Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Champion of the Gridiron, and of Racial and Ethnic Pandering: Remembering Jack Kemp

By Nicholas Stix

On Saturday night, 73-year-old former AFL quarterback and Republican congressman, HUD secretary, presidential and vice-presidential candidate, Jack Kemp, died of cancer in his Bethesda, Maryland home, surrounded by his family, and with his pastor at hand.

In “In Memoriam: Jack Kemp—His Moment Came and Went. What about America’s?” my editor at VDARE, Peter Brimelow, wrote that Kemp was an unthinking supporter of open borders and affirmative action, and openly hostile towards anyone who questioned such dubious positions.

My earliest memory of “Jackie” Kemp, as I believe he was then called by football announcers, was during the 1969 football season, the last for both Kemp and the old American Football League. Kemp, the quarterback for the once stalwart but by then lowly (4-10) Buffalo Bills, was taking a hellacious beating. I don’t recall who the Bills were playing that day, but on every play when the Bills had the ball, the other team was in jailbreak mode. As soon as Kemp took the snap, he seemed to be hit by all 11 players from the opposition’s defensive unit, plus players coming off the bench, coaches, assistants, trainers and water boys. Thank God, in the old AFL, teams had a fraction as much personnel as they now do!

Where were Kemp’s teammates? Beats me. It seemed as though they’d all deserted him. Watching as a little boy, I thought the man might die from the punishment.

That was also the first season of the future Butcher of Brentwood. After the season, in his first ghost-written book, know-it-all rookie O.J. Simpson would criticize Kemp.

Kemp’s stats, even from his best seasons, are underwhelming by today’s standards. He always threw more picks than touchdowns, and only twice had a completion average of 50 percent or higher. And yet, he was a winner, with a record of 65-37-3 in his regular season starts, and was considered one of the league’s best signal callers. (Statistical standards for QBs were vastly lower then, especially in the AFL. Kemp actually set several AFL passing records.) In nine seasons in the league, he was named to seven Pro Bowls, was a first-team all-pro twice, won the 1965 AP award as the AFL Player of the Year, and led the Bills to back-to-back AFL championships in 1964 and 1965.

I have devoted so much space to Kemp’s football career because, although the first page of his Google hits lists no pro football pages, everything that he did thereafter was built on it, and he used football metaphors and gestures throughout his political career. No AFL, no congressional career; no AFL, no appointment as HUD secretary, no presidential or vice-presidential candidacy, no Empower America sinecure. Kemp would have just been a big guy with a broad smile, helmet hair, and a firm handshake. He would likely have become some sort of salesman, a successful one, no doubt, of local repute.

Kemp retired from pro football following the 1969 season, and segued directly into electoral politics, winning the 1970 congressional election for the Buffalo area.


Jack Kemp served nine terms in Congress (1971 through 1988), the high point of which was the 1981 Kemp-Roth Bill he shepherded with Sen. William Roth (R-DE) which, as fellow supply-sider Bruce Bartlett recalled in 2002, cut federal “tax rates by about 30% across the board” for three years.

Kemp-Roth was Kemp’s one major political accomplishment. That bill helped drive the 1980s’ economic recovery under President Ronald Reagan, and has ever since been inextricably associated with “Reaganomics.”

Unfortunately, Kemp was a fanatical supply-sider who seemed to believe that tax cuts were the cure for everything that ailed the economy and the government, a preoccupation which has caused the GOP not only to alienate voters who are not simply economic (Randian?) Republicans, but to leave the Party unwilling and unable to confront the growing, twin catastrophes of race and mass immigration.

Kemp unsuccessfully challenged Vice President George H.W. Bush for the GOP presidential nomination in 1988. President Bush then rewarded his erstwhile rival with the cabinet post of HUD secretary.


Kemp was also a fanatical—yes, this is a recurring theme—member of the Open Borders Lobby, willing to misappropriate a quote from George Washington, if it served his purpose. Had Kemp done his homework, he would have learned that you cannot have massive tax cuts, open borders, and a welfare state. Hell, tax cuts aside, as the late Milton Friedman never tired of saying, you can’t have open borders and a welfare state.

In 1994, shortly before the vote on Prop. 187, which would have “den[ied] public benefits to illegal aliens in California,” cutting off illegal immigrants from using most welfare programs, Kemp condemned it “as a threat to civil liberties, racial harmony and ‘the soul of the Republican Party.’”

Voters ignored him and William Bennett, who also attacked the referendum, and voted 60 percent in favor of it. The proposition, which saved the political hide of Gov. Pete Wilson, and momentarily forestalled the decline of the California GOP, was illegally struck down by Democratic federal judge Marianna Pfaelzer, and sandbagged first by Republican California Attorney General Dan Lungren, and then by Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

After term limits forced Wilson into retirement in 2000, instead of following his lead, the California GOP and state and national open borders shills, including neocons, rewrote history, to present Prop. 187 as having hurt the California GOP. In 2004, California Republicans tried to resuscitate Prop. 187, but found themselves sandbagged by their own party.


Jack Kemp called himself a “bleeding-heart conservative.” His approach to race politics was to say, in effect, “I love black people!” He loved to talk about how he had depended on black teammates in the pros, and was the only Republican of his day who enthusiastically spoke before racist, anti-Republican black audiences (if he spoke before black conservatives, I’m not aware of it). He would never miss a chance to tell his black listeners how terrible the GOP was on race. Black crowds ate it up.

It was in this spirit that Kemp attacked the successful “culture war” speech Pat Buchanan gave at the 1992 Republican convention, leading the Party leadership and President George H.W. Bush to triangulate left, and thereby lose the election.

Kemp was a fanatical—sorry—supporter of affirmative action. He supported stealing jobs, college slots, and contracts with public agencies from qualified white and Asian candidates and firms, and giving them to unqualified blacks. I wish I could say that Kemp alone, in the GOP, supported such racism, but in fact, excepting for Reagan, the party has supported it at least since President Nixon.

Back when he was President George H.W. Bush’s HUD secretary, Kemp came up with his big idea on race: He would give the apartments in housing projects to the blacks already living in them. Becoming owners would then instill so much pride in the occupants that they would take wonderful care of the apartments. This was the cornerstone of Kemp’s idea of “empowerment,” a Marxist buzzword he made his own, and which other Republicans then echoed.

There was one huge problem with Kempian “empowerment”: It was still Marxist! The people in the projects had had the option of home ownership all along. All they had to do was work and scrimp and save enough for a down payment on a home within their means, buy it, and keep up with the mortgage payments. But that wasn’t what Kemp was talking about: He wanted to give, for nothing, public property that had been built almost entirely on the backs of white taxpayers, to blacks who had made no contribution to it. So whites would pay for their own homes, and pay for “free” homes for blacks.

For instance, Kemp’s “HOPE” Program—“Homeownership and Opportunity for People Everywhere”—offered “financial assistance to homebuyers, including interest rate buy-downs and downpayment assistance.”

Kemp was a prophet! He was proposing, over ten years in advance, the notion of empowerment that President George W. Bush would eventually embrace, in terms of giving low or no-money-down mortgage loans to black and Hispanic deadbeats.

Mind you, I used to like Kemp, too. For one thing, at the time he was HUD secretary, I was still a Democrat, and for another, his fans in the media never mentioned who would be paying the tab for “empowerment.” And he is an affable guy, as long as you don’t stand to the right of him.

Kemp’s racial pandering got him absolutely nowhere electorally. In 1996, when he was Bob Dole’s running mate, the blacks who applauded his speeches all voted for Bill Clinton.

But Kemp never learned. In late 2007, he was so stupid as to condemn Republican presidential candidates for not attending a “debate about race relations” organized by racist, black talk show host Tavis Smiley, and scheduled to take place at neo-segregationist Morgan State University.

Kemp appeared on Smiley’s show to denounce his fellow Republicans, insisting that their non-appearance would hurt the party electorally.

With black voters?!

Anyone could see that the “debate” was a set-up. The black racists who organize and attend such occasions are openly hostile towards Republican politicians, would have pressured the candidates to denounce their own party (as Kemp did without pressure), yet would have self-righteously pulled the lever for the Democratic Party, anyway. Meanwhile, the GOP would have lost voters through alienating their white base. Indeed, John McCain might still have won the election, had he not rejected his white base for Hispanics, who in turn voted overwhelmingly against him. (McCain is now mad at the Hispanics! He’s a damned fool, but at least he is not utterly impervious to reality.)

Politically, Kemp was irremediable. Unfortunately, the current Republican hierarchy appears to share his condition.

Speaking of the GOP, some of the kindest words for Kemp came from Bob and Liddy Dole:
Elizabeth Dole recalled Kemp's unceasing energy and boundless enthusiasm for causes he believed in. Bob Dole said: "If you ever wanted to meet an eternal optimist, there was one. There was a solution to everything. He inspired a lot of people.

And then with his voice breaking, Dole added, "I'm so sad that he's gone.”

Look, Bob Dole is 85. He’s staring at his own mortality in the mirror. Plus, Kemp was his running mate in the horrible, punch-pulling ‘96 campaign, and in any event, it’s socially acceptable to mourn for Jack Kemp. After all, it’s not like Strom Thurmond or Jerry Falwell just died!

Kemp’s fans and old friends all tell us what a nice guy he was. I thought that too during his political career, but it turns out that, like most everyone, he was nice to people he agreed with, and hostile to those with whom he differed—at least, those to the right of him. Indeed, he’s gotten such kind farewells from the socialist MSM due to his great solicitude—a less charitable writer would call it neoconservative triangulation—towards the Left, and corresponding hostility towards the Right. Well, Kemp did identify himself as a neocon.

Of course, back when he was politically active, the MSM was less kind, often painting him as an amiable dunce, at best.

Kemp’s tendency to latch onto certain ideas caused more sympathetic observers to mistakenly describe him as being intellectual or thoughtful. What he was, was passionate, and he would transfer that passion to ideas.

On the eve of the 1996 election, in “The Quarterback” in The New Republic, liberal Michael Lewis wrote,

Yet, despite the general indifference to Kemp, he is actually the major candidate most worth listening to, mainly because he takes lots of little risks and occasionally says something he isn't supposed to, as when he reminds one crowd of his endorsement of Steve Forbes. Although he is cast as the man of ideas he is essentially a creature of high emotion. The enthusiasm that leads Kemp's tongue to run away with his brain is so infectious that it seems churlish to stop and ask what he means when he talks about the need for prosperity in "Second, Third and Fourth World countries," or when he says that "we are living in the most exciting country, the most exciting millennium, in the history of mankind," or when he promises "we're going to cut your taxes and balance the budget."

You may think that I have condemned Jack Kemp, but his racial socialist admirers unwittingly have me beat.

The man calling himself “Barack Obama” said Kemp was “a man who could fiercely advocate his own beliefs and principles while also remembering the lessons he learned years earlier on the football field: That bitter divisiveness between race and class and station only stood in the way of the common aim of a team to win.”

Translation: Whites must surrender to blacks.

In The Nation, John Nichols wrote in “Jack Kemp vs. the Party of ‘No,’”
My respect for Kemp was rooted in my experience with the antiapartheid movement in the US and South Africa. While many leading conservatives in the US were busy making excuses for the racist and antidemocratic regime in South Africa, Kemp emerged as a bold and consistent critic of apartheid…. Recalling the first Republican president, Kemp suggested after apartheid had ended and South Africa had experienced a peaceful transition of power that "Abraham Lincoln's response to a Union soldier at Gettysburg who asked him after his address why he showed no rancor or anger toward his Confederate enemies comes to mind: 'Do I not destroy my enemy by making him my friend?' There is no better example of this spirit in the twentieth century than Nelson Mandela."

Kemp never hesitated to compare Mandela to both Lincoln and George Washington.

[Prior to being imprisoned for 27 years by the evil, white apartheid government of South Africa, Nelson Mandela had been a terrorist.]

When I traveled with Mandela during the South African leader's 1990 visit to the United States, he and Kemp greeted one another warmly in the nation's capital. Mandela was well aware of Kemp's long and often frustrating struggles within a Republican Party that had, at its highest levels, opposed using economic sanctions to combat apartheid.

In particular, Mandela was aware of what, to my view, was Kemp's finest moment.

At the eightieth convention of the NAACP in 1989, the HUD secretary boldly declared his solidarity with Mandela and the South African majority and demanded that the country's white minority government "let our people go."

Kemp did not stop there. He admitted to the cheering crowd that the Republican Party was "nowhere to be found" in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s [that’s a bald-faced lie; for better or worse, the GOP supported the civil rights laws—N.S.] and pledged to do his best--as a cabinet member, party leader and prospective presidential candidate--to forge a "radical Republican Party" that was worthy of African-American support.

Kemp never gave up on that mission.

Twenty years ago, like Jack Kemp, I opposed white-run apartheid. But though I had been familiar since childhood with American-style black supremacy, I had yet to confront the contradiction between my liberal upbringing and the black racism that I lived with daily, and knew nothing of the history of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe or South Africa, or about American racial history, for that matter. Only in early 1990, did my studies begin. But over 45 years after the anti-white, aka civil rights movement had seized center stage in America, and long after the black campaign of genocide against whites was underway in Zimbabwe and gathering steam in South Africa, Kemp was as self-righteously anti-white as ever. He never faced the truth that the replacement of white-run apartheid with black-run apartheid not only destroyed the lives of whites, but—with the exception of ZANU-PF and ANC cronies and thugs—of blacks, too. That he never gave up pandering to racist blacks is to his everlasting shame.

But that’s not what America’s racist, tenured history professors will say. They’ll write articles and books with titles like “Fallen Gladiator,” “The Quarterback,” and “Hail Mary,” arguing, “Jack Kemp gallantly but ultimately unsuccessfully tried to save the Republican Party from racism, xenophobia, and irrelevance.”


Jewish Odysseus said...

Nicholas, I feel this was an unbalanced and wrong-headed retrospective of Jack Kemp's long career.

Anonymous said...

An excellent article. The only time Kemp ever really got mad was with conservatives who were against affirmative action, black racism or immigration.

Kemp excoriated Buchanan and others but did he ever have a harsh word for Sharpton, Jackson or Farrakhan? No. For Kemp, racism was something only whitey can be guilty of. That is why so many in the media, politics and academia have so many nice things to say about this cretin.