Monday, May 04, 2009

Jack Kemp

Americans heard the sad news on Sunday that former Congressman Jack Kemp had passed away the previous evening.

Kemp was one of the champions of economic liberty and, specifically, of the wisdom of supply-side economics during his years in Congress. He called himself a compassionate conservative before the Bush administration sullied that phrase, but Kemp lived up to the term.

He was passionate about issues affecting the urban poor, which led to his selection by the first President Bush as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and he had a unique and focused concern for Africa and for finding ways to reduce the endemic poverty of that continent.

Jack Kemp later went on to be Bob Dole's vice-presidential running mate in 1996, even after (belatedly) endorsing Steve Forbes for president that year. (Forbes himself decided to run only because Kemp removed himself from the race, saying that the field of candidates needed to include someone focused on tax reform and tax-cutting.)

I had just a handful of encounters over the years with then-Congressman Kemp, mostly at policy conferences and those weird Washington evenings that are a combination of business and pleasure.

On one of those occasions, in 1984 or 1985, I snapped a photo of Jack Kemp before he delivered a speech. (You can see the picture on the upper left of this column.) He is with Ernest W. Lefever (on the left) and Shelby Cullom Davis. Lefever was president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center at the time and was hosting one of the annual award dinners held under Mr. Davis' name. (This might have been taken the year that Jeane Kirkpatrick was given the Shelby Cullom Davis Award for Integrity and Courage in Public Life.)

Others can write more eloquently about Jack Kemp -- Leslie Carbone has a fine remembrance on her eponymous blog, as does sports business columnist Evan Weiner at the Examiner-- than I can. Suffice it to say that a man of Jack Kemp's intellect, passions, and determination will be sorely missed on the political scene.

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