February 4th, 2008
02:00 PM ET
15 years ago

In letter to Limbaugh, Bob Dole defends McCain

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/04/art.dole.gi.jpg caption="Dole is defending McCain's conservative credentials."]BOSTON (CNN) - Former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole on Monday wrote conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh defending John McCain as a "mainstream conservative" who had supported the party on critical votes during Dole's time as the Senate Republican leader.

The letter, obtained by CNN from a Republican source close to Dole, includes a voting comparison that suggests McCain's voting record compares favorably to that of the longtime conservative icon Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina.

Dole in the letter said he remains neutral in the GOP contest and spoke kindly of all three remaining leading GOP candidates. But the letter comes at a time Limbaugh is trying to rally grassroots conservative support against McCain.

"Whoever wins the Republican nomination will need your enthusiastic support," Dole wrote in the letter. "Two terms for the Clintons are enough."

–CNN Chief National Correspondent John King

(full text of the letter follows after the jump)


I have not seen you in a long time but I do hear you frequently and I know that you have serious reservations about Senator McCain.

Not that many care but I have not been involved in the Republican Primary contest because Elizabeth, a good conservative, is running for reelection in North Carolina where Romney, McCain and Huckabee each enjoy considerable support.

I was the Republican Leader from January 1985 until I left the Senate voluntarily in June 1996. I worked closely with Senator McCain when he came to the Senate in 1987 until I departed. I cannot recall a single instance when he did not support the Party on critical votes. (At my age, I cannot be entirely certain but here are a few key conservative examples:)

1. Consistent pro-life record
2. Strong advocate for strict constructionist judges (We were misled on the Souter nomination)
3. Supported voluntary school prayer
4. Supported Constitutional Amendment for a Balanced Budget (needed two-thirds and lost by one vote - 66-34)
5. Strong advocate for reducing spending and opposing pork barrel "ear marks" which has, I might add, angered some of his colleagues
6. Consistent on defending Second Amendment rights
7. Opposed "Hillary Care" which would have been devastating
8. Probably the Senate's strongest advocate for strong national defense
9. Of course he has cast many votes since I left. I totally disagreed with the McCain-Feingold legislation. On immigration, Senator McCain was not in the Senate when Congress passed President Reagan's immigration legislation which passed overwhelmingly. It granted amnesty to 2.7 million illegals. It was not much different than the 2007 McCain, Kennedy, Bush effort.

I disagree with his votes against the Bush tax cuts but I believe his pledge to make them permanent and I do not agree that Governor Romney ever suggested a timetable for troop withdrawals in Iraq.

McCain is a friend and I proudly wore his P.O.W. bracelet bearing his name while he was still a guest at the "Hanoi Hilton." I believe our major candidates are mainstream conservatives and that our nominee will address our concerns by keeping taxes low, reducing corporate taxes, protecting and assisting the vulnerable, strengthening our traditional values, and above all, keeping America strong militarily, whatever the cost.

Whoever wins the Republican nomination will need your enthusiastic support. Two terms for the Clintons are enough.

Gob Bless America,


P.S. Rush, I just came across a document from the Senate Library which shows Presidential Support scores. Let me give you ratings for "Mr. Conservative" Senator Helms through 2002 (Helms retired in January 2003) and Senator McCain through 2004.

Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (196 Responses)
  1. Iowa Guy

    After reading the letter to Rush, I'm struck with the fact that there are a number of important issues that Dole doesn't agree with McCain about.

    If you discount the POW and multiple Clinton comments, which you should because that are non-points wen discussing McCain's attributes, you find aletter bot equally for and against McCain.

    This is neither a scathing rebuke of Rush or a ringing endoesement for McCain. It's just a friend sticking up for a friend nothing more. Meaningless.

    February 5, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  2. Jon

    I am also turning off Rush. He may not like John McCain but his attacks are irrational. John McCain is the only candidate with a heroic military record. He stands for what he thinks is right. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we disagree. I like the fact that he is trying to figure out what is best for America and he is willing to stnad by his convictions.

    Rush is an entertainer. When has he run for office? Is he willing to put his record out for microscopic review? He loves election years because he thinks he deserves the lime light. I don't see Rush as a Reagan conservative. I see him as an opportunist who is making millions while he tries to convince the republican party that he is relavent.

    I am proud to support John McCain. Before you throw mud at him consider the sacrifices he has made for our country. He laid his life down on your behalf. Now give him the benefit of the doubt. He has the credentials to make a great president. He can and will reach out to democrats to fix our nation's problems. If he doesn't, nothing is going to change. We need someone who can affect change not just talk about it.

    If you don't agree, don't vote for him. That is your right. But stop trying to demonize an Amercian hero. The rhetoric is starting to sound like McCarthyistic. When will we start the trials calling anyone who does not agree with Rush a communist? or a liberal? Does Rush get to define conservativism? Not for me. Rush does not speak for me. My vote will speak for me.

    February 5, 2008 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  3. Dillon

    Rush, you are right on about McCain, please keep up the good work of trying to get the truth out about what McCain really stands for. Its a shame that so many people choose to stick their heads in the sand and blindly follow him and his side puppet Huckabee. If this is what the Republican party has come to, I will change my party to Independant. When are the real conservatives going to get their heads out of their rears and stand up?

    February 5, 2008 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  4. dennydm

    Ask yourself if experience matters! Would you hire a plumber who had never plumbed? Romney is the only candidate with a background running a governmental and business enterprise. There a great story you can find on George McGovern who left the government to run a B&B in Vermont (true). He was amazed at the regulations and tax matters he had to deal with as a small business owner.

    If experience and thereby the knowledge gained dosen't matter, then vote for the gender or racial candidate of your choice.

    February 5, 2008 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  5. Chrich

    The Dream Ticket!! Come on Rush...take the pay cut!!!

    Make Santorum your VP and let's kill two birds with one stone (liberals/communist/socialist and islamic fascists).

    February 5, 2008 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  6. HalfABrain

    The basic problem here, which has stirred this pot so strongly is that we have all (Both sides of the aisle) left our personal issues at the door, and instead have jumped on the 'you're either with us or against us' band wagon. What makes this country so great is that we are able to vote for the candidate that best represents our own personal beliefs and values. Unfortunately, people like Mr. Limbaugh have taken the position that you must vote for the party, not the candidate you support the most. Both the Republican party and the Democrats are fielding a variety of candidates who don't necessarily all subscribe to the mantra of their party. Take a leap this year and vote for the candidate who will fight for the issues that are important to you and your family, not for the person wearing a donkey or an elephant. For an educated person, partisan politics has no place in a government. Our elected leaders do not necessarily follow the agenda their supporters, as Mr. Bush and every president befor him has demonstrated. Having said that, vote for the candidate that most closely matches your personal views. Check their voting records, not their religious affiliation or other unimportant diversion. By all means, ignore the talking heads and choose the candidate based on your own findings, not the candidate supported by the media or a dinosaur.


    February 5, 2008 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  7. Kay

    to all you left wingers, Rush is telling the truth about McCain, the media wants Mc Cain to win so he will have to face Hillary,(most likley). What you can't take Rush, but you will be led around by the media. If you would use your head, you would see that is what is happening in this country. You yell at one man Rush for speaking his thoughts, but you ignore all the hatred that the media sells every day. GO RUSH, and go MITT

    February 5, 2008 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  8. Marlee

    When John McCain attempted a back-door deal to give amnesty/social security benefits to illegals, he lost any respect I every had for him.

    That's why my vote went for ROMNEY!!!!

    February 5, 2008 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  9. Paul J Novak

    Rush: Don't compromise, please. Rush has millions of us (voters) behind him. If McCain gets the Nom., and we vote for him, we are thus voting for blanket amnesty; the "illegal's" vote will go to the Dems, and the Dems can say to Americans that a Republicans allowed amnesty to go through. Coulter is correct, if it is Clinton v McCain, either don't vote or let the Dems take the blame for all that happens after Mrs. Clinton is in the oval office. I for one, cannot support McCain. I WIll Not vote for a Lib....EVER

    February 5, 2008 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  10. jim

    Romney is , by far, the best candidate still in this election process. He's the most intelligent and the most competent. McCain and the others simply do not compare to him. Moreover, he's the only "outsider" who has a chance. If you are fed up with Washington, vote Romney.

    February 5, 2008 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  11. Walt

    Do not doubt me, in the arena of ideas liberals are weak, liberals vote based on emotion,we on the other hand base our votes on substance and value.Dont doubt me.We do not want our party to be polluted with weak minded liberals, an example of such is John McCain as of late.It is hard work to be conseritive, it takes courage, you have to be able to say NO, being liberal on the other hand is the requires no courage,no values,no morals....aborition clearly is an example of taking the easy way out.....
    Do not doubt me.

    February 5, 2008 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  12. Mike Wallens

    A former Rush listener returning to listen again.

    In the past I have seen Rush as a knee jerk supporter of any Republican. It is good to see him trash this illegal alien loving RINO.

    In response to McCain's war record – I didn't hear anyone ask where George W. Bush was while John Kerry was in Vietnam. It is funny how war service is suddenly important to Republicans.

    5 years as a POW doesnt imply automatic presidency. Having sound conservative principles (and not being nut) are what we need in a president.
    Audios John McCain.

    February 5, 2008 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  13. Elaine Leong

    Rush is right. If you look at the voting history on McCain you will see that he wanted to close GITMO and give the terrorists access to our court system. The torture methods used by the CIA are nothing to what the terorists would do to our men. How foolish coming from a former POW. Time in the Hanoi Hilton must have affectted his brain.
    Another point which is not mentioned often is his treatment of his first wife. When she needed him he dumpted her for a younger and richer woman. I would think the women of America would be very upset.
    He will not get my vote and since I can'r stand Hilllary or Obama, who went to the school which was the rival of my high school in Hawaii I may not even vote.
    The school Obama went to in Hawaii was for the rich so he was never poor.

    February 5, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  14. WWJBD

    Rush as usual would be "right" on target.
    There are "millions" that would be lining up right now to put the damper on Juan McCain political fantasy.
    As for the liberals, you better look long and hard at the two losers you are supporting as your candidates in waiting. Neither one would be something to brag about and would be political light-weights.

    February 5, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  15. Anonymous

    The demorats love McCain and would rather run against him because he will be the easiest Republican to beat in the general. Maybe the only one they can beat. If McCain can lock it up, you will see the dems and media turn on him so fast it will give you swimming in the head. We conservatives have the uncanny ability to pick losers to run. Does anyone remember "Dole"? Whatever happened to him? Is he still around?

    February 5, 2008 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  16. RTML

    Hey Ken in MD, you are so far to the left that you really don't have a clue as to what all the fuss about McCain is about. You are full of hate for our President which is evident in your insults, and that really is the basis for anything you say and everything you think. Your type always manages to bring the conversation back around to a jab at George W. Bush, even if he has nothing to do with the conversation. here's a newsflash for you and other liberals like you, Bush isn't running!!!!! Stay on subject or shut up!!
    And for Bill,the supposed long time Rush listener, what the hell does the hydrocodone issue has to do with Limbaugh's attacks on McCain's record! Do celebs get special treatment, yes. That's not news. Does it make thier opinions less valid, no! Stay on subject or shut up.

    February 5, 2008 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  17. Greg

    McCain is going to lose for the same reason that Dole did. He's an establishment Republican, not a conservative. McCain has been sticking it to the conservatives since he lost to George W Bush in 2000. Now it's time for the Conservatives to give it back to him. He cannot and will not win without the support of Conservatives. The only prayer he has is if Hillary wins the Democrat nomination. In that case people that hate her more than him might hold their noses and vote for him. If Obama wins.. He's history...

    February 5, 2008 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  18. schizoidman

    I love how democrats and liberals like to say Conservatives are all lockstep with this administration, then, when the situtation warrants it, say the opposite, like this gem from Ken, Suitland MD February 4, 2008 5:56 pm ET

    " As a side show, though, I love it when the [R]s eat their own!"

    Which is it? Make up your mind. Reminds me of the criticisms of President Bush who is, according to similar liberalthink 'a moron, a dope, the monkey in the White House' or a 'scheming manipulator who somehow pulled the wool over the eyes of the CIA, the FBI, Great Britain, all of congress and senate, including John Kerry and Hillary Clinton and the media which is in his pocket anyway. Haha. Where would we be without the libs to provide us with entirely new dimensions of hyperbole and hypocrisy. Keep it up. We need the laughs.

    February 5, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  19. Mike, Kansas City

    Yes, McCain has made mistakes including campaign finance reform and opposing the Bush tax cuts. The road to amnesty for illegals would be okay with me if he could be trusted to seal the borders – like the Mexicans to theirs.

    But there is too much as stake in this election to risk extreme libs like HRC or BHO in the White House. We'd have worthless bureaucrats shoved down our throats for sure.

    Newt is my man, but I'll go with McCain if he is the nominee.

    February 5, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  20. William Dwyer

    Former Senator Bob Dole, whom I campaigned for extensively in 1996, has faded from the political mainstream. He has now lost most of the relevance he enjoyed
    before his notable loss to Bill Clinton that year. Rush, however, is more relevant than ever in 2008, much to the distress of the Main Stream Media and the Republican establishment, who were responsible for the Dole nomination.

    February 5, 2008 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  21. Black Man

    Bob Dole needs to stick to his lucrative lobbying job (along with former senators and congressmen) and refrain from making a fool of himself by sending the letter to Rush.

    I'm constanly amazed by the number of people that have a strong dislike of Rush, whom never listen to his show. Rush and other conservative TV/Radio hosts are refusing to support bogus republicam candidates whom do not share their core
    beliefs. It's that simple! Repulican presidential candidates will not be supported strictly for party reasons. The drive-by media can not grasp this concept.

    February 5, 2008 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  22. robert rutger

    Bob Dole was never even close to a conservative in his disgraceful and treasonous tenure in the Senate. For him to try to convince anyone of John "Left Wing Express" McCain's supposed conservative credentials is laughable, at best; treasonous at worst.

    February 5, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  23. Brian Crisham, Scottsdale, Arizona

    Mr Dole: You need to review McCains voting record. McCain did not show up to vote 251 times out of 446 votes in the last session. 251 times!!! Of the 195 times he did show up, he only voted with the Republican party 171 times. That's only a 38% conservative voting record in my book. The "white lie" about McCain's record is that his 87.7% voting record is from 171 votes out of the 195 he SHOWED UP for. They don't count the 251 missed votes. Very sneaky, John. Very dishonest, John.

    February 5, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  24. Doug Missouri

    It is clear that Rush has been a supporter of Romney from the beginning. Why? I cannot imagine. McCain is at least as conservative. If Rush and others wanted a conservative candidate they would have spent this energy in promoting the candidacy of Duncan Hunter (the one true conservative). Rush ignored him. His "sour grapes" didn't keep me from voting for John McCain!

    February 5, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  25. dennis in op

    You people have truly forgotten what a conservative is! Dole supports McCain? Let's trash him too! Idiots.

    If Goldwater or Reagan walked into the room and started to speak, they'd be labled too liberal too! I'm not sure what you people are taking, but I think you should stop!

    February 5, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
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