Not long before the Inhofe team came calling and before Secret Service protection had begun for Senator Dole’s 1996 presidential run against President Clinton, i was asked to drive the combat-wounded American warrior from his campaign plane to a rally that would be held in the MillionAir hanger at the airport in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
I chose to watch Senator Dole’s car rather than attend his rally, so i don’t have any personal knowledge of how that went down. But what sticks with me from the moment the Senate Majority Leader joined me on the front seat of the sedan, throughout the drive to and from the hanger, and on the tarmac before he boarded his plane for yet another destination, was this: that the Senator from the neighboring state to the north was a man of unbounded energy and enthusiasm (‘remember a few years later, when he pitched Viagra on TV?) who displayed an infectious sense of humor and evident humility. The candidate’s thoughtfulness stuck with me, too; as he entered the car from his plane he extended to me his good hand, thereby sparing me the awkwardness that i thought might accompany our greeting. So, when the 95-year-old American combat warrior stood yesterday to salute a fellow combat warrior who had served as his President, I was reminded of what i had most taken away from our encounter at the Tulsa airport that day: that it had been my privilege to meet a truly great American who would never stop serving the Nation that he fought to defend.