WTOP’s Dave McConnell remembers ‘successful Senate leader’ Bob Dole

Bob Dole, former Republican senator and presidential candidate, died on Sunday at the age of 98. WTOP’s Emeritus Capitol Hill Correspondent Dave McConnell remembered his impact on the D.C. region and the country.

McConnell, who covered Capitol Hill for WTOP for more than three decades, reported that Dole was often considered a “hatchet man,” as he produced various tax reforms and Social Security bills while working in federal government.



“Dole softened his political persona with friendly jabs and self-deprecating humor,” McConnell said.

He described Dole’s Senate success in passing sweeping legislation and his oft discussed loss to former President Bill Clinton — a loss that was often blamed on his “insider status” in Washington.

Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas confirms he is Pres. Richard Nixons choice to take over the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, Jan. 6, 1971, Washington, D.C. Dole says his primary job as chairman will be to re-elect Pres. Nixon. (AP Photo/Henry Griffin)
Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas confirms he is Pres. Richard Nixons choice to take over the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, Jan. 6, 1971, Washington, D.C. Dole says his primary job as chairman will be to re-elect Pres. Nixon. (AP Photo/Henry Griffin)

Republican National Chairman, Sen. Robert Dole, makes a point during his appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" from Washington Sunday, July 16, 1972. The Kansas senator discusses this fall's national election. (AP Photo/CT)
Republican National Chairman, Sen. Robert Dole, makes a point during his appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” from Washington Sunday, July 16, 1972. The Kansas senator discusses this fall’s national election. (AP Photo/CT)

Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., poses with his bride-to-be Elizabeth Hanford of Salisbury, N.C., on Saturday, Dec. 6, 1975 at a wedding breakfast in Washington.   They will be married later. (AP Photo/Harvey Georges)
Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., poses with his bride-to-be Elizabeth Hanford of Salisbury, N.C., on Saturday, Dec. 6, 1975 at a wedding breakfast in Washington. They will be married later. (AP Photo/Harvey Georges)

Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, a former GOP national chairman, addresses the Republican Leadership Conference in Washington Friday, March 7, 1975. Dole said, "at least in terms of numbers the Republican Party is today in worse shape than it has ever been before in its history." The full sign behind him reads "we're out to win". (AP Photo)
Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, a former GOP national chairman, addresses the Republican Leadership Conference in Washington Friday, March 7, 1975. Dole said, “at least in terms of numbers the Republican Party is today in worse shape than it has ever been before in its history.” The full sign behind him reads “we’re out to win”. (AP Photo)

Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas confirms he is Pres. Richard Nixons choice to take over the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, Jan. 6, 1971, Washington, D.C. Dole says his primary job as chairman will be to re-elect Pres. Nixon. (AP Photo/Henry Griffin)
Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas confirms he is Pres. Richard Nixons choice to take over the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, Jan. 6, 1971, Washington, D.C. Dole says his primary job as chairman will be to re-elect Pres. Nixon. (AP Photo/Henry Griffin)

Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., discussed Senate security at a news conference March 9, 1971 in St. Louis, after an explosion in the U.S. Capitol. Dole said senators are vulnerable to anyone who might throw a bomb or even "a Wilkie button" from the open gallery. (AP Photo/Fred  Waters)
Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., discussed Senate security at a news conference March 9, 1971 in St. Louis, after an explosion in the U.S. Capitol. Dole said senators are vulnerable to anyone who might throw a bomb or even “a Wilkie button” from the open gallery. (AP Photo/Fred Waters)

Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kansas) shown speaking and waving to crowds at the National Republican Convention in Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Mo. on August 19, 1976. (AP PHoto)
Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kansas) shown speaking and waving to crowds at the National Republican Convention in Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Mo. on August 19, 1976. (AP PHoto)

Kansas Senator Robert Dole in May 7, 1979 in Washington.   (AP Photo/Charles Harrity)
Kansas Senator Robert Dole in May 7, 1979 in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Harrity)

FILE - Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, right, speaks after being presented with the McGovern-Dole Leadership Award by Vice President Joe Biden, to honor his leadership in the fight against hunger, during the 12th Annual George McGovern Leadership Award Ceremony hosted by World Food Program USA, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. Bob Dole, who overcame disabling war wounds to become a sharp-tongued Senate leader from Kansas, a Republican presidential candidate and then a symbol and celebrant of his dwindling generation of World War II veterans, has died. He was 98. His wife, Elizabeth Dole, posted the announcement Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, on Twitter.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
FILE – Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, right, speaks after being presented with the McGovern-Dole Leadership Award by Vice President Joe Biden, to honor his leadership in the fight against hunger, during the 12th Annual George McGovern Leadership Award Ceremony hosted by World Food Program USA, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. Bob Dole, who overcame disabling war wounds to become a sharp-tongued Senate leader from Kansas, a Republican presidential candidate and then a symbol and celebrant of his dwindling generation of World War II veterans, has died. He was 98. His wife, Elizabeth Dole, posted the announcement Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, on Twitter. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

FILE - In this Nov. 5, 1996, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole waves to supporters during his concession speech to supporters at a Washington hotel, with Sen. John Cain, R-Ariz., left, and wife Elizabeth, right. President Bill Clinton won re-election in a coast-to-coast landslide. (AP Photo/Joe Marquette, File)
FILE – In this Nov. 5, 1996, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole waves to supporters during his concession speech to supporters at a Washington hotel, with Sen. John Cain, R-Ariz., left, and wife Elizabeth, right. President Bill Clinton won re-election in a coast-to-coast landslide. (AP Photo/Joe Marquette, File)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate Sen. Robert Dole R-Kan., gestures while making a speech in Washington, March 28, 1988. Bob Dole, who overcame disabling war wounds to become a sharp-tongued Senate leader from Kansas, a Republican presidential candidate and then a symbol and celebrant of his dwindling generation of World War II veterans, has died. He was 98. His wife, Elizabeth Dole, posted the announcement Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, on Twitter.  (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)
FILE – Republican presidential candidate Sen. Robert Dole R-Kan., gestures while making a speech in Washington, March 28, 1988. Bob Dole, who overcame disabling war wounds to become a sharp-tongued Senate leader from Kansas, a Republican presidential candidate and then a symbol and celebrant of his dwindling generation of World War II veterans, has died. He was 98. His wife, Elizabeth Dole, posted the announcement Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, on Twitter. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas watches Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. on television during a Senate floor debate, from his office on Capitol Hill, Washington, Monday, June 2, 1986. The Senate launched a six-week experiment of making its floor sessions available for live broadcast by television networks. (AP Photo/Lana Harris)
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas watches Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. on television during a Senate floor debate, from his office on Capitol Hill, Washington, Monday, June 2, 1986. The Senate launched a six-week experiment of making its floor sessions available for live broadcast by television networks. (AP Photo/Lana Harris)

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas ponders a reporters question as he walks on Capitol Hill Thursday Dec. 21, 1995. The White House and Congressional Republicans labored Thursday to restart balanced budget talks and grappled with the impact of a six-day partial government shutdown. (AP Photo/Denis Paquin)
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas ponders a reporters question as he walks on Capitol Hill Thursday Dec. 21, 1995. The White House and Congressional Republicans labored Thursday to restart balanced budget talks and grappled with the impact of a six-day partial government shutdown. (AP Photo/Denis Paquin)

Bob Dole, Elizabeth Dole
FILE – In this Jan. 17, 2018 file photo, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole smiles as he gets a kiss from his wife Elizabeth Dole as he is honored with a Congressional Gold Medal, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, chairman of the Republican National Committee, emphasizes a point Friday, March 10, 1972 at a Washington news conference, where he called for public hearings to investigate an agreement by American Telephone and Telegraph Corp, to extend credit to the Democratic National Convention. The move was a counter attack to the ITT-Kleindienst hearings. (AP Photo)
Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, chairman of the Republican National Committee, emphasizes a point Friday, March 10, 1972 at a Washington news conference, where he called for public hearings to investigate an agreement by American Telephone and Telegraph Corp, to extend credit to the Democratic National Convention. The move was a counter attack to the ITT-Kleindienst hearings. (AP Photo)

(1/15)
Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas confirms he is Pres. Richard Nixons choice to take over the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, Jan. 6, 1971, Washington, D.C. Dole says his primary job as chairman will be to re-elect Pres. Nixon. (AP Photo/Henry Griffin)
Republican National Chairman, Sen. Robert Dole, makes a point during his appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" from Washington Sunday, July 16, 1972. The Kansas senator discusses this fall's national election. (AP Photo/CT)
Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., poses with his bride-to-be Elizabeth Hanford of Salisbury, N.C., on Saturday, Dec. 6, 1975 at a wedding breakfast in Washington.   They will be married later. (AP Photo/Harvey Georges)
Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, a former GOP national chairman, addresses the Republican Leadership Conference in Washington Friday, March 7, 1975. Dole said, "at least in terms of numbers the Republican Party is today in worse shape than it has ever been before in its history." The full sign behind him reads "we're out to win". (AP Photo)
Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas confirms he is Pres. Richard Nixons choice to take over the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, Jan. 6, 1971, Washington, D.C. Dole says his primary job as chairman will be to re-elect Pres. Nixon. (AP Photo/Henry Griffin)
Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., discussed Senate security at a news conference March 9, 1971 in St. Louis, after an explosion in the U.S. Capitol. Dole said senators are vulnerable to anyone who might throw a bomb or even "a Wilkie button" from the open gallery. (AP Photo/Fred  Waters)
Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kansas) shown speaking and waving to crowds at the National Republican Convention in Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Mo. on August 19, 1976. (AP PHoto)
Kansas Senator Robert Dole in May 7, 1979 in Washington.   (AP Photo/Charles Harrity)
FILE - Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, right, speaks after being presented with the McGovern-Dole Leadership Award by Vice President Joe Biden, to honor his leadership in the fight against hunger, during the 12th Annual George McGovern Leadership Award Ceremony hosted by World Food Program USA, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. Bob Dole, who overcame disabling war wounds to become a sharp-tongued Senate leader from Kansas, a Republican presidential candidate and then a symbol and celebrant of his dwindling generation of World War II veterans, has died. He was 98. His wife, Elizabeth Dole, posted the announcement Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, on Twitter.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 5, 1996, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole waves to supporters during his concession speech to supporters at a Washington hotel, with Sen. John Cain, R-Ariz., left, and wife Elizabeth, right. President Bill Clinton won re-election in a coast-to-coast landslide. (AP Photo/Joe Marquette, File)
FILE - Republican presidential candidate Sen. Robert Dole R-Kan., gestures while making a speech in Washington, March 28, 1988. Bob Dole, who overcame disabling war wounds to become a sharp-tongued Senate leader from Kansas, a Republican presidential candidate and then a symbol and celebrant of his dwindling generation of World War II veterans, has died. He was 98. His wife, Elizabeth Dole, posted the announcement Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, on Twitter.  (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas watches Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. on television during a Senate floor debate, from his office on Capitol Hill, Washington, Monday, June 2, 1986. The Senate launched a six-week experiment of making its floor sessions available for live broadcast by television networks. (AP Photo/Lana Harris)
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas ponders a reporters question as he walks on Capitol Hill Thursday Dec. 21, 1995. The White House and Congressional Republicans labored Thursday to restart balanced budget talks and grappled with the impact of a six-day partial government shutdown. (AP Photo/Denis Paquin)
Bob Dole, Elizabeth Dole
Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, chairman of the Republican National Committee, emphasizes a point Friday, March 10, 1972 at a Washington news conference, where he called for public hearings to investigate an agreement by American Telephone and Telegraph Corp, to extend credit to the Democratic National Convention. The move was a counter attack to the ITT-Kleindienst hearings. (AP Photo)
Dole announced in February that he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He also ascended through Beltway politics during a 36-year career that turned him to a highly influential party leader and legislator.

McConnell added that reporters and people enjoyed being with Dole even after he lost his presidential bids, the vice-presidential ticket and went on to support President Donald Trump.

“For this reporter, Senator Dole was always approachable, ready with a joke, [and] generally happy to take part in a genial give-and-take session with reporters, myself included,” McConnell said.

Before his cancer diagnosis, McConnell recalled that Dole would speak with reporters, veterans and their families — a fond recollection from a World War II memorial that Dole was instrumental in making.

“An old soldier until the very end,” McConnell said.

Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for WTOP.com. Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up