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In Defense Of Bob Dole's Memoir

Saturday, April 23, 2005; Page A17

Jonathan Yardley's April 12 book review of Bob Dole's just-released World War II memoir, "One Soldier's Story," was a mean-spirited, inaccurate and unpro- fessional attack on the former senator.

Yardley started his venomous column by mentioning Dole's "not entirely voluntary retirement from political life. . . ." Dole, against the wishes of many advisers and colleagues, voluntarily retired from the Senate -- while still majority leader -- to pursue what he knew would be an uphill battle for the presidency.

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Next, Yardley went out of his way to suggest that this memoir is a way for Dole to "climb aboard the highly lucrative 'Greatest Generation' bandwagon." Untrue.

The genesis for the book took place about two years ago when Dole's sister found some 300 letters from and to Dole sent before and after he was wounded in combat on April 14, 1945. It was because of these letters that friends of the senator, myself included, encouraged him to write his memoir. From the beginning, the senator was wary of the book's seeming to be about him when all he wanted to do was bring honor to those who served, those who were wounded and, more important, those who fell.

Yardley mentioned "the bitterness and meanness he [Dole] cannot always control. A man who has spent six decades asking 'Why me? Why did it happen?' would have to be a saint to avoid anger and self-pity, and Dole is no saint." This memoir is about not feeling sorry for oneself; it is about moving on with life after adversity.

After spending three grueling years in hospitals recovering from his battlefield wound, not once has Dole asked, "Why me?" Rather, he spent the next six decades asking, "What can I do to make a positive difference in life?"

Yardley owes the senator and his readers an apology.

-- Douglas MacKinnon


The writer was Dole's press secretary from 1998 to 2003.

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