Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The man who opposed gun control and reform in his lifetimes has endorsed gun ownership
Former US Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican presidential nominee, has died at his home in Virginia at the age of 90.
An erstwhile right-wing activist and tea party activist who was counted as one of the leading forces behind the unpopular Iraq war, Mr Dole built his reputation for hardline conservative politics.
He was the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 1996, losing to Democrat Bill Clinton.
Mr Dole, the ‘Prince of Darkness’ as his detractors called him, died on Tuesday surrounded by his family, the office of US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
He was known for falling out of favour, which he attributed to his association with some of his left-leaning congressional colleagues.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Donald Trump was a major proponent of impeachment proceedings against Mr Dole in 1996
“You don’t hold too many seats in Congress if you’re known as the ‘Prince of Darkness’,” Mr Dole said.
His Republican Party was so weak in 1996 that he had to be forced to lose a primary election to become the party’s presidential nominee. The closest he came to winning the election was being nominated as the second choice of supporters of then-third-place Republican finisher Steve Forbes.
A vote against same-sex marriage in 2004 led to a Republican national convention refusal to make him a vice-presidential nominee.
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt said Mr Dole “had many of the qualities that make us great Americans – sense, judgment, conviction and integrity – all necessary to make good presidents”.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Bob Dole campaigning for president in 1996
“We are going to miss him as the father of our nation,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said the election of Mr Dole, who he also called “my friend,” in 1996 was “one of the best moments of my life”.
President Donald Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, praised Mr Dole’s passing as “a time to reflect on his years of service to our nation and his contributions to both the political and military worlds, a selfless servant of the people”.
Mr Dole’s one-time rival George HW Bush, the 41st president, who in 1988 faced Mr Dole in a race that the latter won in part because the incumbent was plagued by a weak economy, called him a man “who fought hard, fought with dignity and, for the love of country, fought for all Americans”.
Mr Dole, who wrote about his admiration for Mr Bush’s leadership style in his autobiography, On the Brink, said he was driven to enter politics after seeing how Iraq would shoot Americans after running wild across its Kuwaiti territory after the 1991 Gulf War.
In the Senate, he championed a classic – to him – conservative political philosophy of low taxes, strong defence and tough immigration policies. He opposed government regulation of business and signed legislation that permitted US oil companies to drill for more oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
Mr Dole often spoke out against gun control and voiced his opposition to proposals that could help prevent school shootings. He believed any background checks for gun purchases would infringe on Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms.
Image copyright EPA Image caption Bob Dole in 2008 with former Democratic vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin
Though he was respected by his GOP colleagues, he was known to be harsh in private. He and a handful of other senators attacked then-Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore’s health and well-being for many years – a vicious whispering campaign that Democrats believed went hand-in-hand with Mr Dole’s loss in the presidential election.
Mr Dole was also a leading opponent of affirmative action and a foe of abortion rights. In 2004, he wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that was criticised by many conservatives who thought it was an unwarranted threat to Mr George W Bush’s re-election.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Mr Dole was the first person to win the Republican presidential nomination twice
He never married, but famously proclaimed once: “I have had to give all I had to be elected twice as Republican candidate for president. I never thought I would, so I didn’t have a wife.”
In 2008, he lamented his heavy voting record in favour of Democratic legislation on education and other policy issues. He also felt he had been unwilling to be more aggressive against Iraq.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Bob Dole addresses the National Governors Association in 2014
– BBC News