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Sans campaign, Dole dead-pans post politics

Truth be told, I'd much rather shun political gatherings.

Read that as run away from them as fast as possible, which as an old guy isn't very fast anymore.

But I must say, despite butting heads with Bob Dole when he was a senator, I always enjoyed his quick wit and sharp mind. He still has both.

Never mind he's now 90, soon to turn 91 in July.

Make no mistake, the ravages of time are taking their toll. He needs a bit of help getting in and out of a vehicle, thanks in part to a bad knee. He'll use a wheelchair to make it partway into a building, but as a proud man, he prefers walking into a meeting on his own two feet -- even as aide Kirkland Hinds keeps a close watch and a tight grip on the World War II veteran.

That alone is a bit refreshing.

His wit, however, was especially refreshing.

That much, I can say from years of covering him, hasn't changed a bit.

And he can crack a joke without breaking a smile, an extraordinary trait if I've ever seen one and I've tried my level best to do just that.

The bigger issue is Dole was a statesman, not just for Kansas but for the nation as well.

Oh sure, he moved away, as big-city politicians are wont to do, but he never forgot where he came from, where he learned what he learned.

He could chit-chat with people on the street in Russell, in Hays or in WaKeeney, where he appeared recently.

It's just as refreshing Bob -- even though I admit I called him senator for the first time recently -- wanted to give back to the state, and that's why he's touring Kansas.

He's stopping at every county in the state, a rigorous challenge for anyone, never mind someone who's 90 years old.

"I decided at age 90, I better get out here and thank all of you for voting for me," he said.

I think he meant it. After all, his mortality demands it of him.

He came without an agenda, at least nothing visible.

He walked in, said his thanks and took his time before heading out. His aides sought to rush him along, but he'd have nothing to do with it.

Bob Dole was ready to stay as long as he needed to.

In these days of ultra-partisan politics, it's refreshing to see someone like Dole, who could cross the aisle and work with Democrats to get something done.

It's a shame Pat Roberts, Jerry Moran, Sam Brownback and especially Tim Huelskamp don't try to emulate Bob Dole, who said he tried to do the best he could.

"I figured I was overpaid," he said, pausing only briefly, his eyes twinkling just a bit. "But I took it anyway."

While I'm still as loathe to participate in these events, I took a moment to chat with Bob.

It was worth my time.

Mike Corn is a reporter

at The Hays Daily News.