But few congressional careers loom large. This is because legislative accomplishments are collaborative, the result of blurry compromises presented in pastels rather than sharp pictures painted in bold strokes of primary colors. Dole’s legislative life was the political life as Plutarch described it:
“They are wrong who think that politics is like an ocean voyage or a military campaign, something to be done with some particular end in view, something which leaves off as soon as that end is reached. It is not a public chore, to be got over with. It is a way of life. It is the life of a domesticated political and social creature who is born with a love for public life, with a desire for honor, with a feeling for his fellows.”
The melancholy dimension of Dole’s life was not that he failed to attain the presidency, for which he was not well-suited, but that in 1996 in quest of it, he left the Senate he loved and where he excelled. When Democrats considered offering their 1948 presidential nomination to Eisenhower, taciturn Sam Rayburn, House speaker, said of him: “Good man, but wrong business.” Rayburn’s words were wrong about Ike but would have been right about Dole the presidential aspirant. Two of those words are especially apposite: good man.