Dole mastered the caustic wisecrack, often against himself

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FILE - Republican presidential candidate Sen. Robert Dole R-Kan., gestures while making a speech in Washington, March 28, 1988. Bob Dole, who overcame 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, has died. He was 98. His wife, Elizabeth Dole, posted the announcement Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, on Twitter. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

WASHINGTON – Bob Dole’s frequent scowl concealed a dry, often caustic wit. He singed political rivals with it — but didn't spare himself.

Wisecracks came with the territory of the Senate veteran and former Republican presidential candidate, who died Sunday at age 98.

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A sampling:

—Dole was Republican Party chairman at the time of the Republican break-in of Democratic headquarters in the Watergate complex on June 17, 1972. He quipped that the break-in happened on “my night off.”

—Asked how the scandal would affect GOP prospects at the polls: "Well, we got the burglar vote.”

—His swipes at President Richard Nixon could be biting: “History buffs probably noted the reunion at a Washington party a few weeks ago of three ex-presidents: Carter, Ford and Nixon. See No Evil, Hear No Evil ... Evil.”

—Did he want the disgraced Nixon to campaign for him? "I wouldn’t mind if he did a flyover.”

—He was no fan of Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich back in the day: “He’s just difficult to work with. It’s either Newt’s way or the highway. He’s got a lot of ideas. Some of them are good; not many.”

—After Democrat Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential victory, Dole, then the Senate Republican leader, was asked about working with the incoming Clinton administration: “Our intent will not be to create gridlock. Oh, except maybe from time to time.”

—Dole also wasn't keen on New York congressman Jack Kemp, a professional football player before his political career: “There was a certain football player who forgot his helmet and then started talking supply-side theory."

—But then Dole picked Kemp as his running mate in the 1996 presidential election: “This will not be a mean and divisive campaign. Jack and I are going to get along just fine.”

—Sizing up Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, these days the Senate majority leader: “The most dangerous place in Washington is between Charles Schumer and a television camera.”

—“Bob, what have you been doing lately?” talk show host David Letterman asked Dole a few days after his 1996 presidential election loss to Clinton. "Apparently not enough,” Dole said, grinning.

—Dole’s sarcasm could be mean-spirited, as when he asserted in the 1976 vice presidential debate that all the wars of the 20th century were “Democrat wars.”

—He came to regret that remark: “I was supposed to go for the jugular. And I did — my own.”

—On his political scorecard: "I don’t know how many people run for vice president and president and lose both.”

—Life on Capitol Hill: “If you’re hanging around with nothing to do and the zoo is closed, come over to the Senate. You’ll get the same kind of feeling and you won’t have to pay.”

—On his poor showing in the 1980 New Hampshire Republican presidential primary: "The day after New Hampshire, I went home and slept like a baby. Every two hours I woke up and cried.”

—In a June 2016 tweet, when he was 92: “I’m proof that it’s never too late to join Twitter.”

In tweets this year, he mourned the deaths of Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Trumka, Walter Mondale, John Warner and other once-leading public figures — as well as the death of comedian Norm Macdonald, who mimicked Dole when they appeared together on “Saturday Night Live.”

—"I loved laughing with him," Dole tweeted Sept. 14 after word of Macdonald's death.

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