Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senate Democrats Squashed Dole's Plans, but Still Admire the Man

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senate Democrats Squashed Dole's Plans, but Still Admire the Man

Article excerpt

Tuesday was Bob Dole Day in the Senate - his last as Leader. But the Bob Dole Retirement Show was brought to you by a Democratic leadership that, to its amazement, made Dole's life in the Senate impossible. Dole thought he could run for president from the Senate. Senate Democrats - with help from House Republicans - proved him wrong.

A few hours before Dole's formal retirement, Senate Democratic leaders reflected on how they had mastered the master of the Senate. In a breakfast conversation in the Capitol, they spoke as professional politicians about the fate of a fellow professional whom they like and respect. For them, resisting the Republicans and foiling Dole was not a personal thing; it was about survival. They're still standing. And so Dole had to leave.

"My attitude has always been that only the paranoid survive," said Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, sporting a decidedly unparanoid smile. The Democrats' ability to stick together and stop the Republican program, he said, grew out of "the realization that unless we unified, we'd be in permanent minority status."

The Republicans helped by trying to force through a sweeping ideological agenda and loading bills with amendments and side issues. "It was so easy for me to say, `They're not being fair,' " Daschle said. Even the Senate's most conservative Democrats were furious at Republican overreach and stuck with their more liberal colleagues."Howell Heflin and Ted Kennedy would walk arm-in-arm."

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., another architect of Democratic resistance, said the Dole's whole approach was premised on the thoroughly plausible notion that Democrats were incapable of marching together. "We've always broken off in the past," said Reid. "We haven't done that this year."

The result, said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., is that Dole "presided over failure in 1995." Dole thought he could build a record, or make President Bill Clinton's vetoes unpopular. He did neither.

But more than Democratic unity foiled Dole's hopes. The Senate leadersh ip, said Sen. John Breaux, D-La., is a lousy base for a presidential campaign. Breaux said he approached Dole and recalled the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960. …

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