Bob Dole, RIP

An epic American life came to an end when Bob Dole died at ninety-eight in his sleep on Sunday morning. Reading Dole’s obituaries, it’s hard not to be moved by his journey from the small Kansas town of Russell to the top of American politics, via near fatal injury in the Second World War.

As the Wall Street Journal account of Dole’s life puts it, “Bob Dole went from the plains of Kansas to the battlefields of Italy, where he was left for dead with grievous wounds, before a dogged recovery enabled him to become a widely respected leader of the Senate and Republican nominee for both president and vice president.”

In a piece for National Review, Craig Shirley salutes Dole for being “the first and best compassionate conservative.”

The Washington Post’s George Will argues that it was on the Hill where Dole was most at home, something that showed during his presidential bids. “Long acculturation in the legislative branch rendered him fluent in, but only in, Senate-speak,” writes Will, “a dialect unintelligible to normal Americans.“

The melancholy dimension of Dole’s life was not that he failed to attain the presidency, for which he was not well-suited,” writes Will, “but that in 1996 in quest of it, he left the Senate he loved and where he excelled.”

Dole had a sense of humor often lacking in contemporary politics. “I still find if hard to take people too seriously who take themselves that way,” he wrote in Great Political Wit: Laughing (Almost) All the Way to the White House, a book of political jokes he wrote after retirement.

As for evidence that Dole didn’t take himself too seriously, watch his appearance on Saturday Night Live shortly after his 1996 loss to Clinton, alongside Norm Macdonald, who had played him during the campaign (and who also died this year). Or watch him joke about having lost the presidency at the White House a few days before Bill Clinton would be sworn in for a second term.

In a statement released on Sunday, Joe Biden heralded his former Senate colleague as a friend and “an American statesman like few in our history.”

“Bob was a man to be admired by Americans,” said the president. “He had an unerring sense of integrity and honor. May God bless him, and may our nation draw upon his legacy of decency, dignity, good humor, and patriotism for all time.”

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Georgia’s blockbuster 2022

I hope Georgians are getting used to being the focus of the nation’s attention. The Peach State was decided by a whisker in last year’s presidential race. Then it was the scene of the two runoffs with which the Democrats secured control of the Senate. Now, with the midterms eleven months away, Georgia’s political heavyweights are lining up for a packed 2022 card.

Last week, romance novelist and election outcome quibbler Stacey Abrams announced that she would be running for governor. David Perdue, the Republican who lost his Senate seat to Jon Ossoff earlier this year, is reportedly poised to enter the race too. That sets up a tricky re-election bid for the GOP incumbent Brian Kemp. Kemp has been high on Donald Trump’s enemies list ever since he refused to overturn the election results in the state last November. A Kemp-Perdue primary will be surely be a bruising affair, with the high-profile and well-funded Stacey Abrams waiting for whoever triumphs.

Then there’s prospect of a senate race showdown between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and retired NFL star Herschel Walker: a runoff between the two could be the race that decides who has control of the upper chamber.

Secretary of state races don’t usually garner national attention but one exception will be Georgia SoS Brad Raffensperger’s attempt to secure re-election. Like Kemp, Raffensperger has been one of Trump’s top targets ever since he resisted pressure from the former president to block Georgia’s election results. Survival in a Republican primary will be a tall order.

All of the above makes Georgia the most important state in next year’s elections. And the state’s runoff system will likely make its races the most dramatic too. Time to brush up on the difference between Cobb County and DeKalb County.

Democracy dies unless you’re nice to the president

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wants you to know that the media is being too mean to Joe Biden. But that isn’t just the unstintingly partisan Milbank’s opinion; it’s what the data proves to be true. Or so he claims.

Milbank has commissioned the wonks at Forge.ai to do a “sentiment analysis” of the press coverage of the Biden presidency. They found, shockingly, that the press was very kind to the president until around August, but that the Biden administration has had bad coverage ever since — as bad as his predecessor for the same four months of 2020. What has happened since August? An explosion of journalistic mean-spiritedness? Or could it be that Biden’s objective performance, from the withdrawal from Afghanistan and legislative failures to rising prices and COVID rates, deserves a healthy dollop of press criticism?

Milbank argues that this scrutiny, what most of us would recognize as journalists doing their jobs, amounts to “the media serving as accessories to the murder of democracy.”

White House chief of staff Ron Klain tweeted the piece on Saturday. “Submitted for your consideration,” he wrote. We’ve taken a look, Ron. And we’re unpersuaded.

What you should be reading today

Grace Curley: How’s shutting down the virus going, Joe?
Matt Purple: The merry old land of Dr. Oz
Emily de La Bruyere: Boycott the 2022 China Olympics
Niall Ferguson, Bloomberg Opinion: Omicron sounds the death knell for globalization 2.0
Heather Caygle, Burgess Everett and Jonathan Lemire, Politico: Dems plot escape from Biden’s poll woes
Hal Brands, Wall Street Journal: Containment can work against China too

Poll watch

President Biden Job Approval
Approve: 42.3 percent
Disapprove: 52.2 percent
Net approval: -9.9 (RCP Average)

Americans’ positive ratings of capitalism and socialism
Capitalism: 60 percent
Socialism: 38 percent (Gallup)

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