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. James A. Webster Santa Barbara CA

    Here is all one needs to know about McCain. He has created plenty of liberal legislation with his friends Feingold, Edwards, Lieberman and Kennedy. He has not created ANY conservative legislation that I know of. I proudly and enthusiastically voted for Romney this morning.

    February 5, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. Clint

    Romney 08 He's not a flipflop on the most important issues that concern you having a strong healthy family. He's not confused on who he wants to be married to or who his family is. He knows how to run his own life. Who cares about him changing his mind on issues as he learns, WHO DON'T ? You who has not changed your mind cast the first stone at him. He has Lots of experince with successful problem solving by bringing people from all walks of life together to help solve problems and thats who we need in the Whitehouse.

    February 5, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  3. Bob

    The only true conservative running is Ron Paul. Rush doesn't want a conservative: he wants a Republican stooge like he is.

    And who can blame him? Ultimately, don't we all want to be led by somebody who agrees with us?

    February 5, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  4. Matthew

    If McCain is the definition of conservative, then God help us.

    February 5, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. tom

    Wow. Amazing. No difference between McCain and Hillary huh?

    Anybody seen his record on defense? Funny how nobody talks about that. Let me refresh. McCain was SCREAMING for a surge the minute that bush walked off the carrier. He was ignored. So, when his plan is finally enacted, we see success in Iraq. He was supporting the surge when the other republicans (including Romney) took a "wait and see" attitude and Hedged their bets (hence the "private timetable" comment by Romney). McCain said "I'd rather lose and election then lose a war". His poll numbers went down, but he continued to support the surge.

    As far as him being a conservative, he has an 82% conservative rating. Look at his entire record. He has been endorsed by a multitiude of conservatives including Phil Graham and Jack Kemp.

    Remember Ronald Reagan:
    Was pro choice as Governor of California and changed when he ran for President in 76.

    Raised taxes as Gov. of California (look it up)

    Supported Amnesty.

    I guess by your standards Ronald Reagan wasn't conservative enough.

    Oh...Fred Thompson was a strong supporter of McCain Fiengold. Never hear people tallking about that.

    February 5, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  6. Chris in Richmond, VA

    It is truly sad to see so many brain-washed people hysterically parroting misconceptions, half-truths, and lies about a man who has proven his honor and love of country beyond the capacity of most men & women. It is ignorant people who cannot reasonably disagree without insults and name calling. (Something, BTW, is a trait that Rush is quick to point out about HIS opponents.)

    Is Senator McCain a "lock-step" voter? No, and thank God. As a Republican, have I agreed with every one of his positions? No. Does that make him the conservative version of the anti-christ? No. Any reasonable review of his record will show him clearly in the conservative camp.

    It is a pity that so many people on both sides of the political isle believe that the only way to support their candidate to attack and distort everyone else with skewed, vitriolic rants. All of our candidates (both parties) deserve better, as do our electorate and most certainly the men and women serving around the world in harms-way.

    February 5, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. Rachel

    Thank-you Bob Dole, a true American hero and good guy. I know all you want is the truth represented, and let us make up our own minds at the voting booth.
    As the mom of a Marine in Iraq, that's ALL I want, too.

    February 5, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  8. Stuart Macdonald

    Doesn't anyone remember the Keating Five? Something like 1.3M in donations to five Senators including Sen. McCain from the crook Charles Keating who pilfered millions from account holders at Lincoln Savings and Loan? I can never vote for any of those Senators – never!

    Doesn't anyone remember Senator McCains arcane position on gathering information from terrotists/butchers in Iraq? His absurd position on immigration? His vote against the Bush Tax Cuts? ...McCain is not a conservative, but a RINO.

    There really isn't much a difference between Sen. Clinton and Sen. McCain other than perhaps the former has a knack at making "lost" files re-appear under some couch. They would make a liberal to center cross-party team.

    Thic country needs dramatic change. It needs a proven successful businessman, not a Washington insider, to resolve our serious economic problems. If we don't quickly attend to and resolve our economic issues, this country will go the way of the former USSR and who knows what will emerge as the result.

    February 5, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  9. BD

    I could whip Bob Dole with one hand tied behind my back.

    February 5, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. another Bill

    Sorry guys, but McCain is the Least conservative running. I.ll go with Huck, Paul, or Romney 1st. Mac has only 1 conservative vote and that's defense.

    February 5, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  11. ScottyDog

    All one needs to know about Juan McCain is the Kennedy/McCain Amnesty legislation that was shoved down our throats last year four times. He is a traitor and has violated his oath to the Constitution. He has sold out Americans to the North American Union which would destroy American Sovereignty.

    According to Juan McCain, his Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill is not Amnesty and anyone that says that is a liar. 90% of the public disagrees and shutdown the congressional switchboard voicing their objections to Amnesty last year.

    Proof that Senator McCain is a liar is that he appointed Dr. Juan Hernandez, as the McCain Hispanic outreach director. The former Ministry for Mexicans Living in the United States under Vincente Fox.

    Hernandez is an open border advocate and is a dual citizen of Mexico. In an interview on ABC News’s Nightline, Hernandez stated bluntly that he was betting that the Mexican American population in the United States –all generations– “will think Mexico first…”I want ‘em all to think Mexico first.

    He lobbied for illegal alien driver’s licenses and Mexico first, defended Mexican bus operators carrying illegal aliens to the USA, and promoted extending banking privileges to illegal aliens and has supported the La Reconquista of the American Southwest.(Return of the Southwest to Mexico)

    If Juan McCain is elected, I would be willing to be that Juan Hernandez would be appointed to ICE to oversee the McCain Amnesty program that would give some 30 million Illegal’s citizenship and retro active SS benefits.

    …and the MSM calls this liar a War Hero?

    February 5, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  12. Bruce

    Have you noticed that all of the conservatives supporting McCain are people who have actually done something to push forward conservative ideas in government, like Ted Olson, while Romney has support from the sham "conservatives" like Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter, whose only "conservative" credentials are from blustering against anything they don't personally like? Why do these sham artists hate McCain so much? Because they are nothing but Republican attack dogs, on the leash of Bush and Cheney, ready to attack anyone who challenges the dictatorial presidential regime. They are not conservatives, but are rather like czarist secret police, ready to attack and discredit anyone who questions their masters. McCain has made it clear that he has no use for these frauds, and they would have no place in his administration. They sense that they are losing their position of influence, and are desperate to hold on to their power. Romney is a fraud conservative as well, having only adopted a conservative philosophy when he decided to run for president, having been a liberal before (in order to win election in a liberal state). Romney would do or say anything to win the presidency. So why don't these sham conservatives see through his charade? Because in a Romney administration, these radio frauds would be secure in their positions as attack dogs, ready at any moment to attack the rivals of their master, because Romney has no sense of ethics or decency and would use these frauds to continue the Imperial presidency started by Bush and Cheney. If that is what conservatives stand for, then I would be ashamed to call myself a conservative, because those ideas area against everything that America stands for.

    February 5, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  13. Bob Cirba

    Hey, Phony Editor....I left a comment last night skewering McCain about his running cover for John Kerry in '04, and you deleted it. Surprise!! You are all liberal frauds here. Bob

    February 5, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  14. Mary

    WOW! Does anybody really care what Rush thinks. I'm a listener, but just for the entertainment value. Its kind of like Howard Stern on conservative ludes. He is a fruitcake and what is most comical when I listen to him is the fact that he actually believes he is relevant. What's even more entertaining is the fact that there are koolaid drinkers who also believe he's relevant. Rush needs to get over himself. He's a has been as far as having any credibility or influence over my vote. People don't listen to him, they laugh at him.

    February 5, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  15. chris, san diego

    bob dole works for dubai– what else do you need to know?– dole is now a foreign agent– he lobbied on behalf of UAE to turn over the control off all our ports to Dubai– (of which 15 of the 19 high jackers came from) am i the only one who remembers this? dole is a traitor along with Albright who is also a foreign agent. just remeber that Mcain (Mc hilary) tried to shove amnesty down our throats.

    February 5, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  16. Michael D. Cope

    To most of the "Johnny come lately neo-conservatives" I say hogwash to you and your hypocrite hero Rush Limbaugh. John McCain was not my first choice for President but perhaps he should have been. As for Bob Dole, I've met him. He has a record as a Great American. He is not some full of hot air "reformed" prescription drug abuser trying to define who is and who isn't a Republican.

    A true "Goldwater Republican" who believes that individual rights are to be protected and are sacred would whole-heartedly support McCain, a true conservative Republican, who we don't always totally agree with. John McCain speaks his mind, makes his own decisions, and stands for what he believe is right no mater whether it is popular on not. What has Rush Limbaugh ever done other than blow hot air into a microphone and spend time in rehab while railing against those who had the same weaknesses as does he!

    February 5, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  17. terry

    And I would never trust Rush because he's a druggie.
    And of course, he's famous from his "way" of saying things, not the actual content. A conservative clown.

    February 6, 2008 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  18. Vicente

    I listened to Rush Limbaugh a few years ago and I liked his program. It became old and banal very quickly. HIs program is repetitive nonsense, and he is extremely arrogant. I can usually spot a fake and Rush has it written all over him. I am conservative and a Republican and I am very concerned about this country and the direction it is going. I do have enough common sense to think critically and not allow an arrogant, pathetic little man sitting behind a microphone to dictate what is best for me, my country and everyone else living here.
    He is obviously pro-Romney and cannot live with the fact that people are not buying into his endorsement and supporting Romney. Romney reminds me a lot of Robert McNamara of the Vietnam era, a brilliant CEO with little common sense in international affairs. He is more fake than LImbaugh.
    I have gained a lot of respect for McCain because of all this. He does not need Limbaugh or any of the other radio talk show hosts, and they are furious because of it.

    February 6, 2008 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  19. Mark

    I don't understand all these comparisons of McCain and Dole. Dole was the party leaders favorite who was next in line for the nomination. McCain is hardly the party leaders favorite. The fact that Limbaugh dislikes McCain will only help him in the general election. And do you really think some of the "phony" conservatives will vote for Hillary or Obama?

    McCain is a real conservative who not only talks the talk, but is willing to break with his party to walk the walk. How can this administration consider itself conservative with how much it has increased the size of government?

    February 6, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  20. Cynthia

    I am not a conservative, and I never listen to the rancorous, divisive conservative talk radio programs. As a Republican I admired Bob Dole in the Senate, and supported his candidacies. To a lesser extent, I respected John McCain the last time he ran.

    HOWEVER, my full support is behind MITT ROMNEY. Romney is far and away the most qualified candidate for president, conservative or liberal. I probably could have supported McCain if he were all the party had to offer. But when a candidate with Romney's strengths comes forward, and the party power-brokers instead turn to the good old boy McCain, it's time to get out of bed. The stink of religious bigotry would be enough, though the stench of the old-boy RNC network is probably behind most of it. Self-preservation supercedes service to our nation. In my own case at least it will turn against them in the end if McCain ends up the nominee. I am looking at the only other candidate with any semblance of personal virtue remaining in the race– Obama.

    In my view, Romney probably miscalculated when he decided to try to stand in for Reagan. He has the potential to be all and more than Reagan, and maybe next time he goes for it, he will have found that out. He's an incredible person with enormous capacity. Reagan was right for his time, but he is not what we need now. Romney is Romney, and with the nation facing challenges that exceed those which Reagan faced, Romney, given the chance, will rise even higher than Reagan. That is, if Americans can handle electing someone above the least common denominator. Maybe by then, after a few years of Billary or McClinton, we will know how to appreciate him. God bless America to survive long enough to have that chance.

    February 7, 2008 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  21. Covering Letter

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

    July 2, 2011 04:40 am at 4:40 am |
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