Wednesday morning, the day after the November 1992 election of William J. Blythe (AKA: Bill Clinton) as President of the United States, a bumper sticker went on our Chevy minivan that hauled around 3 growing Dartlads. It was dark blue and in white it said: KEMP '96. The daily driver of the van reported that it got a few nods, honks, and smiles in Contra Costa County California. Back then Contra Costa County (east of the tunnel) was the last refuge for non-leftists in the Bay Area. Now they send an ultra-lib gun grabber to the US Congress so I reckon those days are long gone.
We all knew that the tandem of Perot and Clinton would knock off President Bush and we were ready with our pithy bumpersticker. But, in a better world Jack Kemp would have been Ronald Reagan's VP for 8 years and then would have served 8 years as POTUS himself 1989-97. What a difference-- all of it good-- that would have produced for the country. Of course by the time 1996 rolled around the Republicans had given the nom to their usual "it's-his-turn" guy. That cycle it was Bob Dole. Bob was a friendlier-than-his-scowl-would-tell-ya sorta member of the Senate lifer team who famously was called, "tax collector for the welfare state" by Newt Gingrich. No hope to beat Bill. None. When he picked Jack for VP we were shocked, then pleased for a moment before it dawned on us that it would be the end of Jack Kemp in electoral politics. For most pols being on a national ticket would be a resume high point. In Jack's case it was a meaningless afterthought. The only thing that might have been worse would be to see Jack as the VP in a Dole presidency. Jack Kemp trying to be a team player and work in Bob Dole's wispy shadow? That would never work.
I met Mr. Kemp twice. The first time was before his VP run. It was at an Empower America all-day confab on Nob Hill in SF, CA. Jack and Bill Bennett and Jeane Kirkpatrick had put together EA to try to make sure Reagan Conservatism had at least one home in the 90's. It was a long day of great speakers (including Dr. Teller most memorably) but Jack was the lunchtime act. He was revved-up, on fire, and rolling. Afterwards he did the grip and grin with folks for a while. It was a great morale booster for those dark days.
The next time was at an all-day conference at the Reagan Library in 2001. It was before the attack on America in September and topic one was the ongoing stock market crash-- then a year old already. The seminar was put on by Investors Business Daily and many of the speakers were financial people-- Bob Doll, Larry Kudlow and others. Very interesting day in a dark time for people earning a living in the markets. The guy IBD chose to put a cap on the political/ economic outlook was Jack Kemp. He delivered in his energetic, contagious style again.
Jack was a common guy with an uncommonly sharp mind and limitless energy. Many Republicans wonder where the next Reagan is while other advise their fellow R's to stop looking, that Reaganism is dead. While they sort that out they also better be concerned about who the next Jack Kemp's are because it will take many folks with his intellect, drive, and enthusiasm to repair America after the Obama/ Reid/ Pelosi disaster is voted off to the dustbin of history.
UPDATE: Here's Jack a few years back in Santa Barbara. Just a brief look at what Kemp was like as a speaker on the "rubber chicken circuit." Thanks to The C4G for the video.