February 5th, 2008
03:00 PM ET
4 years ago

McCain takes aim at Romney's remark on Dole

 Romney is taking heat from McCain for his recent remark on Bob Dole.
Romney is taking heat from McCain for his recent remark on Bob Dole.

(CNN) – Mitt Romney is backing away from a statement that seemed to denigrate former GOP presidential candidate Robert Dole, who wrote a letter to Rush Limbaugh yesterday defending the former Massachusetts governor’s main Republican rival, John McCain.

In a FOX interview Tuesday morning, Romney had said the former Kansas senator was “probably the last person I would have wanted to have write a letter for me.”

McCain immediately put out a statement condemning the comment, and told reporters on his campaign plane that Romney should apologize to Dole, a decorated World War II veteran, for the remark: "this is no way to end up this campaign, by attacking a genuine American war hero." His campaign also released a statement in which the Arizona senator called Romney’s remark “disgraceful.”

A short time later, Romney also referred to Dole as “an American hero.” He added that he would love to have the former senator’s support for his own bid.

“I think very highly of Sen. Dole,” he said, and had merely intended to criticize “the mental set that says we should choose our nominee based on how many years they’ve served and how long they’ve waited in line.” He added that he did not think McCain will benefit from the letter.

On Monday, Dole sent Rush Limbaugh defending John McCain as a "mainstream conservative," in reaction to the talk show host’s attempts to rally grassroots conservative support against the Arizona senator.

Dole said in that letter he remains neutral in this year’s presidential primary.

UPDATE: Romney unsuccessfully attempted to reach Dole by telephone Tuesday morning to clarify his statements.

– CNN’s Tasha Diakides and Alexander Marquardt contributed to this report


Filed under: John McCain • Mitt Romney
soundoff (316 Responses)
  1. Doug

    McCain is once again twisting the truth in a Clintonesque way that shows his true colors. He is NOT trustworthy. He is a disaster and his partner in crime the Huckster, have cooperated in a secret deal to help beat the only honest man in the race. That is of course Mitt Romney.

    February 5, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  2. John

    Romney is right. Dole came in because it was "his turn" and lost badly to Clinton. McCain has the same sense about him that it's his turn, and thus he gets really angry that someone like Romney is challenging him and may beat him. He therefore allies with sycophants like Huckabee to "take out" Romney. Romney is level-headed, intelligent, respectful, and maintains presidential bearing like no other in the race. I pick him!

    February 5, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  3. brig

    Romney was right on-point that Dole thinking that someone's years in Washington makes them the right guy for the job is absolutely wrong. Reagan wasn't chosen because he had been in Washington forever - he was chosen for change. And Romney is the one who can drive positive change -- NOT McCain. Dole's mindset about McCain was wrong, and that sort of mindset is not the sort of mindset that is needed to support change in America. Sheesh....the press will twist anything Romney says, because they don't want him up against their precious Dems. McCain will get clobbered in the general election, and they know it...so they protect him now, but they'll turn on him if he's up against Dems. If you support McCain instead of Romney, then you've swallowed the media's picture of Romney - hook-line-sinker. You've been fooled. The TRUTH is that ROMNEY is the right one for the Republicans - the one who can win the general, the one who embodies Republican values, and the one who can actually GET THINGS DONE once he's in. GO MITT!

    February 5, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  4. Lester Knox

    Timothy McVeigh was a war hero too. That's not to say that Bob Dole is a Timothy McVeigh, but it is to say that "war hero" does not equate to "unquestionable respect." Stop the posturing drama queen. By the way, I'm a Republican.

    February 5, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  5. Jose

    I guess I should have fought in IRAQ so I could become a hero and do or say whatever I would like. McCain needs to grow up... ok maybe that would not be a good idea it would probably kill him if he were to get any older.

    February 5, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  6. enuf is enuf

    I, for one, would love to have someone in the White House with military experience. They, at least ,know what war is really like and not some stupid game to be played to keep our leaders amused. President Eisenhower warned us against a Great Military machine that could run our country. We now are fighting a war that has companies such as Black Water making a profit off of our dead soldiers. Maybe someone with real military experience could see thru the war complex lies.
    This is another reason why all American should get a say not just a few states. I still believe that we had a good candidate in the last election - Wesley Clark. And this time - John Edwards. But since I'm from a little state that doesn't have a say until May it's all over by then.
    As far a McCain is concerned I think he is getting the support of Americans who are sick of both parties and their stupid rhetoric.
    Rush Limbaugh is pathetic at best and no one with any sense should believe a word he says about anything. He just likes to whip up a crown into a frenzy.

    February 5, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  7. Alex H

    What Romney said was rude and tasteless, yes. What McCain said was very Kindergarden-teacher-like "go say you're sorry to bobby!" Decide for yourself which is worse or w/e you want to take out of this but the fact is that we've tried a so-called conservative president for the past 2 terms and it may go down as the worst presidency in the history of the country. Romney seems to me as though he'd be happy to pick up where Bush left off. McCain may not be building his 'house' with a foundation of conservatives, but he's successfully building his foundation with a wide variety Americans that include liberals, conservatives, and moderates alike instead of the blind ignorance of one type alone. It's called unity... shame on him.

    February 5, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  8. Bil TGH, Streamwood, IL

    Another Romney flip-flop.

    How can the public trust someone who say one thing, and then changes his tune if it proves to be unpopular?

    This ain't leadership folks.

    February 5, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  9. Pete

    Bob Dole is a disgraceful traitor and a sell out. Has everyone already forgotten Dole's efforts to transfer our port security to a Dubai firm?

    McCain is of the same ilk. People can go bad, and just because those two old men served honorably in the past does not mean they are honorable today.

    February 5, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  10. shawn

    Romney is correct. The media has been carrying John McCains water for too long. Why wasn't CNN reporting the fact that McCain lied about Romney's stance on the Iraq war after Romney called him out on it? McCain makes a statement and its the front page of you website. Typical.

    February 5, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  11. Todd C.

    "this is no way to end up this campaign, by attacking a genuine American war hero."

    Someone tell that Karl Rove who killed John Kerry's chances in 04!!!!

    February 5, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  12. Brian in Austin

    This stuff happens all the time, everybody makes mountains out of molehills. Aside from that, I can only hope Romney beats McCain!!

    February 5, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  13. Texan

    McCain has been exposed on his slimy politicking on this issue. Romney never criticized Dole personally nor as a military hero, as McCain claimed.

    Romney was making a statement about the way the "establishment candidate" is sometimes selected and supported and given the Republican nomination. Exactly as Dole was put out there in 1996 to flop as a candidate, Romney wonders why McCain would be heakening back to those days, seeing how this is such a similar case, with McCain being praised because it's HIS TURN.

    February 5, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  14. Deanne,KS

    .What would McPain do if he were President and a foreign leader said something he didn't agree with? Talk about slimy, he definitely is. I think that everyone agrees that our service men and women deserve our respect for their service, but McPain uses his service and being a POW as an answer for everything. In his mind we OWE him the presidency because he was a POW. He is a snide, hateful, deceitful old man. Romney would be far better at leading this country. McPain says Romney bought companies and people lost their jobs. If these companies were already in trouble they would have lost their jobs anyway. The man did not make his fortune by leaving his disabled wife and marrying a rich heiress like McPain did.

    February 5, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  15. Bob

    The more I think about it, the more I start to wonder if it would help, rather than hurt, our political process to just go the rest of the way and make it into a reality T.V. show.

    February 5, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  16. The truth will set you free!

    McCain talks out of both sides of his mouth...he is no Conservative to me. He must be using Slick Willy & Hillary's playbook. Romney's the man for the hour...not perfect but more Conservative than the rest.

    February 5, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  17. Kelly

    Since when has it bothered any Republican to attach a war hero?? And if this is so terrible and awful to attack a war hero where were you when they were doing it to Kerry?

    February 5, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  18. Katie

    CNN, please post the full text of Mitt Romey's comments so that your readers can see that McCain has, once again, taken a small snipet of Romney's comments and spun them into something that they are not. When Romney was asked about the letter that Dole wrote to Limbaugh he stated that, in light of Dole's own failed presidential bid, he is not the best spokesperson for McCain. 12 years ago we nominated Dole because he was old, and he was "due" and it was somehow owed to him. He went up against a wildly popular Bill Clinton and got crushed. Can anyone see history repeating itself here if we send McCain against Obama or another Clinton? We should not nominate McCain simply because he has served for so long and this nomination is somehow owed to him!

    February 5, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  19. Gene, Houston, TX

    I guess being a military veteran means your opinion is worth more than others. Who cares who Bob Dole endorses? Not me. He's completely irrelevant and Romney knows it. Perhaps Romney shouldn't have said anything, but at least he recognizes that Dole's endorsement is worthless.

    That's better than McCain.

    February 5, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  20. whatsitToyou

    It drives me absolutly crazy, how McCain always thinks since he served in a war that he deserves everything..and because Dole was a WWII vet which is a very noble thing, he should apologize....I think the war affected his head!

    February 5, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  21. Fitz

    Anyone tat thinks Mitt Romney will turn this country around is delusional. Look what Bush – CEO President has done so far. Romney shrill rhetoric that he is the only candidate that had a real job in the real economy is laughable! And when did public service stop qualifying as a real job? What we need in a candidate is someone that understands public and foriegn policy and not just business. I would trust an experienced public servant over a CEO anyday. And what is up with Rush/Hannity/Coulter/Ingraham? Why do they have this urge to destroy decorated veterans because they have positions that do not agree with their own bigoted views?

    February 5, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  22. Midge from Ohio

    While being a war hero is very noble, it does not make you any smarter or better than anyone else. Romney's comment was probably based on something Dole had done in the last 50 years, not something he had accomplised in the 1940s. Let's get real about McCain. McCain is egotistical, smirky, and a war monger. The Republican party needs Mitt, unfortunately Huck is taking some of his votes for no worthwhile reason except to give the nomination to McCain. I will have to vote Democratic if McCain wins the nomination.

    February 5, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  23. Shawn, Cincinnati OH

    What's wrong with his comment? Bob Dole, great guy that he is, ran a terrible campaign and was trounced by Clinton. I don't think I'd look for his seal of approval quickly either.

    February 5, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  24. Laura from NJ

    I think a lot of people are missing the point of this article. It is not to say whether or not Dole is a WWII hero, or whether or not McCain is a "real" conservative. The problem is that Romney essentially put down a well-known member of his own party.
    The Republicans seem bent on destroying themselves, and this is another sad example of that.

    February 5, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  25. Bubba

    When Dole appeared on tv as the new spokesman for Viagra, about a week after losing his bid for the White House, his credibility ran down his leg and trickled away. Shame on Mitt for shooting at such a big fat flabby target anyway! Dole's become a punchline.

    February 5, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
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