McCain and President Romney,” Cruz told the CPAC crowd. “Those are good men, they’re all decent men but when you don’t stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don’t stand for principle Democrats celebrate.”

McCain has demanded that Cruz apologize to Sen. Dole, the 1996 GOP presidential nominee.

“He can say what he wants to about me, he can say anything he wants to about Mitt. Mitt can take it,” McCain said. “But when he throws Bob Dole in there, I wonder if he thinks that Bob Dole stood for principle on a hilltop in Italy when he was so gravely wounded and left part of his body there fighting for our country.”


Dole responded as well, noting that he was a strong supporter of President Ronald Reagan’s agenda and declared his voting record is as conservative as it gets. Dole also worked well with Democrats, including leading liberals such as the late Sen. George McGovern — another World War II hero with whom he had a lasting friendship.

This still-new senator has some work to do to understand that he needs to respect his elders. He just might need them in his corner if he intends to run for president himself in 2016.

I’m betting he is going to be marching to his own cadence.