Bob Dole, then and now

I found it amusing to read the nostalgia in the reporting on Bob Dole’s death. Dole deserved the praise he received from the mainstream media. He was an important member of the Senate for decades — one of that body’s leading figures of the last half of the 20th century.

What amused me was the presentation of Dole as bridge-builder, friend of Democrats and Republicans alike, and reminder of the good old days when the parties cooperated and the Senate got things done. Dole was all of these things to a degree, but that’s not how the mainstream media usually portrayed him when he mattered.

Back then, Dole was portrayed as a nasty piece of work, a hatchet man with an acerbic wit. In 1976, when he ran for vice president, the line on Dole was that Gerald Ford selected him because of his ability to sling mud at Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. President Ford would take the high road while Dole would ridicule and demean the opposition.

If I recall correctly, Dole was sometimes compared to Richard Nixon, to whom he bore a slight physical resemblance. To the media, Nixon was, of course, the symbol of the politics of negativity, division, and hate.

It was also said of Dole that he never got over the resentment of having lost the use of an arm while fighting in World War II. This was offered as a partial explanation for his alleged dark side.

Dole did not shed this mainstream media caricature until his public life was essentially over. In the 1990s, the MSM used the frustration Dole showed during his ill-fated 1988 campaign against George H.W. Bush to reinforce the image.

There was nothing warm, fuzzy, or the least bit sympathetic about the way the MSM portrayed Dole when he ran against Bill Clinton in 1996. It’s true that, by then, the media had a new weapon — Dole’s age (he was 73 years old, hardly old by today’s standard of presidential candidate age). Dole helped administer that dagger by describing himself as a “bridge to the past” in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

But the media didn’t abandon the “prince of darkness” narrative. It portrayed Dole as deeply divisive. There was little if any praise that I recall of his Senate skills or his ability to work across party lines.

I agree with much of what the mainstream media now says about Dole. His style of politics and leadership differs significantly from the current style. But then, when Dole was in the Senate, Democratic presidents (Carter and Clinton) weren’t trying radically to transform America. Nor were large numbers of Senate Dems clamoring to abolish the legislative filibuster and pack the Supreme Court.

If Dole were Senate Minority Leader today, I suspect his approach would be basically the same as Mitch McConnell’s. Maybe McConnell will cease to be treated as an ogre when he dies. Maybe not.

My point, though, is the mainstream media’s serial demonization of Republicans who stand in the way of its liberal agenda. When Ronald Reagan had power, he was a right-wing zealot and menace to world peace. When George W. Bush had power, he was the evil stooge of the even more evil Dick Cheney. When it looked like Mitt Romney might get power, he was a callous, out-of-touch serial destroyer of jobs and wrecker of lives.

Even Dwight Eisenhower was a victim of media defamation. The media couldn’t demonize Ike because he was the hero of World War II. So instead, it portrayed him as a bumbler — a rube. Eisenhower was anything but, as virtually everyone now agrees, but the image suited the liberal media’s purposes.

To the mainstream media, it seems that the only good Republican is a dead Republican.– or at least a Republican without power and the chance of obtaining it.

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