Bob Dole: Washington Not Broken, But 'It Is Bent'

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Washington isn't broken yet, but it will take an attitude adjustment to fix it.

Former Senator Bob Dole offered that assessment Thursday. The longtime Republican leader spoke with 13 News after shaking hands and posing for photos with nearly 100 supporters at the Crestview Park Shelterhouse in Topeka.

It was the latest stop on Dole's tour to thank Kansans for their decades of support. The Crestview appearance marked the 24th county on a tour which has spanned a three-day swing in April and four days on the current legs so far. He plans to visit all 105 Kansas counties by fall.

Asked why he would take on such an ambitious goal at the age of 90, Dole said it's not really grueling.

"We're busy," he said. "I sleep well at night. I love the people. Whether they supported me or not, they're Kansans."

Dole may be officially retired from political office, but he'll still talk shop. In responding to a woman who shared how a family friend had been killed in Iraq, Dole told the crowd he felt the U.S. had improved Iraq and Afghanistan, but that the leadership in those countries was suspect. He says the deaths of so many Americans in those countries has American citizens skeptical of jumping into another conflict. He says it's something to consider among growing tensions with Russia. Dole says he supports stronger sanctions against Russia so president Vladimir Putin "feels the pinch."

While Dole had a hand in shaping foreign policy over nearly four decades in Congress, he says he's most proud of accomplishments closer to home. He said working with farmers on agricultural issues is among his greatest accomplishments.

"Farmers aren't mentioned very often but it's pretty important to consumers that we have a good farm bill," said Dole, who spent more than 30 years on House and Senate agriculture committees.

Dole also lists a bipartisan effort in 1983 to save social security and championing the Americans with Disbilities Act, which he said opened doors for many. However, Dole says work remains. The event began with a young boy named Ethan, who receives services from Easter Seals Capper Foundation, presenting Dole with cookies to thank him for his work advocating for people with disabilities. Dole thanked him, then told Ethan's father, Chris McGee, that he still hoped Congress would approve a United Nation's treaty that would ban discrimination against people with disabilities.

Left with a permanent disability himself from wounds suffered in World War II, Dole said he also is proud of his role in giving his fellow veterans their own memorial in Washington. He asked for any World War II veterans in the crowd to stand and be recognized. He then reminded the crowd of the Honor Flight program, which brings WWII veterans to the memorial at no cost.

But Dole said he is not so proud of what's developed in the halls of Congress. Is Washington broken?

"It's not broken but it is bent," he said. "They're good people but they don't get along. The result is we don't get things done."

Dole says a new President needs to embrace Congress.

"President Obama is a very nice man but I think his leadership style is lacking," Dole said. "You've got to put your arms around the Congress and get acquained with the members if you're going to get legislations passed and that's one area he's failed."

But Congress isn't blameless. Dole says lawmakers need to re-embrace the concept of middle ground. He said there are about 20-25 House members and a handful of Senators who are "way out in right field" and continuously disagree with their leadership.

"If you elect someone to lead your efforts, you ought to support that person," Dole said. "My view is you can be a traditional Republican conservative and still understand that sometimes compromise is necessary and it's also good to work across the aisle and develop friendships."

Dole joked that he would be launching his 2016 presidential campaign soon, but then said he doesn't believe we've yet seen the person who will emerge as the GOP candidate. He says there are a lot of young, talented members of Congress who don't necessarily have the experience yet for the Oval Office.

As for his own legacy, Dole says it's about people.

"I just enjoyed my work," he said. "I'm a people person. I had a great opportunity because of the people of Kansas."