Senior Chief Petty Officer Kenneth Cox, left, enjoys one of Bob Dole's frequent quips during a gathering of the Republican faithful at Custer Airport in Monroe, Mich.
MONROE - Retired Republican Sen. Bob Dole urged fellow veterans yesterday to vote for George W. Bush next week, because of the Texas governor's bipartisan record.
“Governor Bush is a known quantity,” said Mr. Dole, a former Kansas senator, Senate majority leader, and former GOP presidential candidate. He addressed a crowd of about 225 gathered in the Monroe Aviation hangar at the city's Custer Airport. “He understands that if you're going to solve a problem ... you have to do it with Republicans and Democrats.”
Mr. Dole, who arrived by jet for the hastily organized rally from a similar event earlier in Battle Creek, echoed Republican campaign themes by calling into question the credibility of Democratic candidate Al Gore, and his commitment to the military.
“That's what you want in the White House, somebody you can trust,” as the nation's commander-in-chief, Mr. Dole said.
Pointing to a World War II Grumman TPF-1 Avenger torpedo bomber he was standing near, Mr. Dole added: “If Gore wins, this will be the new Air Force, you betcha.”
Mr. Dole, whose wife, Elizabeth, was a candidate this year for the Republican presidential nomination, said he has largely retired from partisan politics, spending most of his time as a frequent guest on the late-night network talk shows and on Saturday Night Live. He devoted a large portion of his remarks yesterday to the upcoming groundbreaking of the World War II memorial in Washington.
“Tom Brokaw called us `The Greatest Generation,' but we're also `The Disappearing Generation.' An estimated 1,200 World War II veterans pass away every day,” Mr. Dole said. “We're getting to the age now where we can tell any war story we want, and there will be nobody there to correct us.”
He said the memorial on the Washington Mall is long overdue, not only to mark the achievements of his generation, “but to remind the young people ... that this is a great country.”
Known for his quick wit, Mr. Dole delighted the audience with quips about the age of U. S. Sen. Strom Thurmond (R., S.C.), who at 98 is the nation's senior legislator; and with references to his job as a spokesman for the drug Viagra.
“I don't have any samples today, but I know where you can get some,” he joked.
His visit to Michigan is another example of how important the state has become in the political aspirations of Governor Bush and Vice President Gore.
Michigan is considered a must-win battleground state for both men, who have made frequent campaign swings through the state or sent surrogates such as Mr. Dole.
John Sweeney, national AFL-CIO president, spoke at a competing rally for Democratic candidates at the same time yesterday at the Monroe Ford Visteon Plant.
The largely partisan crowd at yesterday's Republican rally was comprised mostly of older veterans, some of whom attended more to see Mr. Dole than in support of any political candidate.
“He's the icon of our generation,” said Robert Doty, a Monroe resident and an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II.