It is with great regret that this is the second time in less than a week that I am sharing my thoughts with you about a recently departed friend. That said, this one is much different and far more heart-wrenching than the first.
I have been a Jack Kemp Republican my entire life. His message of hope and compassion mixed with fiscal conservatism, lower taxes, less government, and individual empowerment have guided me throughout my years in both business and politics. I always thought Jack was the true heir to Ronald Reagan and he was an incredible inspiration to so many of us.
His influence on Republican policy can hardly be measured. Jack was one of the earliest to recognize the importance of Arthur Laffer’s supply-side theories. He was instrumental in putting tax cuts at the top of Ronald Reagan’s agenda, and the Kemp-Roth tax cuts are among the most important economic policies of the 20th century. Without them, it’s impossible to say whether President Bush would have taken the same course twenty years later. And thanks to his past as a championship-winning quarterback with the AFL Buffalo Bills, Jack understood minorities and others outside of the usual, traditional Republican constituencies better than most of us. For decades he urged us to go outside of our electoral comfort zone and reach out to African-Americans and Latinos because he believed they shared our values and that by sharing the power of our ideas with more people we could help lift millions out of poverty and into the “opportunity society,” as he aptly called it. We are not all the way there yet, but when we arrive, Jack will deserve a big share of the credit.
Jack was also a great personal friend. For years we traveled together, Marlene and I stayed with the Kemps at their home in Colorado to celebrate his 70th, and they visited often with us at our home as well.
I’ll never forget last August in Colorado when John McCain came to be with our most successful fundraisers and supporters, and the next day Mark Sanford, Jon Huntsman, John Thune, and Jack talked to the group. Of course, the former QB was the ultimate closer and Jack wound it up with soaring rhetoric that argued passionately and compellingly for a greater control of government spending, more emphasis on growth incentives, and an increased reliance on the individual vs. government to lead us out of our current malaise. At the conclusion he tossed the mic to me and walked off to a standing and rousing ovation. It was Jack at his best, as I will always remember him.
He was a treasure to the cause and our country and he will be deeply missed. As our own party seeks new ideas and new leadership for the future, I can only hope that in doing so, we are reminded of Jack Kemp. If we are lucky and if we are smart, we will find someone who can channel his passion for conservative principle and policy, his energy, his inclusiveness and his passion that excited and inspired so many for so long.
Goodbye for now, old friend, but you will always be with us.