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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Is Dole too Old?

The repeated characterization of Senator Bob Dole as “too old”, “a grumpy old man,” and other appellations by the media, not to mention his Republican opponents for the Presidential nomination, is pure ageism discrimination.

Dole will be 73 years old on July 22, 1996. He carries a daily Senatorial load and a travel schedule for campaigning that would stagger a person half his age. He is the fastest impromptu wit in national politics. As the majority leaders of the Senate, he handles more issues than any other Senator. He doesn’t even look 72.

His political opponents from his party can hardly attack his positions because they share these positions in common. So by innuendo they go after his age. Forbes hardly can contain his ageist assault on the World War II veteran who was still recuperating from his wounds when Forbes was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

I have yet to see, hear or read about anyone coming to Dole’s defense on this age slur. Small wonder that the Gray Panthers got started to combat age discrimination about 25 years ago. Ageism rears its ugly head, whenever critics can’t come up with any substance.

Given his record — mainstream, conservative-corporatist Republican — it is difficult for Gramm, Forbes and others to take him on. So they use words like “the politics of yesterday” (Forbes) or “a Washington Insider” (Forbes) or “I’m the true conservative” (Gramm) to display their differences.

How can Dole combat this ageing image? By raising some new issues that counter his tired message of connecting most of the nation’s problems to that favorite bogeyman “Big Government.” Dole, shedding his indentured obeisance to Big Business (which is a large cause of Big Government), can become a fresh politician, a populist from the plains of Kansas reborn.

Dole actually has found his first such issue. In a statement for the Senate floor on January 10, 1996, Dole took out after the giveaway of very valuable spectrum, or air waves, to wealthy television station owners. This provision is presently in the pending Telecommunications Bill that has passed both Houses and is going through the conforming process in a Senate-House Conference.

This spectrum giveaway has been variously valued at anywhere from $12.5 billion to $70 billion dollars.

Listen to Dole’s words:

“The bottom line is that spectrum is just as much a national resource as our National forests. That means it belongs to every American equally. No more, no less. If someone wants to use our resources, then we should be fairly compensated. . . It does not make any sense to give away billions of dollars to corporate interests and succumb to their intense media lobbying effort.”

“It is going to be very difficult,” Dole said, “when we are looking at Medicaid, looking at Medicare, looking at farm programs, looking at welfare, all trying to save money here and money there, that we would at the same time say, oh, that is OK because there are big media interests, we will give it away, whether there is $12.5 or $40 billion, whatever it may be.”

Although people who know him say at his core Dole is personally compassionate, his long political record has been vintage Wall Street, Chamber of Commerce Republicanism. His votes have been predictably against the interests of workers, consumers and the environment whenever business interests are on the other side.

Most unforgivably is his support for two bills winding through Congress that would make it very difficult for wrongfully injured Americans or defrauded investors to go after the crooks and reckless perpetrators who harmed them in courts of law. Corporations always seek to rig the law to allow them to escape responsibility for harm done or to secure unconscionable privileges not given to ordinary people.

Dole’s stand against the broadcasters on this spectrum giveaway is refreshing, unless he caves. Should he stand for worker, consumer, environmental and small taxpayer interests when they conflict with the Big Business lobbyists, he would suddenly become the new battling Bob Dole giving Republicans a more humane and less destructive visage.

Who could ever get away with calling this new populist-progressive Bob Dole old again?P.S. There is no chance he’ll win the Presidency unless he stands more tall on behalf of people politics in place of corporate politics.