Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

An Idea Man with Enthusiasm to Spare

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

An Idea Man with Enthusiasm to Spare

Article excerpt

Jack Kemp was excited. "Richard, would you try it?" he asked me. We were flying in a private plane from East Texas to Buffalo, N.Y., and Kemp had just awakened after a short nap, his hair as presidential as when he had dozed off.

He was talking about his pet project, enterprise zones, about which I was skeptical. "Would you try it, Richard?" he yelled over the roar of the plane. "Are you happy with the way things are now? What's wrong with trying it? Richard, would you try it?" I had a choice. I could either get off the plane or agree.

"I'd try it."

That moment from Jack Kemp's brief 1988 presidential campaign sticks with me because it says so much about the man. To call him enthusiastic about ideas is like calling Sharon Stone not bad looking. For Kemp, certain ideas are like uppers. They make him high. They excite him and cause him to proselytize. In another era, he would have gathered some people and gone off into the desert. This being 1990s, he helped start a think tank.

The truth is at that moment, I would have joined Kemp in the desert. He's a likable guy, all right, with a keen mind and a good sense of humor, even about himself. And while he has orthodoxies of his own, he's good at questioning those of others.

In three areas, he absolutely certain of himself. Kemp believes fervently that God wants taxes as low as possible; he thinks people do best when left to their own devices (empowerment); and he is as pro-Israel as was my grandmother - maybe more so.

At the same time, he is also the Republican who has spoken out against his party's sometimes-ugly immigrant-bashing (California's Proposition 187, for instance) and he would not, I think, put up for a second with the equally ugly gay-bashing. Similarly, he has warned Republicans and others that it is not enough to simply denounce affirmative action. You have to acknowledge that America has an abiding race problem and do something about it - such as expand opportunities.

It is true, of course, that in a conventional sense, Kemp brings Dole very little - no region, such as the South, no state, such as California or New York. The man was a Californian once and a New Yorker later (U. …

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