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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Twitter can be so comical and so heartless, all at once.

When Bob Dole began trending this week, the wisecracks began to roll.

“Oh no … did he die? Worse — he endorsed Jeb!”

“Bob Dole endorses Viagra AND Jeb Bush! Just saying!”

“When I saw Bob Dole trending, I was shocked to find out it wasn’t because he died, but rather because Jeb’s campaign has.”

Yes, the former U.S. senator, representative, vice presidential and presidential candidate is quite with us at 92. And, God willing, Dole will be around at this time next year possibly to see his wishes for Jeb Bush reach fruition.

“I think he’s the most qualified,” Dole said, explaining why he endorsed Bush for the GOP nomination. “We need somebody with experience.”

A good portion of the GOP candidates either weren’t born or were barely walking when Dole first entered Congress in 1960. Increasingly frail, Dole is hardly a wheeler dealer in the Republican Party anymore.

Yet despite his age, Dole just might be more in touch with his party’s broader base, with American voters overall, than the candidates 30 or 40 years younger. Tweet that, #whoseanoldfartnow.

Dole has a point. And it’s one we better hope others come around to. Repetition eventually does work. And it can’t be repeated often enough that a Trump presidency would bankrupt the country and throw Constitutional protections into the gutter.

It won’t come to that. The tenor and tone of the GOP campaigns is beginning to turn ever so slightly toward substance, and the candidates’ positions and grasp of deeper geopolitical and economic conditions are coming under more scrutiny.

The Milwaukee debate is an example. Just about all the candidates got zinged somehow, either by context or outright error, once the fact-checking was done. Real conversations about taxes, world leaders, banking regulations and trade agreements will do that to the unprepared, unserious candidates.

It was more proof that the glittery candidates can only stand behind their drummed-up celebrity for so long. The gilding is starting to fade. Trump, at the forefront of the charlatans, is repeatedly being shown up for great bluster but complete incompetence.

He’s perhaps best known for his plan to round up immigrant families and send them back across the border, like the horribly named Operation Wetback of the 1950s. Lately, he’s made waves also for insisting that if the U.S. is to become more competitive globally, wages need to be lowered.

Ben Carson is much like Trump but quieter, also running on an interesting back story but not much more. His penchant for stretching the truth about that background — which isn’t even necessary given his career as a neurosurgeon — continues to trip him up.

In contrast, Bush’s biggest problems have been a burdensome family lineage that he can’t do anything about, and not being a shiny enough penny in the shadow of the gaudier candidates.

When he tried to pump up the energy, he got into a juvenile tiff with Sen. Marco Rubio. Bush’s petty remarks were patently inauthentic, as if coached into him by an image consultant hired to give him more edge and bite.

Bush is not a pit bull. He’s more like Dole: old-school in reason and tone, given more to common sense, not flamboyant rhetoric.

These are qualities little valued in his party anymore. The most conspicuous homage that remains to Dole’s legacy, in fact, is on the campus of the University of Kansas. The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics promotes bipartisanship and public service, exactly what the country needs.

Dole realizes that anyone who has held political office is not the enemy. Politicians who can’t compromise, who conceive their duty as unswerving ideological purity, are responsible for the congressional stalemates that have held up the federal budget and failed to pass needed reforms on a host of issues.

Republicans are falling for candidates that blare their love of Christmas, their humble origins, their disdain for immigrants who don’t speak English and their supposed defiance of Wall Street. Primary voters need to wake up. If they do, a more reasonable candidate like Bush might still have a chance at the nomination.

Dole noted that he likes just about all of the GOP candidates. Then, he whispered, “except Cruz,” as an aside, but didn’t elaborate.

It’s classic Bob Dole, coyly polite but telling it like it is.

(Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via e-mail at msanchez@kcstar.com.) (c) 2015, THE KANSAS CITY STAR. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC

Photo by Civil Rights via Flickr

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