Analysis: Chemical Vote Wins Dole Political Play Of The Week
Winning two in a row is unusual; what can he do for the Triple Crown?
By Bill Schneider/CNN
WASHINGTON (April 25) -- It's unusual for someone to carry off the political Play of the Week two weeks in a row. It's amazing when the man who does it is a defeated presidential candidate who's supposed to heading off into oblivion.
But Bob Dole proved again this week that he's still a political player.
What did he do? He saved President Bill Clinton's behind, that's what he did.
Until Dole made a surprise appearance at the White House on Wednesday, the outcome of the Senate vote on ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention was very much in doubt. The treaty needed 22 Republican votes to get the required two-thirds majority. Only nine Republicans had announced their support.
The president argued that U.S. world leadership was at stake: "The bottom line is this: will the United States join a treaty we helped to shape, or will we go from leading the fight against poison gas to joining the company of pariah nations this treaty seeks to isolate?"
The president's leadership was also at stake. A defeat on an international issue of this magnitude would have exposed Clinton to the world -- and to the country -- as ineffective.
Enter Dole. As presidential candidate, he wrote to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott in September, expressing concerns about the treaty. There was no way he wanted to hand Clinton a major victory in the middle of the campaign. An expected vote on the treaty was cancelled.
But this week, after receiving a letter from Clinton that reassured him that his concerns about the treaty had been met, Dole called the White House Wednesday to say he was ready to support it.
An hour later he was in the Roosevelt Room. "If I were present in the Senate," Dole said there, "I would vote for ratification of the CWC because of the many improvements that have been agreed to."
Dole's announcement turned the tide. It put enormous pressure on Lott to support the agreement, which he did, with some reluctance: "I will vote for the convention because I believe the U.S. is marginally better off with it than without it," Lott said.
Lott's announcement sealed the verdict. Twenty-nine Republican senators voted to ratify the treaty late Thursday night, seven more than necessary. In effect, the former Senate majority leader upstaged his successor.
"Senator Dole has a long history of doing what he thinks is right, and being able to surprise people with what he does," said Lott on Thursday. "He did it again yesterday."
Dole gave Republicans cover from the inevitable flak they're going to get from conservatives. Given the huge public support the treaty enjoys, Republicans might have gotten more flak if they had rejected it.
Bob Dole is famous for his relentlessness. He's always there. So what if he gave up his Senate seat and lost the election? He's still there. And he's still got influence. Enough to help deliver a crucial Senate vote. This guy's no loser. He's a player. And for the second week in a row, he's earned the political Play of the Week.
Last week, Dole saved House Speaker Newt Gingrich. This week, he saved the president. What's he gonna do next week? Well, there is an election In Britain on Thursday. Maybe he can save John Major's Conservative government. As Lott said when he was asked about Dole this week, "nothing surprises me anymore."
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