Hearing 81-year-old Bob Dole speak with Terri Gross on NPR's Fresh Air made me happy that the man was not elected president in 1996. The former Senate majority leader just published a memoir about his service and injury in WWII. That's all well and good, but I think that Bob Dole, gruff Midwesterner, semi-inarticulate, especially in his old age, should have known that Terri Gross would want to ask him about more than his book.
After a barrage of current questions from Terri, addressing the Republican Senate's "nuclear option" for judge appointments--outlawing filibuster, the Tom DeLay ethics issues (and DeLay's threats to the judiciary), as well as Dole's own "impugning" of John Kerry's Vietnam service in the 2004 election, I imagined a sad, broken, senile, but yet angry, man. Not unlike a grandfather angry and alone in a nursing home, bitterly complaining about the service, or of people dying. After getting more and more annoyed at Gross with her current event questions (Dole said, "I can't answer that because I don't know the facts", Dole then let out the inhospitable utterance that the New York Times and "maybe" NPR are "part and parcel" biased for the Democratic Party. Gross, to her credit, responded with a thoughtful question about journalism itself and ideological objectivity, then moving on to questions about Dole's book.
Honestly, we know the story of Dole's service and his injury and partial paralysis. I'm sure the book is a hackneyed replay of the 1996 election, where we got to know about Dole's heroism. The story I come away with from the interview is that crotchety old men are crotchety old men, and that no matter how good of a position Republican conservatives find themselves in--be it in retirement or control of all three branches of government--they'll still be angry about something. Bob Dole's flying off the radar screen and off the hook indicates that there is surely hope for the left. We can sees signs already: negative reaction to the Schiavo actions by Congress, continued low approval ratings for Bush. Republicans simply can't go on and keep raging about things while they're in power, and additionally they can't become pork barrel spenders for a quick vote, but that's exactly what they're doing. Yes, I think the boat is cracking--already--for these Republicans. The problem is that they're not attuned to getting moderate fast, which is precisely what they need to do. Their bug is the ideologically fantastical, no simple pill to take for a practical American public.
Thank you, Bob Dole, for getting my hopes up. --adam schenck