Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Monday, May 04, 2009

Jack Kemp was never iconic for me, but I understand why he would be a figure comparable to Mickey Mantle for anyone who grew up in Western New York, the guy who brought the city the only national championship it has known. By the time I caught up with his career he was a conservative congressman who was working what seemed to me then to be the fringes of the lunatic Right. I was wrong about a lot of things when I made that assessment-- Kemp was nothing like as right-wing as the Republican Party could get, and although I'd still take issue with just about every policy position he ever advocated, he was certainly a decent guy, with a better sense than most conservatives for the realities of race and poverty in the US. When Dole tapped him for the VP nomination someone quipped that Kemp had showered with more black guys than most Republicans had ever met. I thought his presence in that race would have had more of an impact than it did, but Kemp's appeal in New York State probably didn't extend past Syracuse.

Think about the 1988 Republican Presidential primaries for a second:

George H. W. Bush
Bob Dole
Pat Robertson
Pierre S. du Pont
Alexander Haig
Ben Fernandez (RNHA chairman of California)
Paul Laxalt
Donald Rumsfeld, and
Harold E. Stassen.

Who'd have guessed that 20 years later it would be Robertson that would be the most representative of what the Republicans would become? For that matter, consider the scene in 1980: Reagan, Bush pere, John B. Anderson, Howard Baker, John Connally, Phil Crane, Dole and Stassen. How many of those guys would even be Republicans today?

Reagan is said to have wanted Kemp on the ticket, which might have, inter alia, spared us the Bush dynasty.

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