South Dakota luminaries remember Bob Dole’s loyalty and humor

Former Senators Daschle and Pressler will miss his warmth and loyalty
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 8:09 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - As one of the Republican Party’s most powerful figures for 35 years, Rep. and Sen. Bob Dole worked with hundreds of politicians.

But the one who the Washington Post chose to write about Dole’s political legacy on the day he died was one of his biggest rivals at the end of his Senate career -- South Dakota Democrat Tom Daschle, who spoke with Dakota News Now on Monday.

“He was the Republican leader and I was the Democratic leader for the first two years I served in leadership,” Daschle said of the Mid-1990′s. “We had a requirement to help run the country. We were a co-equal branch with the government. We became partners, and through that partnership, we became good friends.”

Part of that was Dole - from small town Kansas - and Aberdeen native Daschle shared passion for representing their fellow Midwesterners... and Dole’s famous dry wit humor.

“When I became leader, there was a reception in my honor, and he noted that we were the first two farm state senators elected to leadership,” Daschle said, “and it was his understanding that every farmer in America that week bought a new tractor.”

Dole left the Senate to run for president for a third time in 1996 and became the GOP’s nominee, losing to incumbent Bill Clinton.

The day before the November election, Dole visited South Dakota to stump for Senator Larry Pressler, a fellow war veteran who was seeking his fourth term.

”That warmed the cockles of my heart, actually, to come out here,” Pressler said. “He was wearing a leather flight jacket, and I gave him a hug, although he didn’t like hugs because his shoulder hurt where he had had his wound, and so forth, but that was a very memorable day.”

It was a display of Dole’s loyalty, eight years after Pressler was one of only two of fellow Republican senators to endorse Dole when he ran for president against George Bush in the 1988 GOP primary.

South Dakota’s George Mickelson was one of only two governors to endorse Dole that year. Five years later in 1993, Dole came to South Dakota for Mickelson’s funeral after the governor’s sudden death in a plane crash.

Mickelson’s son Mark -- who would go on to become speaker of the state’s House of Representatives -- was 27 at the time. He remembers many governors converging at the state capital for the event, but few national types.

“It just brought a level of gravitas to the whole ceremony, when you have this well-regarded national political figure who had been a leader for decades, who came to Pierre, which is not an easy place to get to,” Mickelson said. “And it just speaks to, frankly, Bob Dole and his relationship with my dad and probably with the state of South Dakota.”

Daschle said Dole’s legacy will be his greatness as a human, not in the titles he held.

“Bob Dole set the bar for civility, for bipartisanship on so many issues, and unfortanately there aren’t many people in politics today at the national level and in Congress who meet that bar...

“The Senate isn’t what it was 20 years ago when Bob Dole left the Senate, and that’s unfortunate. We need an appreciation again of the word ‘compromise.’ Compromise is the oxygen of democracy, and there was no one who better understood that than Bob Dole.”

Copyright 2021 Dakota News Now. All rights reserved.