In 1984, when Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker of Tennessee retired, a spirited election took place in our Republican caucus to replace him. Five senators sought the post.
The voting took place in what is called the "old Senate chamber," a space too small for the full modern Senate but full of history. It was there that Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun held forth in some of the Senate's greatest years.
But the old Senate chamber was perfect when one party caucus needed a room to conduct business such as electing new leadership.
Voting for leadership was done by secret ballot. It was the only time senators' votes were not publicly recorded. Three rounds of votes were taken, and the contest finally came down to Sens. Bob Dole of Kansas and Ted Stevens of Alaska. As Dole knew, I had not voted for him on any of the first three rounds.
On the fourth, I did. As the tellers left the chamber to count the votes, I passed Dole a note: "If you win by one vote, it was me."
He won by one vote. Our relationship was cemented. "I put your note in my scrapbook," he told me later.
We served on the Agriculture Committee together. After he became leader he had less time for committee meetings so I often carried his message to the committee. Dole was particularly interested in the "feeding" programs, as was I and Sens. George McGovern of South Dakota and Tom Harkin of Iowa on the Democratic side. Dole's relationship with McGovern was particularly close. So was mine.
After our time in the Senate, both Dole and I served on the board of the Friends of the World Food Program (WFP). While there is much criticism of the U.N., the WFP is exceptional and has saved lives worldwide — so many that the count has been lost. Americans have historically led the WFP. McGovern served in that role with great distinction.
Bob also had a special relationship with Danny Inouye of Hawaii. Danny, another Democrat, was wounded in Italy in World War II, like Dole. Dan lost an arm and Dole lost the total use of an arm. They both landed for many months at the same army hospital in Michigan. The unbreakable bond that formed was carried over to the Senate.
Those were good days in the Senate, which I believe will return. The two party leaders will once again have breakfast together on most days, as did Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Trent Lott, R-Miss. They even wrote a book together.
During my Senate years I was the only senator who was foreign-born (Germany in my case) and thus was the only senator who was constitutionally barred from becoming president.
Whenever Dole saw me with Minnesotans in tow, he'd stop us and tell them: "Rudy is the only senator I can trust," and he'd explain that at last count I was the only senator not running for the White House. Dole, of course, was out in front of that parade.
I understand that a month ago, Dole asked to visit with President Joe Biden. Biden came over, and Dole, who must have sensed that the end was near, asked Biden to give the eulogy at his funeral and, of course, the president agreed.
As I say, those were good years in the Senate. They will come again.
Rudy Boschwitz represented Minnesota in the U.S. Senate, 1979-91.