Tuesday was "Bob Dole Day" in Holton

Bob Dole, at age 90, still draws a big crowd in his home state. Unofficially, it was “Bob Dole Day" here Tuesday.

The elder statesman from Russell, who retired from national politics following his unsuccessful bid for President of the United States in 1996 as the Republican Party nominee, met here Tuesday with about 100 local residents at the Jackson County Senior Center in Holton.

Dole is on a sort of thank-you tour, he says, “traveling around Kansas eating cookies and thanking people’’ for supporting him throughout his 28 1/2 years in the U.S. Senate and eight years in the House of Representatives.

He joked that he is still trying to get a re-count in the votes cast for president in that 1996 election.

On a serious note,  Dole said thank you to everyone for allowing him to have “a great experience in Congress for so many years.’’

For those in attendance, the feeling was mutual. It was nice to have Mr. Dole back in town and to thank him for all he’s done for the state and the nation through his many years of public service.

Dole, who may be physically weak in his legs, certainly is still sharp as a tack when it comes to national politics. Also a decorated WWII vet who was severely injured in the line of duty, Dole said he is still happy to go to work supporting our military troops and veterans. Here on Monday, Dole led a salute to the WWII and other veterans in the audience and spoke of the important mission of the Honor Flight Program, which provides transportation for vets for free to and from tours of the WWII Memorial and other war memorials at Washington, D.C.

Dole, by the way, led the national effort to raise the necessary funds for the WWII memorial.

About as political as Dole got Monday was to suggest that “compromise (in politics) is not a bad word.’’

He recalled conversations with President Ronald Reagan when the president would say, “Bob, If you can get me 70 percent of what we want this year in Congress, then we’ll get the other 30 percent next year!’’

Dole said he telephoned Kathleen Sebelius (a Democrat and former governor of Kansas) recently to wish her well now that she has stepped down from leading the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“I don’t know if she stepped down or if she was thrown under the bus,’’ Dole said. “She got a lot of criticism (about ObamaCare’s online sign up program) that was undeserved.’’

Dole also spoke about the need to reduce the federal budget deficit, which now tops $17 trillion.

“If we don’t do something about the deficit, then our children and grandchildren will get stuck with it.’’

On ObamaCare, Dole said, “Poor people still won’t have health care.’’

Regarding Social Security, Dole said, “We fixed it in 1983.’’

Dole also gave a sort of “shout-out’’ to Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, a Holton native who was in attendance at the event.

Dole said, “We need more people like Lynn (in Congress) who “does a great job’’ and will “stand up and get counted on the hard votes.’’

Dole said, “Lynn is going to win (re-election) again.’’

Following these comments and some other similar ones, Dole was comfortable sitting in an easy chair, meeting and greeting fellow Kansans as they filed by to share a few words and to say thanks.

Elder statesmen like Bob Dole are rare these days, and there may never be another one like him.

—David Powls