US leaders, veterans react to death of Bob Dole, 'an American statesman'

Bob Dole, a Republican political icon from Kansas whose career spanned decades in the U.S. Senate and included a presidential run in 1996, died Sunday at the age of 98

Remembrances from fellow lawmakers and other US leaders began pouring in after news of his passing was made public by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. 

"It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep," the foundation wrote on Twitter. "At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years." 

President Joe Biden reflected on his friendship with Dole and their time together in the Senate. 

"Bob was an American statesman like few in our history. A war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation. And to me, he was also a friend whom I could look to for trusted guidance, or a humorous line at just the right moment to settle frayed nerves. I will miss my friend," the president said, in part. Read his full statement here.

"Bob was a man to be admired by Americans. He had an unerring sense of integrity and honor," the president continued. "May God bless him, and may our nation draw upon his legacy of decency, dignity, good humor, and patriotism for all time."

Other former presidents shared their remembrances as well, including Bush, Trump, Obama and Clinton.

George W. Bush called Dole a "good man" who "represented the finest of American values."

"Bob Dole was an American war hero and true patriot for our Nation. He served the Great State of Kansas with honor and the Republican Party was made stronger by his service. Our Nation mourns his passing, and our prayers are with Elizabeth and his wonderful family," former president Donald Trump said.

Former president Barack Obama said Dole’s demeanor "harkened back to a day when members of the Greatest Generation abided by a certain code, putting country over party."

Former president Bill Clinton said Dole "dedicated his entire life to serving the American people."

"God bless Bob Dole and his family. Thinking of you today," tweeted Dan Crenshaw, who was wounded in action like Dole.

Charging a German position in northern Italy in 1945, Dole was hit by a shell fragment that crushed two vertebrae and paralyzed his arms and legs. The young Army platoon leader spent three years recovering in a hospital and never regained use of his right hand.

Crenshaw was hit by an IED in Afghanistan in 2012. His right eye was destroyed and he didn’t regain sight in his left eye for several months.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who lost both her legs while serving in Iraq, also shared her thoughts.

"When I was at recovering at Walter Reed, Bob Dole was a patient too. He was 81 years old then, and he had his own private room, but he always did his rehab with the rest of us — cracking jokes and sharing stories about his Army days," she wrote.

"Today we not only lost a great Legionnaire, but America has lost an iconic statesman and tireless veterans advocate. America is a better country as a result of this great patriot’s service," American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard shared.

Sen. Jack Reed, who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Dole "defined the very best of what it means to be a public servant."

"From the battlefield to the United States Senate, he served our county with great integrity. He was a man of his word. As Senate Majority Leader and presidential candidate, Senator Dole championed our men and women in uniform and the hidden heroes who care for them each day. ... From the Well of the House to the Floor of the Senate, from presidential candidate to elder statesman, he also never failed to raise his powerful voice on behalf of Americans living with disabilities. He was a force in enshrining essential protections into law with the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, and he served as an inspiration himself to millions. As we honor his life, let us resolve to live up to his challenge and carry on his mission," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, said in a statement. 

"Bob Dole lived the kind of full, rich, and deeply honorable American life that will be impossible for any tribute today to fully capture," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrote.

"Throughout his nearly 80 years of public service, Bob Dole was a steadfast defender of his country and of the people of Kansas. May he rest in peace," former vice president Al Gore tweeted. 

"It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Bob Dole, an American hero & a proud Kansan. We offer our sincere condolences to the Dole family; we share your deep loss," the Kansas GOP tweeted. 

"When I think of the greatest generation, I think of Senator Bob Dole—a man who dedicated his life to serving our country.," Mitt Romney tweeted. 

"Senator Bob Dole was a truly great man who lived an extraordinary life of service to America and he will be deeply missed by all of us who had the privilege to know him…," former vice president Mike Pence said. 

"He was a dedicated public servant + kind + funny + hard worker + a true patriot," Chuck Grassley wrote. 

Gov. Mike Huckabee called Dole "one of the most decent, honorable and patriotic men" he’s ever known. 

RELATED: Bob Dole, former US senator and GOP presidential nominee, dies at 98

Dole overcame the disabling war wounds to become a sharp-tongued Senate leader from Kansas, a Republican presidential candidate and then a symbol and celebrant of his dwindling generation of World War II veterans. 

During his 36-year career on Capitol Hill, Dole became one of the most influential legislators and party leaders in the Senate, combining a talent for compromise with a caustic wit, which he often turned on himself but didn’t hesitate to turn on others, too.

Dole announced in February 2021 that he’d been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. 

This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.