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At 97, Bob Dole is still fighting for his country

At 97, Bob Dole is still fighting for his country
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As someone who had the honor to serve as his director of communications after the 1996 presidential election, I have always been immensely proud of former Sen. Bob Dole.     

But I have never been more proud of him, or more impressed by his principles, than I was last week when, at 97 years old, he felt it was his patriotic duty to speak out and call the Commission on Presidential Debates precisely what it appears to be: Biased against President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE, even though it calls itself bipartisan.    

The Kansas Republican — dubbed “America’s veteran” for his near-fatal combat wounding during World War II while trying to rescue a fallen comrade — tweeted this: “The Commission on Presidential Debates is supposedly bipartisan w/an equal number of Rs and Ds. I know all of the Republicans and most are friends of mine. I am concerned that none of them support @realDonaldTrump. A biased Debate Commission is unfair.”

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Dole could have added that this year’s presidential debate moderators — Chris Wallace of Fox News, C-SPAN political director Steve Scully, and NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker — all appear to be as equally biased against Trump.     

Wallace, for example, appeared determined to provide cover for former vice president Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE during the first presidential debate. Scully, once an intern for Biden, has retweeted anti-Trump messages. He claimed that someone hacked his Twitter account, which recently reached out to former Trump aide Anthony Scaramucci for advice, and was suspended by C-SPAN for lying about being hacked. Welker, who is scheduled to moderate the next presidential debate on Oct. 22, reportedly deactivated her own Twitter account after witnessing the mess Scully got himself into.     

Of course, to Dole’s larger point, an apparently biased commission chose all of the moderators. After the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, the commission appeared to cave to pressure from Democrats who want to try to mute Trump because of his overly aggressive stance toward Biden. The commission agreed to change the rules and format, saying:

“Last night’s debate made it clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.” It added that it “intends to ensure that additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates.”

Did that mean, as many people interpreted it, that debate moderators might be given a “mute” button to silence the president if he interrupted his opponent?

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After President Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, the commission announced that it would change the second debate, then scheduled for Oct. 15, to a virtual format. Not surprisingly, Trump, after being cleared by his doctors to return to campaigning, declared that he would not participate in a format that could give Biden an advantage of receiving assistance. His son, Eric Trump, put it more bluntly: that a virtual debate would allow Biden “to cheat.”   

Unfortunately for the American people, the second debate was canceled. Voters are the ones who were “cheated.” And that, perhaps, lends more credence to Dole’s tweet calling out the debate commission.

Although Dole endorsed Trump in 2016 and presumably supports his reelection, he does not believe the president to be perfect — far from it. 

Long before Dole met John McCainJohn Sidney McCainDemocrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Trump digs in on conspiracy theory over bin Laden raid MORE and then served with the late Arizona senator in Congress, McCain’s name literally became a part of Dole. In the 1970s, Dole wore a prisoner-of-war bracelet bearing the name of Vietnam War prisoner John McCain. As Dole said, the POW bracelet “became a part of my body.”

When McCain died in 2018, Dole recalled: “He was a good, close friend and my hero.”

So, Dole had reason to take offense when President Trump appeared to smear the name, service and memory of McCain — and he did take offense. But Dole also realizes that people can atone for their mistakes, and that the welfare and security of our nation must always take precedence over petty squabbles and childish insults.

In addition to serving with McCain, Dole also served for many years in the U.S. Senate with Joe Biden. At 97, “America’s veteran” knows a thing or two about service to one’s nation, politics, bias, the demands of the highest office in the land, and age. If he believes the Commission on Presidential Debates holds bias against Trump, he has earned the right to be heard on that subject.

Douglas MacKinnon was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communication at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration. He is the author of: “The Dawn of a Nazi Moon: Book One.”