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It was one of the most touching moments of the ceremonies surrounding former President George H.W. Bush as he lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda: WWII veteran and former presidential candidate Bob Dole insisting on getting out of his wheelchair so he could salute the casket of his former commander in chief.
With the help of an aide who wrapped his arms around him and lifted him to his feet, 95-year-old Dole, who has long suffered from war injuries, stood and saluted.
It was an unforgettable scene, but conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh pointed out on his show Tuesday why it was far more powerful — and unexpected — than most people may realize.
“Despite all that we’re hearing about civility and sophistication, the rivalry between Bob Dole and George Bush for primacy in the Republican Party when it happened was as deep and filled with rancor as most any rivalry you’ve ever heard of,” Rush explained.
“The things that Bob Dole thought he had worked for and had earned, he routinely saw Bush get, and he saw himself be undercut,” he continued.
So for Dole to use every ounce of his strength to pay his respects to his former rival that way “was the most incredible thing.”
“He insisted on standing. He insisted, no matter that he couldn’t do it. He demanded,” Rush said. “Even when he began to fall back, you could see him shake his head and tell his aide, ‘No.’ They propped him up.”
“Bob Dole didn’t come from anywhere near the background George H. W. Bush did,” Rush explained. “Bob Dole came from Kansas.
Bob Dole was injured in World War II, but was never treated as the conquering hero that George H. W. Bush was. Bob Dole lost the ability to write and to use his right arm in a war injury. George H. W. Bush lost nothing when he was shot down. He was rescued and saved.”
“It was these kinds of things that made up the rivalry,” he pointed out. “But throughout it all, there was a mutual respect.”
“I can’t emphasize that enough: He cannot stand up. He is forever relegated to his wheelchair,” Rush said. “It was really touching. It was really something to see. I hope somebody on cable news replaying this today knows something of the backstory to make this little incident today what it’s worth.”
“This is not just some elderly Republican senator showing up to honor a fallen Republican president because that’s what you do. This was deeply personal,” he added.
Rush concluded: “It was a sign of the respect they both had for one another after all of the wars and after all of the battles were over and they had been spent and there was no more any need for the rivalry. It was a mutual respect relationship, and Dole personified it today. But the kind of determination that he showed and the kind of commitment that he showed — the look on his face —
“—he was utterly defiant of the impossible, in getting out of his wheelchair today to honor George H. W. Bush.”