By Rafaela Prifti/
Bob Dole was born on July 22, 1923, in Russell, Kansas, a small farming and oil community. His father managed a cream and egg business and sold bootleg whiskey during Prohibition. The family of six struggled through the Depression and Dust Bowl years. The times was were so hard they moved into their basement and rented out the rest of the home. In 1943, Dole left for the war. In Italy, Army 2nd Lt. Dole was leading an assault against a German machine gun when a shell fragment tore through his spine and right arm. He nearly died and spent three years enduring multiple operations and painful physical therapy. Bob Dole, who had dreamed of becoming a doctor before joining the army, willed himself to walk again after paralyzing war wounds. He learned to write with his left hand never having recovered use of his right hand and arm. Dole, who was a Kansas University basketball player, earned a law degree from Washburn University in Topeka in 1952. He became a Kansas legislator and county attorney. Dole won a U.S. House seat in 1960 and moved into the Senate in 1968. His mentor, President Richard Nixon, would send Dole to the Senate floor to assail Vietnam War critics and other senators at odds with the White House. He rose through the Senate ranks to become a long-serving Republican leader and a tough and tireless champion of his party.
He embodied flinty determination to succeed yet was most famous for the times he came up short. Dole sought the presidency three times. He came closest in his final race, securing the 1996 Republican nomination only to see President Bill Clinton get reelected. Dole later said he had come to appreciate the defeats as well as the victories: “They are parts of the same picture — the picture of a full life.” Representing Kansas in Congress for nearly 36 years, Dole was known on Capitol Hill as a shrewd and pragmatic legislator, trusted to broker compromises across party lines. He wielded tremendous influence on tax policy, farm and nutrition programs, and rights for the disabled.
Out Of Office
Dole remained dedicated to helping disabled veterans and honoring the fallen. He was a driving force in getting the World War II Memorial built on the National Mall. That was unquestionably part of his motivation for persuading Congress to enshrine protections against discrimination against disabled people in employment, education and public services. In September 2017, Congress voted to award Dole its highest expression of appreciation for distinguished contributions to the nation, a Congressional Gold Medal. In 2019, it promoted him from Army captain to colonel. His announcement in February 2021 that he’d been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer prompted an outpouring of sympathy, prayers and well-wishes from across the political spectrum. President Joe Biden visited Dole’s home at the storied Watergate complex soon after Dole’s dire diagnosis; the White House said they were close friends.
Today, accessible government offices and national parks, sidewalk ramps and the sign-language interpreters at official local events are just some of the more visible hallmarks of his legacy and that of the fellow lawmakers he rounded up for that civil rights legislation 30 years ago.
In the Senate, Dole began to see the value of forging alliances with Democrats, and it became a lifelong habit. He teamed with Democrats to uphold civil rights, expand food stamps, shore up Social Security and create the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday as well as to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act. Republicans made Dole majority leader in 1984, and he held his party’s top Senate post for more than 11 years, a record until Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell broke it in 2018.
Foreign Policy – Senator Bob Dole’s Visit to Prishtina
In August of 2020, Dielli paid tribute to the 30 year anniversary of a congressional delegation visit to Kosovo’s capital led by the Republican Senate Leader at the time Bob Dole. It is hard to overstate the importance of that visit. At the end of 1990, Slobodan Milosevic, riding a wave of Serb nationalism, was elected President of Serbia. The human rights abuses and violations by the Serbian government and the struggle of Albanians of Kosovo for freedom had gone largely unnoticed until then. Fueling centuries-old nationalistic myths, Milosevic regime cracked down hard on the uprising by imposing martial law in Kosovo.
The Congressional delegation visit on August 30, 1990 brought international attention to the systemic violations committed by Belgrade in Kosova. An American Senator sidestepped Belgrade authorities to communicate directly with Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova. Hundreds of people filled the streets to greet the esteemed guests, as the Serbian police forces used tear gas and violence to disperse the crowds.
Senator Dole’s visit effectively changed the course of history for Kosovo and its people. Elmi Berisha, Vatra President, says that he feels humbled to have been part of that process. “For several years, I was President Rugova’s Special Representative to the office of Bob Dole. It gave me the opportunity to know Senator Dole in person and to work with him on Kosova-related issues. From that point on, he stood by Kosova in its time of need.” In his account of the event, Mr. Berisha recalls Senator Dole hero’s welcome in a free and liberated Kosova. He says: “This time the people gathered freely in the streets to express their gratitude. President Rugova received him warmly and awarded him the highest title of Honorary Ambassador of Kosova.” In his next visit to Kosova, Dole, who had retired from Senate, was honored with the President’s Golden Medal of Freedom. Vatra President accompanied him and took part in the ceremony. “Kosova is an independent state recognized by over a hundred countries around the world, a loyal ally of the United States, a factor of peace and stability in the region, and a pluralist democracy. It all began with a visit in August 1990 and with a friend like Senator Bob Dole who was always there for Albanians,” says Elmi Berisha.
Kosovo – Bill Clinton, George Bush, Robert Dole
In an opinion piece published by Washington Times on April 22, 2020 “Let Bill Clinton’s failed Kosovo strategy wither amid the COVID-19 pandemic” the author tried to make the case as stated in the self-explanatory title. To support his claim, Mr. Waller presented boulevards and buildings in Kosova’s capital that are named after US Democratic politicians. But Mr. Waller, a Senior Analyst for Strategy at the Center for Security Policy, did not account for the whole picture of street names. In Prishtina, the Boulevard that bears the name Bill Clinton runs alongside the Boulevard named after George Bush. One Democrat President in “urban’ proximity to a Republican President. In the 80s and more prominently in the 90s with the efforts of Congressman DioGuardi and a number of members of the House of Representatives and Senate, such as the late Benjamin Gilman, late Senator John McCain, Bob Dole, Senators Malcolm Wallop, Mitch McConnell, Secretary of State James Baker, leading Republicans have been just as supportive of Kosovo as their Democratic colleagues.
Dole And Dielli
In the summer of 2020, Senator Dole told Dielli that he “will always hold a special place in my heart for the people of Kosova.” He went on to say that he has “great confidence in their future as a free and democratic nation.” The topics of our communication covered the dedication ceremony in Prishtina, the impact of the first visit and his confidence in the future of Kosova. Senator Dole said: “The people of Kosova have not had an easy road to independence, and their struggle was especially apparent when I visited Pristina 30 years ago. As our bus came into the city, I witnessed first-hand the plight of the Albanian people under a Milosevic regime.” Reaffirming that he is proud to support the people of Kosova, Senator Dole added: “In terms of impact, I’ll never forget that visit. I couldn’t ignore what was happening to the people of Pristina.” The Albanian community leaders have commended his decades-long commitment to Albanian people. I noted that he is admired by Americans and Albanians alike and that he has received some of the nations highest honors. Then I asked about the statue ceremony in Prishtina and what it meant to him. “The dedication of a statue in my honor by the citizens of Prishtina is obviously a tremendous and humbling event. But more than that, it’s a deeply personal symbol of a friendship and alliance we’ve maintained over many decades,” said Senator Bob Dole. I asked him “What would you like the Albanian people in Kosova, the Albanian community in the US and all over the world to know about you and your legacy?” His answer was: “I am proud of the ongoing determination and hope of the Albanian people of Kosova and the Albanian community around the world. While I may have made a small impact on the evolution of Kosova’s independence, ultimately the credit belongs to the people of Kosova and their perseverance in the face of extreme adversity. I will always hold a special place in my heart for the people of Kosova, and I have great confidence in their future as a free and democratic nation.”
Dole’s 98th Birthday
On July 22, the message of Vatra President Elmi Berisha for Dole’s 98th birthday read in part:
“Senator Dole led efforts on Capitol Hill to support the democratization of Yugoslavia, endorsing the right of Kosovo Albanians to self-determination with his historical trip there. According to US Ambassador Philip Kosnett, “[Dole’s visit on August 30, 1990] was the turning point for Kosovo’s freedom. His visit opened the eyes of the international community to ongoing human rights abuses.” Senator Dole wrote Secretary of State James A. Baker III before his visit to Belgrade in June 1991 expressing “Continued US concern about the ongoing systematic human rights abuses against the Albanian population of Kosovo who have lived under martial law for two years now.” This led to President George W. Bush’s 1992 redline “Christmas warning” threatening a unilateral US military response should Serbia aggress against Kosovo Albanians. Without Bush’s warning, Serb forces would have extended their rampage to Kosovo, where the Yugoslav conflict started.
Senator Dole provided bipartisan support to President Bill Clinton’s military intervention in 1999 to “prevent from happening in Kosovo what had happened in Bosnia.” He condemned the Racak massacre, which led to the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM). He was, however, one of the first to say that the KVM was not working. He also influenced negotiations in Rambouillet. According to US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, “When I reached a really tough point at Rambouillet, I called Senator Dole. He has really been fantastic. We talked a lot about how to move this process forward. I called him because I wasn’t able to get movement from the Albanians and he did it.” Rambouillet ultimately failed. It was critical to exhaust all diplomatic options, making military intervention a last resort. Senator Dole’s hard work and non-stop efforts in getting his senior US Senate colleagues such as: Senators John McCain, John Warner, Joseph Lieberman, Christopher Dodd among others, mobilized bipartisan support for NATO’s action, which ultimately influenced President Clinton’s decision to intervene.
Senator Dole strongly opposed the proposal to divide Kosovo and swap territories. On August 24, 2018, White House national-security advisor, John Bolton, said that the US would not oppose a territorial exchange between Kosovo and Serbia provided Pristina and Belgrade work out a “mutually satisfactory settlement” between themselves. Senator Dole strongly opposed Milosevic’s project, revived by Aleksandar Vucic, to divide Kosovo along ethnic lines. He felt that Serbia should not gain through negotiations what it failed to achieve through ethnic cleansing. Furthermore, Senator Dole vehemently objected when the Trump administration demanded concessions from the Kosovo Government and threatened to withdraw US forces from Bondsteel, Kosovo. He understood that the presence of US troops there is an essential deterrent to renewed Serbia aggression. Senator Dole is an Albanian patriot who has earned the utmost respect from all Albanians around the world; in particular, those in Kosovo.”
Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics
In October, Dielli published a letter of gratitude from Vatra leadership to Jim Xhema, a proponent of the Albanian cause and a longtime friend of Bob Dole. Xhema donated $ 500.000 to the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, University of Kansas. The two men forged an enduring friendship rooted in love for the country, natural wisdom and resolve. Through the decades, Bob Dole and Jim Xhema stayed close while being mutually amicable to each other. The generous donation to the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics highlights Jim Xhema’s appreciation for his friend’s distinguished contributions. To Albanians, the gift is also an expression of gratitude they carry in their hearts for Bob Dole.
Bob Dole passed away on Sunday at the age of 98. The casket will lie in state inside the US Capitol on Thursday. The commemoration will include a formal arrival and departure ceremony.