America lost a fine Republican this past weekend with the passing of Jack Kemp, as he succumbed to cancer at the age of 73. A man who was at the same time one of the most vociferous proponents of lower taxes and of giving a hand-up to those less fortunate, he called himself a “bleeding-heart conservative”. Kemp was passionate about both of those beliefs, and was admirable in his leadership on both.
Kemp was ebullient. He reminded me of my other favorite Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, in many ways. He was at times both a standard-bearer and an outsider in his own party. No matter whether he was with his party on an issue, or attempting to lead them on his course, he was passionate and certain in his beliefs.
Jack Kemp believed in the inherent goodness and inherent abilities of all people. He believed in personal responsibility. In many ways, I think he gave people more credit for being inherently good and able than perhaps they deserved. But that was part of his character, and part of why I admired him. He believed government should be limited not because he didn’t care about the welfare of people, because his work on behalf of the poor as HUD Secretary clearly proves that he did, but because he believed that everyone had the capability in them to care for themselves.
To be sure, there are issues on which Mr. Kemp and I would have disagreed, but I bet we would have had fun disagreeing on them, and I bet, had we ever met to have those disagreements, that we could have parted as friends. That alone says a lot about the man, in my eyes.