Those of us who tried to deal with Robert Dole's root-and-branch opposition in 1993-1995 to so many of what had been his own policies from 1981-1992 are sardonically amused at (a) his distress at the Washington that he did so much to help make, (b) his apparent lack of self-knowledge of what he did, and (c ) Michael Kranish's gullibility and willingness to butter Dole up.
It really isn't funny, though:
The story of Washington gridlock seen through the eyes of Bob Dole: It had been 16 years since Bob Dole stepped down as Senate Republican leader, ending a legislative career in which he earned a reputation as a master of bipartisanship. Yet there he was at the end of 2012, trying to close a deal.
Dole was 89 years old, just out of the hospital, working the phones to win senators’ support. Then, in a dramatic effort, he rolled in his wheelchair onto the Senate floor, all but daring senators to vote against him and, by proxy, anyone with a disability…. He had brought the parties together to pass his greatest piece of legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990…. Now he wanted the Senate to approve an international treaty that would spur other nations to pass their version of the law, making the United States a role model to help tens of millions of people around the world. Do it for Dole, supporters urged.
But what had once seemed like a foregone conclusion – passage of the treaty — went awry amid infighting that few had foreseen. The deepest wound — some considered it betrayal — came from a Republican senator from Dole’s home state of Kansas. That senator, Jerry Moran, had announced he supported the treaty and would be “standing up for the rights of those with disabilities.” But instead of carrying the Dole flag into battle, Moran wound up casting a crucial vote against the measure, dismissing his initial support by saying in an interview he “had never made a conclusion as to whether I was for it or against it.” The treaty’s defeat on Dec. 4, 2012, was a defining moment for the Senate, even if it received far less notice than crises such as the fiscal cliff.
A reconstruction by The Boston Globe of the events leading up the defeat provides an inside look at how the Senate, once known as the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” has become overwhelmed by partisanship — even on a seemingly uncontroversial measure aimed at helping some of the world’s most vulnerable people…. As Dole sat in his Washington law office in February, still stunned by the outcome, he blamed his own party and suggested a headline: “Republican Party closes its doors to make repairs.” The GOP, added Dole, one of the party’s most revered figures, “needs a timeout” to tone down the antigovernment rhetoric. To be sure, Dole says there is a larger problem of political dysfunction in which Democrats also share blame. But if there is a legislative tale that symbolizes the rise and fall of bipartisanship in Washington during the past quarter-century — and the Republican Party’s own schism — it is the story of Dole’s initial success and recent failure on behalf of people with disabilities. It is also the story of Dole himself, discovering how Washington has changed and become a broken city.