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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Where Has Dole Been for Last 4 Years?

Bob Dole spent the last week offending just about everybody he could. He told the anti-abortionist wing of his party that he'd pick a pro-abortion vice president if he wanted to. So there.

Then he told the gun lobby that he was no longer sure about overturning the Bill Clinton ban on assault rifles. So much for his friends.

Then he told the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, the grand and respectable old vehicle of the civil rights movement, that he would not come to their annual conference because they were all liberals who were trying "to set me up." So much for his enemies.

Along the way, he offended the overwhelming majority of Americans who don't smoke by saying that he was not at all sure that cigarettes were addictive, or that if they weren't good for children, nor was too much milk.

Even the most loyal of Republicans, and members of Dole's own policy advisory board, are saying this is the most feeble presidential campaign they have ever seen. Worse than McGovern's defeat by Richard Nixon in 1972, they say. Worse than the Lyndon Johnson landslide in 1964, which flattened Barry Goldwater.

It looks even worse than those disasters, William Buckley, the intellectual godfather of modern American conservatism, suggested the other day. At least Goldwater's sacrifice paved the way for the conservative revival, and at least McGovern's trouncing opened the way for his leftist allies to take over the party for a decade. Dole, by contrast, "threatens to leave no trace on history."

Dole's core problem is that deathbed letter of political advice he received from his old idol, former President Nixon. It was utterly routine, suggesting that to win the Republican nomination Dole "must run to the right, but for the general election, run back to the center."

For Dole, this has assumed the force of a mantra. He mutters it to himself, and is now running for the center by backing away from assault rifles and saying he wants a tolerance clause on abortion in the Republican party manifesto.

Where has this guy been for the past four years? The Christian Coalition, which means the anti-abortionists, now owns the Republican Party. In Texas, they even threw a very conservative Republican Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, off the state delegation to the party convention in San Diego because they thought she was not sufficiently zealous on abortion.

They only relented when right-wing champion Senator Pill Gramm said this was so outrageous that he would boycott San Diego too.

By now, this kind of civil war within the Republican Party should have been long over, as the party closed ranks for the election. But it still rages, with little time left. The Olympic Games are upon us until the second week in August, which is when the Republicans all gather in San Diego to nominate Bob Dole.

Dole has dreamed all along that he would be saved by the popular former general Colin Powell, finally agreeing to run as his vice president. Not a chance, Powell repeated last week. Nor would he make the keynote speech for Dole at San Diego. Nor would he campaign for him this autumn. That will teach Dole to shun the NAACP.