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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp
I was saddened when I heard the news of Jack Kemp’s death.  I knew it was coming.  Jack had cancer and I knew that it was only a matter of time.  At age 73, Jack Kemp had done more and accomplished more than most people ever think of.

He was a very successful football player who did it the hard way.  Although chosen in the 17th round of the NFL draft, he was dropped by three teams before going to the Canadian Football League, and then to the AFL where he led the Buffalo Bills to the 1964 and 1965 AFL Championships.

I didn’t know Jack Kemp when he was a football player and really didn’t follow his career.  However, when he came to the U.S. Congress in 1971, after serving in California Governor Ronald Reagan’s administration in Sacramento, I took note of his ability to clearly apply free market economics to helping all citizens achieve the American Dream.

In Congress, he worked hard and studied economics under free market economists like Professor Arthur Laffer (of the Laffer Curve fame), Paul Craig Roberts, and the late Bob Bartley (former Editor of The Wall Street Journal), among others.  My first connect with Jack was reading his book, An American Renaissance, a positive, uplifting book which explained how free markets benefit everyone, especially those at the bottom of the economic ladder.  Once the book was in paperback, my client, the College Republicans, distributed more than 500,000 copies of this book which helped to expand understanding of the power of free markets, especially within the Republican Party.

An early supporter of Ronald Reagan for President in 1980, Jack Kemp became the leading advocate within the Republican Party for what became known as “supply side” economics.  That’s when our paths crossed.

In early 1980, I became involved in a movement to draft Jack Kemp as Ronald Reagan’s running mate.  I thought then that he was and still believe he would have been the right running mate for Ronald Reagan.  That movement eventually evolved into an active committee that I had the privilege to co-chair with Jim Roberts, another long time Kemp fan.  Jack later credited that effort with propelling him into the ranks of leadership of the GOP.  While the effort on behalf of Jack Kemp in 1980 failed (as did his 1988 run for President), it gave me an opportunity to know Jack well.  I was never an insider and the committee was completely independent of Jack, but my contacts before and after the convention effort led me to know a kind, caring, very smart man who cared deeply about others, especially minorities, and loved his country before everything but his family and his God.

After Ronald Reagan was elected, Jack Kemp became the leading advocate of the tax rate reduction bill known as Kemp-Roth, which cut tax rates across the board by 30% over a three year period.  This bill is rightly credited with ending the stagflation days of Jimmy Carter and ushering in the longest period of economic growth in the history of the United States.  It certainly would not have happened without Jack Kemp.  And it is exactly what our nation needs today.

Ronald Reagan was a great President, but unfortunately he had a number of liberal Republican advisors who occasionally caught his ear and gave him bad advice.  I remember the button popular with conservatives that said, “Let Reagan be Reagan,” and then more humorously, “Let Kemp be Reagan.”  Jack was an untiring advocate of a low tax, powerful, and free economy.

Politically speaking, more than anything else, Jack Kemp embodied the new conservative movement and the new Republican Party—committed to freedom at every level, strongly pro-American, and colorblind when it came to race relations.  Not a bad legacy for a great American.

But politics was not an end all and be all for Jack Kemp.  He was very involved with and spent lots of time with his wife, his four children, and his 17 grandchildren.  They are his most important legacy.

Jack Kemp was imperfect like everyone else.  But at his core, he was a man of faith.  He had a faith that sustained him in good times and bad.  Most important of all, Jack knew that he was a sinner and that’s why he trusted in Jesus for his salvation. 

Jack, you are missed by many—rest in peace.

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