Bob Dole was honoured on Friday at the Washington National Cathedral as US leaders gathered to pay tribute to the long-time Kansas senator’s ability to practise bare-knuckle politics without losing an overriding sense of civility.
Dole’s flag-draped casket was carried in by a military honour guard as the congregation stood and Dole’s wife, former North Carolina senator Elizabeth Dole, and daughter, Robin, looked on.
Joining top leaders of Congress at the invitation-only ceremony included President Joe Biden, members of his Cabinet and former Republican vice presidents Mike Pence, Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle. Bill Clinton, who beat Dole to win re-election as president in 1996, was also in attendance.
“There’s something that connects that past and present, war time and peace, then and now. The courage, the grit, the goodness and the grace of Bob Dole,” said Mr Biden, who touched Dole’s casket before speaking and mentioned his “50 years of friendship” with the long-time senator.
Mr Biden called Dole a “giant of our time and of all time”, and added that Dole was worried at the end of his life about American democracy being threatened by today’s bitter political battles — even noting that infighting from both parties “grows more unacceptable day by day".
Dole, who died on Sunday at age 98, was wounded during the Second World War, served nearly 36 years in Congress and was a Republican Senate leader for more than a decade. In February, he announced he had been diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer.
Dole’s casket was then taken to the World War II Memorial on the National Mall where a public “celebration of life” featured Tom Hanks, Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the US Army Band.
Hanks delivered a warm tribute to Dole at the memorial.
"To appreciate the life and the accomplishments of Bob Dole, simply look around and where we have gathered today at this national memorial to the Americans who gave their lives for the common good and the common cause of saving the world from tyrants," said Hanks.
Besides his sharp, often sarcastic tongue, among Dole’s best-known attributes were his pragmatic brand of politics and self-deprecating wit — representing the sense of compromise of a bygone era.
Mr Biden delivered a vivid, visceral eulogy, pointing to how Dole had volunteered for military service and being gravely wounded.
“God, what courage Bob Dole had,” Mr Biden said, and added that, “I found Bob to be a man of principle, pragmatism and enormous integrity” who the president said was devoted to “country, to honour - literally dedicated to finding the common good".
The former senator's body will travel to Kansas, where weekend events include a public viewing at St Mary Queen of Angels Catholic Church in his hometown of Russell. He will later be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
Friday’s services followed Dole lying in state on Thursday under the dome of the US Capitol he so loved.
Among those paying respects was Mr Quayle, who at one point touched Dole’s casket and said: “Bye, buddy.”