Bob Dole Has Lung Cancer

The 97-year-old former Senator and Presidential candidate is ill.

Sad news via Reuters (“Former U.S. Senator Dole says he has lung cancer“):

Former U.S. Republican Senator Bob Dole, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 1996, said on Thursday that he has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and will undergo treatment beginning next week.

“Recently, I was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer….while I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own,” Dole, 97, said in a Twitter posting.

Known for his quick, searing wit and legislative skills, Dole had a long career in the U.S. Congress that included serving as Senate majority leader. In the early 1980s he chaired the Senate Finance Committee, which helps guide U.S. tax, trade and health policy.

He was soundly defeated by President Bill Clinton in the 1996 presidential election with Dole winning 40.7% of the vote to Clinton’s 49.2%.

Dole suffered serious wounds in Italy during World War II that resulted in a long hospitalization.

The man survived massive injuries from a war that ended 75 years ago and has led a long and remarkable life. Still, lung cancer is a particularly nasty disease and it’s hard to imagine a 97-year-old fighting it for long.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    It is fair to say that I disagreed with Dole’s politics, but he served his country well and reflected his constituents. It is hard to imaging any 97 yo fighting off a major illness, so it won’t be long.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    Bob Dole put on a uniform and was severely injured in service to his country and the world. I didn’t agree with him on much, but he was a decent guy, a capable politician, and one of these men who quite literally saved human liberty. I’d wish a gentler death for him than lung cancer, but we all die. We don’t all die after a long and consequential life. 97? That’s not a tragedy, that’s a win.

  3. Kylopod says:

    I must confess that, while I remember him engaging in a little tobacco denialism in 1996, I wasn’t aware he was ever a smoker.

    My grandfather was a chain smoker who was suffering the consequences several decades after he quit. First, he contracted throat cancer, leading to part of his voice box being removed. (This also happened to Jack Klugman, and there was an Odd Couple special in the early 1990s in which it was incorporated into his character on the show. Klugman’s crackly voice after the operation sounded quite similar to how my grandfather sounded.) Then, several decades later when he was in his 90s, he contracted tongue cancer, apparently still an effect of his smoking habit all those years earlier.

    I don’t know for certain, but I think my grandfather’s father died of lung cancer, and his brother died of a heart attack in his 50s which was really a result of smoking (he’s the only relative I’m aware of to have died of a heart attack).

    I’ve never touched a cigarette in my life.

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    I smoked my first cigarette in the moat of the Vauban Fort in Fouras, France. I would have been 9, maybe. I didn’t like it, and didn’t see the point. I’ve maybe smoked six cigarettes in my life. Now, cigars, that’s a whole different thing – if you smoke one properly it isn’t addictive and the effect on life expectancy is minuscule, but you can still earn the contempt of the Whole Foods crowd.

  5. Jay L Gischer says:

    The first time I tried a cigar I threw up. Strawberry milkshake all over the pavement. I think I was doing it wrong, maybe. Still, I haven’t retried it.

  6. Gustopher says:

    I always liked Bob Dole — he didn’t suffer fools for long. And I found his third-person way of speaking amusing.

    He tried to make the world a better place, and tried to serve his country. I don’t know how well he succeeded in either, and his politics were far to the right of mine, but he was among the last true believers who thought conservatism would help everyone, not just protect their base from everyone else.

    I hope his passing is as painless as possible.

  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    I wish him the fortitude and recovery skills of Jimmy Carter.

  8. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher: He had a certain acerbic wit that could be quite funny. I remember in 2012 when he came out of his shell to attack Newt Gingrich’s candidacy, which included the following:

    In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads, and in every one of them Newt was in the ad. He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty ice-bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it.

  9. Moosebreath says:


    “And I found his third-person way of speaking amusing.”

    I do that occasionally, and when wife points it out, I say I have Bob Dole disease.

    I wish him well — one of the last of the Old Guard Republicans, all of whom I had a lot of respect for.

  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Considering the dog’s dinner conservatives have made of their philosophy and policy, Bob Dole is probably pretty close to the center of the current eccentric spectrum. Best wishes for peace with whatever is coming.

  11. Kylopod says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Considering the dog’s dinner conservatives have made of their philosophy and policy, Bob Dole is probably pretty close to the center of the current eccentric spectrum.

    When Ford dumped Rockefeller for Dole in 1976, it was done in an attempt to court the Reagan wing of the party. Dole was seen as among the more conservative GOP figures at the time. It is a measure of how far to the right the party has moved that he’s now remembered as a moderate.

  12. PJ says:

    Dole is the only former Republican presidential nominee to endorse Donald Trump.

  13. Teve says:

    Weird story. My dad smoked three packs a day, my brother smokes a pack a day, I only ever wanted about three. After 10 years in Raleigh, then Durham, then Chapel Hill, I moved back to Florida and was talking to a neighbor one day and she said, did you ever know Pauline Morris? I said Pauline Morris was my grandmother. “She only smoked three cigarettes a day.”

  14. Kathy says:


    Thus giving rise to the paradoxical term “moderate extremist.”

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: Won’t disagree with that, certainly.

  16. Mister Bluster says:

    …lung cancer is a particularly nasty disease…

    My friend Joe was diagnosed stage 4 lung cancer just after New Years 2008. He was dead in four weeks. He was 58.
    He was crippled with polio from infancy. When I was his personal attendant and later when I was hanging out with him I’m sure I lit hundreds if not thousands of chokes for him. Even after I had long since quit smoking.
    Sometimes I ponder that I was complicit in his disease and death and wonder how that was different than if I had just pushed him in his wheelchair in front of a bus.
    Then I consider that he made the choice to smoke every one of those butts and I know he would have burned them himself if I didn’t do it for him.
    Still doesn’t give me much peace on the matter.

  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    Until you’re used to it a stogie can definitely make you feel nauseous.

    Q: Michael, you claim to be rational, why are you spending $20 a pop to consume something you acknowledge is sufficiently toxic it makes people sick?

    A: Um…

  18. grumpy realist says:

    @Kylopod: I had a relative who died many many years ago of a tumor in the chest. He used to be a four-pack-a-day smoker, but quit in his thirties. I know that supposedly quitting smoking will improve one’s chances of not getting lung cancer, but I still can’t help but wonder whether all those years of smoking triggered his final illness.