Jack Kemp The Bleeding-Heart Conservative Who Changed America


Jack Kemp:  The Bleeding-Heart Conservative Who Changed America is by two veteran reporters Fred Barnes, a long-time conservative, and Morton Kondracke, a liberal with humane sensibilities and honor.  WARNING: THIS BOOK MAY BE THE MOST DEPRESSING BOOK I READ THIS SUMMER.

How depressing?  I may have to follow it up by reading 20th century Nihilists, Existentialists, and Doomsdayers just to recover.

Why does it seem to be so potentially depressing?  Thanks for asking.

Jack Kemp, a political leader during the 1980s and 1990s, was reminds me of Donald Trump in this sense:  He was the opposite of Trump in every way.  Okay, I will concede that Kemp had a full head of hair like Trump, but Kemp’s hair was real and went from salt-and-pepper to completely gray.  He aged with style just as he did everything else with style.

Let’s look at particulars:

Jack Kemp (1935-2009) had actual political experience.  He was elected to the House of Representatives from a predominantly Democrat district in New York state.  He quickly became a leader in the areas of economics and tax reform.  He was the co-author of the Kemp-Bradley Bill during that time.  He worked closely with President Ronald Reagan, agreeing most of the time with the President, but not following in lock-step.  He also served for several years as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  (Turning the under-developed portions of cities into safe and productive areas was a deep passion of his.)  In 1996, he ran for the office of Vice President on the ticket headed up by his often-time rival in Republican politics, Senator Bob Dole.

Kemp was chocked full of facts and figures regarding economic policy.  Trump occasionally hits a fact, but knows no details.

Kemp was a serious student of economics.  For years, he was a successful professional football player and quarterback. But when he turned to politics, he read and studied extensively.

Trump obviously deals with money, but seems to have little understanding of real economics other than have to file for bankruptcy.

Kemp was a gentleman in politics.  In fact, one of the contentions of the book is that he was too hesitant to attack other people.  He even viewed his Democrat rivals as friends and friendly rivals.  That is not to say that he did not have deep and divisive differences, but he was a model of political decorum.

Trump is a professional wrestler without the athletic skills of wrestlers.  Trump spouts off vicious things constantly.  He has taken political discourse, which is always far too abrasive, and plunged it to unimaginably low levels.

Kemps’s speeches were too often too detailed and laden with economic explanations.  Even though he was a protege and co-worker with Ronald Reagan, he was not able to follow in the rhetorical footsteps of the Great Communicator.  He was, in short, too brainy.

Trump’s speeches are rambling, error-filled, hate mongering, and stupid.

Kemp was a man of Christian convictions.  He was a Presbyterian and had met with such Christian leaders as Francis Schaeffer. (Fred Barnes noted that his own wife still attends a weekly Bible study hosted by Kemp’s widow.) Trump, while claiming to be Presbyterian (oh, the shame of that for all of us who are Presbyterian) shows no understanding of even the basics of Christianity.

Kemp envisioned expanding the Republican Party to reach more minorities and poor people.

Trump fuels the anger, largely white male anger, that is in the electorate.

It is a shame that Kemp never made it to the White House.  George H. W. Bush would have been well served if he had chosen Kemp as his Vice Presidential candidate in 1988 rather than the unvetted, unprepared, light weight Dan Quayle.

Even better would have been the nation if Kemp had actually been in the White House instead of either of the Bush men or Clinton.

I will be depressed reading this book.  (I am only on page 16 for now.)  But it is essential reading.  We must  be reminded that there have been, and God willing, will be good, wise, thoughtful leaders again in this nation.

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