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The Game is Over
May 2, 2009 7:33 PM   Subscribe

Jack Kemp, Buffalo Bills quarterback, Bob Dole's running mate, and New York congressman, is dead at 73.
posted by william_boot (51 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by dancestoblue at 7:45 PM on May 2, 2009


As an American in my 30's, this makes me sad. In the 1980's Jack Kemp and Mikhail Gorbachev were my two political heroes. Though some of his positions now strike me as repugnant, I remember Kemp fondly.

Since I lean left politically and often vote Democrat, this makes me either a little nervous, or a little hopeful. Because maybe the passing of Jack Kemp will remind the Republican party of what it used to be--a party that really could compete with the Democrats on substantive issues. Kemp's signature issue--"enterprise zones" which would create tax and other incentives to provide jobs in struggling communities, as opposed to government support on a traditional welfare model--is just the sort of credible idea that Republicans gave up on to become the party of George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. When was the last time you heard a Republican candidate seriously champion the enterprise zone as an approach to social problems?

During this period of Republican soul-searching, they could do much much worse than to look back to Jack Kemp as they consider how to succeed as a party on a platform that doesn't rely entirely on scapegoating and fearmongering.
posted by washburn at 8:05 PM on May 2, 2009 [18 favorites]


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posted by R. Mutt at 8:05 PM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


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(His style didn't win over everyone. In his memoirs, former Vice President Dan Quayle wrote that at Cabinet meetings, Bush would be irked by Mr. Kemp's habit of going off on tangents and not making "any discernible point.")

Ha! You would think that given George H. W. Bush's own legendary incoherence, he would have cut Kemp a little slack.
posted by zarq at 8:13 PM on May 2, 2009


This passage from the New York Times obit made me laugh:
In one exchange, in 1985, Mr. Dole said, “Kemp wants a business deduction for hair spray.” Mr. Kemp retorted: “In a recent fire, Bob Dole’s library burned down. Both books were lost. And he hadn’t even finished coloring one of them.”
posted by stopgap at 8:16 PM on May 2, 2009 [17 favorites]


Jack Kemp nodded at me once in Washington, D.C., in 1995. There seemed to be something genuine in his glance.

Ever since then, I have thought he was a fundamentally decent guy.

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posted by jayder at 8:25 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Stopgap: my knowledge of Kemp is limited to "He was either Dole's VP running mate, or some kind of fish." But that shit is hilarious.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 8:26 PM on May 2, 2009


maybe the passing of Jack Kemp will remind the Republican party of what it used to be--a party that really could compete with the Democrats on substantive issues.

Jack Kemp

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The Republicans as the Party of Ideas

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posted by jonp72 at 8:29 PM on May 2, 2009


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posted by Ironmouth at 8:49 PM on May 2, 2009


During this period of Republican soul-searching, they could do much much worse than to look back to Jack Kemp as they consider how to succeed as a party on a platform that doesn't rely entirely on scapegoating and fearmongering.

How true. RIP Mr. Kent.
posted by caddis at 8:50 PM on May 2, 2009


My family never talked politics when I was growing up so I was surprised to learn that my dad was a Kemp supporter in the 1990s.


posted by mrt at 8:53 PM on May 2, 2009


For years, Kemp had a summer home in Vail, CO. My brother has been a resident of Vail for more than 30 years and operated an office supplies store there until recently. My brother was quite surprised to see Kemp come in his front door one day and look around. After a few minutes he came to the counter with more than a dozen pens; fountain, roller ball, Sharpie, cheap Bic — assorted shapes, sizes and function. One thing my brother's store was great for was a wide variety of hundreds of types of pens.

Apparently Kemp really liked finding so many different pens to choose from because for the next few years this became a regular occurrence. About once a month during the summer Kemp would pop in the store, grab as many as two dozen different pens, chat up the employees and customers, then go on about his business. Anecdotally, my brother will tell you that Kemp always had a pleasant smile and disposition... and must have really lost a lot of pens.
posted by netbros at 8:55 PM on May 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


How insulting that I mistyped his name. RIP Mr. Kemp.

In your honor may President Obama press for a ten percent across the board ten percent tax cut.
posted by caddis at 9:01 PM on May 2, 2009


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posted by Stynxno at 9:04 PM on May 2, 2009


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posted by EatTheWeak at 9:06 PM on May 2, 2009


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posted by pianoboy at 9:16 PM on May 2, 2009


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posted by buzzman at 9:19 PM on May 2, 2009


People like Jack Kemp and Bill Bradley always made me happy as a kid. They were, in my mind, to politics what the Harlem Globetrotters were to Gilligan's Island or Scooby-Doo. Something to add a little excitement to a pretty lame show...

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posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:28 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's always a tragedy when a Presidential nominee outlives his running mate. RIP, Mr. Kemp.
posted by Bromius at 9:30 PM on May 2, 2009


It's always a tragedy when a Presidential nominee outlives his running mate.

I'm sorry, I don't mean to derail the thread, but I don't understand this assertion. Why is it "tragic" that Dole outlived Kemp?

posted by scody at 9:35 PM on May 2, 2009


I'm sorry, I don't mean to derail the thread, but I don't understand this assertion. Why is it "tragic" that Dole outlived Kemp?

Because Dole is 107 and should by all rights be dead now?

posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:43 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kemp was a good man, and represented the best of the Republican party: their principles. Delay and Barbour and their ilk gutted it and now it's just a gigantic criminal enterprise.

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posted by intermod at 10:13 PM on May 2, 2009


Because Dole is 107 and should by all rights be dead now?

Hmm, I thought he was just 106, but I see your point. I still don't quite understand the broader assertion that it's "tragic" for a presidential candidate to live longer than his running mate. I mean, I loved Lloyd Bentsen's takedown of Quayle as much as anyone, but I don't think it's actually a tragedy that he died before Michael Dukakis. Anyway, sorry for the derail.

posted by scody at 10:25 PM on May 2, 2009


I remember seeing some political debate footage from the 60s/ 70s (Woody Allen & Oral Roberts?) and thinking how goddamn civilized politics were back in that era. It seems like Kemp was a bastion of that same spirit, right down to this last election. God speed, Jack.
posted by boo_radley at 10:37 PM on May 2, 2009


An example from 2008 where Kemp pretty much tells Sean Hannity to go to hell.
posted by boo_radley at 10:42 PM on May 2, 2009


Maybe I'll mention this at work on Monday as an oblique way to hint that it would be nice to provide matching IRA funds for employees who are not in upper management.
posted by longsleeves at 11:17 PM on May 2, 2009


Nah, better not.
posted by longsleeves at 11:17 PM on May 2, 2009


I'm not sure why I find it grating that the first word that is used to describe Jack Kemp in several of the memorials I've read tonight is "quarterback".

What is it with Americans and football?
posted by newfers at 11:19 PM on May 2, 2009


What is it with Americans and football?

Thanks for the broad brush paintjob. Also, what is it with Europeia and football?
posted by longsleeves at 11:33 PM on May 2, 2009


The BBC story. Football is mentioned, newfers, because Kemp played for ten years and was by all accounts quite good at it.
posted by boo_radley at 12:58 AM on May 3, 2009


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posted by aerotive at 4:52 AM on May 3, 2009


A Letter to my Grandchildren

November 12, 2008

Dear Kemp grandchildren -- all 17 of you, spread out from the East Coast to the West Coast, and from Wheaton College in Illinois, to Wake Forest University in North Carolina:

My first thought last week upon learning that a 47-year-old African-American Democrat had won the presidency was, "Is this a great country or not?"

You may have expected your grandfather to be disappointed that his friend John McCain lost (and I was), but there's a difference between disappointment over a lost election and the historical perspective of a monumental event in the life of our nation
(letter continues)
posted by orthogonality at 5:29 AM on May 3, 2009 [20 favorites]


That letter is quite moving. I always thought Kemp was a decent guy from broad impressions, but the letter deepens the impression. Seems oddly of a piece with Specter's party switch and Souter's retirement. We're watching the GOP devolve into a hard right fringe party fast now. One would hope Kemp's letter, and indeed his death, would be cause for a little soul-searching and reflection among the remaining few million "moderate" Republicans abroad in the land.

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posted by fourcheesemac at 7:09 AM on May 3, 2009


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What a truly, truly good man. He will be missed.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:43 AM on May 3, 2009


He was too good to be a Republican. Perhaps in an alternate universe he never was.
posted by tommasz at 8:43 AM on May 3, 2009


One of the few Republicans in recent memory that I've thought well of. That party needs more people like him.

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posted by Ryvar at 9:39 AM on May 3, 2009


Why is it "tragic" that Dole outlived Kemp?

Scody, I'm pretty sure this is just a play on the cliche about a parent outliving their child. See also Homer Simpson's "It's every father's dream to outlive his children."

posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:47 AM on May 3, 2009


I met Jack Kemp in 1989 when I was in Washington D.C. for the George H. W. Bush inauguration; I went with a Presbyterian youth group. We had tickets to the inauguration and all the festivities, though we were hoping the other guy (Dukakis) would win. We did some sightseeing before the inauguration, (went into the bell tower of the and we also did some work in a soup kitchen. The first thing that we did was get settled in the church where we would be staying, and Jack met us there. He gave an inspiring yet intimate talk to our group, answering questions and really taking his time with us, afterward giving us a tour of the less-well-off parts of D.C. As others have said, he was a man of integrity, and he seemed to me to genuinely care about people; he was the type of politician who really believed he and we could make a difference. What struck me most at the time was that he was taking time out of his busy schedule (especially in the few days before the inauguration) to come to a church and talk to a (small) bunch of teens.

He also worked at the soup kitchen with us.

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posted by exlotuseater at 10:18 AM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Thanks for the broad brush paintjob. Also, what is it with Europeia and football?"

How would I know this?
posted by newfers at 10:20 AM on May 3, 2009


^ that should be "bell tower of the [whichever is the BIG church in D.C.-- can't remember] and we also . . ."
posted by exlotuseater at 10:21 AM on May 3, 2009


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posted by brundlefly at 11:16 AM on May 3, 2009


a platform that doesn't rely entirely on scapegoating and fearmongering.

The implication being that a platform that relies at least partially on these tactics is ok?

The reality is that the Wallace-inflected Southern Strategy of the so-called "Reagan Revolution" was built in no small measure on coded appeals to racism, scapegoating and fearmongering. From the Federalist mantra of "states rights" to the pejorative "welfare mothers," and all the way down to Lee Atwater's "use" of Willie Horton for Bush One, modern Republicanism these past 30 years has been dominated by playing to the politics of division.
posted by ornate insect at 11:26 AM on May 3, 2009


First Specter switches, and now Kemp dies. I'm running out of Republicans to respect.

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posted by box at 11:46 AM on May 3, 2009


He was horrifyingly wrong in most of his opinions, but he was also a decent human being. Unlike so many modern Republicans he seems to have arrived at his errors simply by faulty reasoning or bad assumptions, rather than sheer vindictive meanness of spirit.

His refusal to play the Republican game of race bating is truly praiseworthy.

So, here's to you Mr. Kemp.
posted by sotonohito at 12:32 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


ornate insect writes: The implication being that a platform that relies at least partially on these tactics [scapegoating and fearmongering] is ok?

Of course not. My implication is rather that, as you put it, modern Republicanism these past 30 years has been dominated by playing to the politics of division.

And, I'd add, those divisive strategies won't be going away anytime soon. My point was that it will be beneficial for the US to have political debate that includes a greater proportion, however small that proportion might be, of policy discussions that involve more than just Lee Atwater or Carl Rove's coded expressions of fear and loathing for The Other.

Reading this thread as a whole, I should also make one other more general point with regard to Kemp: many of his favored policies really were potentially quite injurious. He supported a flat tax, opposed any minimum wage, and was one of the chief architects of the Regan tax cuts. He opposed abortion rights, affirmative action, and believed (at one point, anyhow) that gay men and women should be prohibited from teaching public schools.

So in appreciating him honestly, it's important not to forget the ways in which Kemp was totally mistaken. But at least, I think, he was genuinely preoccupied with issues of race and poverty in the US, and sincere in his belief that "market-based solutions" would produce better results for those living with the consequences of past and present racial and economic discrimination in the US. And given the history of the welfare state in the U.S., some of his thinking here has enough plausibility to bear some serious reconsideration. So, with respect to Jack Kemp: credit where credit's due, and blame where it belongs, as well.
posted by washburn at 12:41 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 1:14 PM on May 3, 2009


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posted by lullaby at 1:59 PM on May 3, 2009


A decent guy, but a little goofy on the issues. On the stump he would get himself spun up on the gold standard, which pretty much doomed him as a serious national candidate.

My favorite comment about Kemp was that during his football career he had probably seen more African Americans naked than most Republicans had ever met.
posted by hawkeye at 4:06 PM on May 3, 2009


Apparently Kemp really liked finding so many different pens to choose from because for the next few years this became a regular occurrence. About once a month during the summer Kemp would pop in the store, grab as many as two dozen different pens, chat up the employees and customers, then go on about his business. Anecdotally, my brother will tell you that Kemp always had a pleasant smile and disposition... and must have really lost a lot of pens.

I actually know the answer to this: Jack Kemp signed a LOT of autographs. He was constantly receiving memorabilia from fans, almost always football memorabilia rather than political stuff. He would autograph in response to all requests except for the most obnoxious (tactless collectible marketeers). He also sent autographed photographs to people who sent him personal letters of support. Jack ended up spending a lot of time each week on autographs and correspondence like that.
posted by Slap Factory at 4:49 PM on May 3, 2009


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posted by LakesideOrion at 6:16 AM on May 4, 2009


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posted by NikitaNikita at 8:54 AM on May 4, 2009


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