Politics & Government

"Rapid Robert" Bob Dole just can't slow down

The other day, I asked Bob Dole how he was doing.

His first two words:

“I’m busy.”

Funny, but that’s exactly why I was calling. Every time you look up these days, there’s Bob Dole.

There he was this month with his fellow former Senate majority leaders, Tom Daschle and Howard Baker, trotting out a bipartisan health care plan that has received serious scrutiny as a roadmap to reform.

There he was 10 days ago, signing up to head Sam Brownback’s national campaign team for Kansas governor.

He filed a brief in a voting-rights case that went before the Supreme Court. “They just upheld our position 8-1,” Dole said.

Also in June, Dole jetted to Normandy and the site of the D-Day landings as President Barack Obama’s guest.

A couple of months ago, Dole literally stood beside former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s choice for Health and Human Services secretary, as she went before the Senate for confirmation. Dole was there as a prominent Republican in part to diffuse any controversy over the governor’s abortion-rights position.

Sebelius may have faced a firestorm on the issue, thanks to her ties to the late abortion doctor, George Tiller.

In January, Dole made headlines when he defended Daschle, a Democrat and Obama’s first choice for HHS, after the former South Dakota senator got in a jam over back taxes.

“The one thing I feel certain about is Sen. Daschle’s honesty and integrity,” Dole said at the time.

He helped save the nomination of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who also became embroiled in a tax controversy. Dole said a principle was at stake.

“I have always felt a president should be free to choose his cabinet,” he said in January.

So that’s what Bob Dole is doing these days. Ol’ “Rapid Robert,” as Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts has called him, is still moving fast, navigating the byways of the nation’s Capitol as few can.

Not bad for an 85-year-old. He still works five days at week at the Alston & Bird law firm in Washington. These days, he’s struggling with arthritis in his knees that make it difficult to get out of chairs.

But he’s getting therapy, and it’s helping.

Dole’s other big involvement is with an organization that flies World War II veterans to Washington so that the old soldiers can see the memorial dedicated to the war on the Mall. The program provides free tours that gets the veterans in and out of D.C. the same day.

Over the years, Dole’s met 60 of the flights at the memorial where he poses for pictures, shakes hands and lends emotional support to vets who often are overwhelmed by the moment.

“It’s very emotional,” he said.

Dole has been in Kansas three times in recent months and has made stops at the KU institute that bears his name. But he wants to get back to his native state again sometime soon to just travel around and “say hello.”

It’s easier these days to do that, he said.

“One thing when you get out of politics, people forget why they were mad at you,” he noted.

But why continue to push so hard?

For one thing, “I like it,” Dole said. Playing golf is out of the question for the wounded war veteran.

His father once offered some advice: “My dad wore overalls to work every day for 42 years,” Dole said. “He told me, ‘Never retire. It’ll drive you crazy.’”