In 1991, on this day the forty-first President of the United States, George H.W. Bush was transferred by helicopter to Bethesda Naval Hospital after experiencing a shortness of breath, chest tightness, and a general feeling of fatigue while jogging at Camp David.
A Heartbeat AwayPhysicians immediately detected a rapid irregular heartbeat leading to a diagnosis that Bush was suffering from atrial fibrillation due to hyperthyroidism. When the prescription of digitalis, procainamide, and Coumadin failed to arrest the arrhythmia, an electrical shock was administered. Tragically, Bush went into cardiac arrest during this cardioversion, dying only minutes later.
Under the provisions of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, Dan Quayle was already the acting president. And now a different kind of shock was about to reverberate across the nation.
In 1991, the shock reverberating across the nation began to abate somewhat with the greatly reassuring news that Senator Robert Dole of Kansas had agreed to serve as Veep in the one-day old Quayle Administration.
A Heartbeat Away, Part 2Dole joined the United States Army's Enlisted Reserve Corps to fight in World War II. Dole became a second lieutenant in the Army's 10th Mountain Division. In April 1945, while engaged in combat near Castel d'Aiano in the Apennine mountains southwest of Bologna, Italy, Dole was hit by German machine gun fire in his upper right back. His right arm was also badly injured. When fellow soldiers saw the extent of his injuries all they thought they could do was to "give him the largest dose of morphine they dared and write an "M" for "morphine" on his forehead in his own blood, so that nobody else who found him would give him a second, fatal dose". Dole had to wait nine hours on the battlefield before being taken to the 15th Evacuation Hospital. His right arm was paralyzed; he often carried a pen in his right hand to signal that Dole could not shake hands with that arm. He was three times decorated for heroism, receiving two Purple Hearts for his injuries, and the Bronze Star with combat "V" for valor for his attempt to assist a downed radio man.
And so being a man of honour and sense of duty, for the good of the nation Dole had graciously agreed to serve under a man thirty years younger than him and in a position he had sought fifteen years before under Gerald Ford. And maybe to rebuild his reputation from the damage done during the 1988 election, ironically enough, by the winning candidate, George H.W. Bush who had died during an emergency cardioversion just twenty-four hours before.
Because despite having the support of President Ronald Reagan, Bush had managed to lose the Iowa Caucus and only just narrowly won the New Hampshire primary by pledging a "kinder and gentler nation" and smearing Dole as a tax raiser. In office, he dispensed with these cheap lies and sought to establish a new world order with America as a hyperpower, and he also raised taxes (despite pledging "read my lips - no new taxes"). Perhaps worse of all, during the campaign Bush had used every possibile photo opportunity to promote his own mobility, cruelly aware that Dole's war wounds preventing him from doing so as well. The day after his withdrawal from the race, Dole was gripped by a shattering epiphany, blaming himself for his defeat by "not being whole".
Still, Robert Dole picked himself up very quickly and soldiered on as old soldiers do. Only a few short months later, Quayle discovered that he was afflicted by blood disorder known as phlebitis, forcing him to withdraw from the upcoming presidential race. By then Dole had acted on his final election campaign pledge, to get George Bush from "stop lying about my record". That record had been set straight, and Dole looked comfortably on course for victory in 1992. It would be the last, and greatest mission of the World War Two Generation.