Around noon on Friday, January 18, 1985, Congressman Jack Kemp arrives with his family at San Francisco's Bohemian Club, near the city's financial district. Kemp is in town for two reasons. On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers will trounce the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium, and Kemp will be in the grandstand rooting and cheering with old friends, as he has done at every other Super Bowl to date. But these days, Kemp can't while away entire weekends chatting about football strategy or reminiscing about his days as a Buffalo Bills quarterback. There are too many speeches to make, too many hands to shake, too many contributors to cultivate.
And today's appearance is an especially important one for Kemp, who is fast becoming one of the hottest political properties in America. For months, Republican strategists have been gleefully talking about a classic, two-man race between Kemp and Vice-President George Bush for the party's 1988 Presidential nomination. The Bohemian Club is a bastion of California's richest and most powerful white males, precisely the sort of corporate-bred, establishment conservatives Kemp must begin to win over in his drive for the Presidency. Sam Armacost, president of BankAmerica Corp., is there to meet him, as is Ben Biaggini, former chairman of Southern Pacific Co. and an influential GOP fundraiser. In all, there are 50 leading San Francisco businessmen and financiers seated in the club's front room when Kemp is introduced. They set down their coffee cups and applaud politely -- their attitude toward Kemp is decidedly chilly.
And why not? By the cultural, social, and intellectual standards of the Bohemian Club, Jack Kemp doesn't measure up. He has no Ivy League credentials, no experience on Wall Street or in a corporate boardroom. More distressing, he lacks a patrician bearing, lacks utterly the blend of wit, elegance, and grace that arises from a privileged life. He was a football player, a jock. And as he begins to speak, he reveals the urgent mannerisms of a self-made man -- his arms flail through the air, his voice rises insistently, and his words burst out like rounds from a machine gun. His ideas, too, are bold and unrefined. The title of his talk is "A New Entrepreneurial Era," and it is a speech filled with daring promises and challenges. He describes the 1980s as a "watershed" in American politics and economics, and he applauds the ascendance of a younger generation in the Republican Party. Defying the wisdom of Wall Street, he says that federal deficits don't keep him awake at night. He decries the Federal Reserve Board's inflation-fighting monetary policies. And he defends a tax plan that would strip away tax credits, deductions, and loopholes long cherished by his audience.
Yet as he speaks, a subtle and infectious change comes over the room. Maybe it is the way he uses the word "entrepreneur" where other politicians say "businessman," or the way he talks about "incentive" rather than "profit." Perhaps it is the way he rejects limits and suggests what is possible without them. But there is something happening to the audience. The idea of democratic capitalism, which for decades connoted the reactionary privileges of country-club Republicanism, is sounding good again. For so long, the men seated in the Bohemian Club today have watched their favored politicians -- even President Reagan -- squirm defensively when asked if an unfettered free-market society simply makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. Jack Kemp, though, is all offense. His magnetic presence and booming voice suggest a television preacher, a capitalist evangelical. Blacks, Hispanics, women, the entire. Third World -- everyone is invited to follow him to the new Republican Party.
And the audience is responding, shifting forward in their chairs -- how could they not?Are they not witnessing a conservative reincarnation of John F. Kennedy's New Frontier? Are they not hearing of a "rising tide that lifts all boats"? When Kemp is finished, they applaud loud and long. They smile and gather around him as he walks from the podium, shaking his hand and patting him on the back.
Kemp, too, is exhilarated. Receptions like this one in recent months have bolstered his credibility with skeptical mainstream Republicans. "Conservative populism" as Kemp is calling his platform these days, with its attacks on "corporate welfare" and the Federal Reserve, isn't easy for the Armacosts and Biagginis to swallow. And unlike Ronald Reagan, who met with similar skepticism in early campaigns, Kemp does not appear to be a man who could be easily molded in the Republican establishment's image. He is too feisty, too self-conscious about his modest class and cultural origins.
"I come from a small-business background," Kemp explains, "so I've got a bias toward new enterprise, and kind of a George Gilder view that the country's driven by new enterprises, not established enterprises. I'm not anti-big business, but my populism aims itself at encouraging a higher degree of entrepreneurship."
An obvious fact about Kemp, though, is that he is no entrepreneur -- he is a politician. Why does he feverishly adopt the rhetorical posture of an entrepreneurial outsider? Does he truly believe in the economics of growth, as he so clearly seems to do (see sidebar, page 65)? Is he simply retooling the "political outsider" strategy that worked so well for Jimmy Carter in 1976? Or is there a more personal layer behind his fascination with such mythically powerful American ideas as entrepreneurship, populism, and self-made achievement?
"A TEAM THAT WON'T BE BEAT, CAN'T BE BEAT."
Paul R. Kemp, Jack's father, was up most mornings before the sun, sometimes dragging his sons along with him when he left for work at the small trucking company he owned with his brother in central Los Angeles. Tom Kemp believes that much of his brother Jack's political ideology represents an "intellectualizing" of his family's life in Los Angeles in the 1930s and '40s, and Jack Kemp himself likes to talk about the ways in which his father's experiences have shaped his political views.
"My father took his money out of a savings account and mortgaged the house and sold his motorcycle, and he bought a truck and started delivering packages," Kemp says. "He made enough to invest in a second truck, and then a third, and he ended up with 12 trucks and a little delivery service. I learned early in life that you can deliver more products in a truck than you can on a motorcycle, and that the truck represents a capital investment. Someone's got to be willing to put off consumption in the hope of anticipated reward in the future."
But Kemp admits that entrepreneurship was far from a childhood preoccupation. Indeed, from the time he was big enough to parade around in his brother's oversized football jerseys, he was possessed by what he now calls a kind of "tunnel vision" -- an obsession with athletic achievement that persisted until he reached his thirties. Friends and family remember him as an extremely competitive child, and also as a "dreamer who liked to fantasize about being a great athlete." The Kemp family owned a little baseball game modeled after roulette, and Jack would spin the wheel for hours, announcing the players and the score. "I'm sure that as he sat there . . . he was imagining himself in the World Series somewhere," his brother says.
After four years as a quarterback in high school, Kemp was recruited by Occidental College, a small, academically strong private school not far from the neighborhood where he grew up. Preoccupied with his relatively small size, he embarked on a weight-training program that bordered on fanaticism. Once, on a ski trip, Kemp's friend Nick Rodionoff, who was driving, noticed that the car was steering erratically. When he pulled over, he found that Kemp had stashed 200 pounds of free weights and about 30 cans of protein drink in the trunk.
There was an impetuousness about Kemp as well. He was always ready to mix it up -- one friend remembers him flying out of his frat house to join in a fight that had broken out over the serenading of some sorority girls next door. And while Kemp's fraternity brothers, as one of them recalls, "had a few problems, as the rest of the kids were from a generally higher socioeconomic group," Kemp was not afraid of the upper class. He would "jump right in there with them," talking, dancing, and socializing. In his senior year, by now star quarterback of the school's championship football team, Kemp ran for class president, but lost. The defeat was devastating -- he passionately hated to lose.
The freckles sprinkled on his nose, the single-minded drive to succeed, the intense competitiveness, the apparent self-confidence so overwhelming that already it approached arrogance -- Jack Kemp in the mid-1950s so embodied the sunny optimism of postwar America that failure must have seemed impossible to him when he graduated in 1957. Yet he almost failed at the only occupation he had ever considered -- pro football. He was cut or traded by five teams before he found a home with the San Diego Chargers of the new American Football League. There he finally had a successful year before being sold to the Buffalo Bills in 1962.
Before leaving San Diego, though, Kemp was introduced to a new sport almost as violent and competitive as professional football -- California politics. San Diego was then dominated by the staunchly conservative Copley newspaper family. The flagship of the Copley chain was The San Diego Union, whose editor, Herb Klein, was Richard Nixon's campaign press secretary and later White House director of communications. Klein and Bob Finch, who managed Nixon's 1960 campaign, were frustrated by what they now call "the Party's dark days," and determined to promote promising young Republicans in the state.
Kemp was a special find. He had inherited traditional comservative views from his parents, and after marrying his college sweetheart, Joanne Main, and fathering his first son, he had taken a casual interest in the ideas of Toqueville, Jefferson, and Lincoln. "Here was an extraordinary guy with a bright personality, who could be an interesting political personality because of physical and mental attributes," Herb Klein recalls. "It struck me right away that he was a potential."
Klein gave the young quarterback a job on the Union, writing editorials and making community speeches. On Sunday afternoons during the off-season, Kemp would visit Klein's home and sit with his mentor by the pool. "I'd want to talk football, he'd want to talk politics," Klein recalls. Kemp remembers his conservative education under Klein as a "road-to-Damascus-type experience." His editorials for the Union ran under such headlines as "Reds Use Words To Further Ends," and "Message For Youth: Private Property Fosters Freedom." On May 30, 1964, Kemp began his weekly column with a message that summed up his views on his own achievements. "An important axiom to success in life," he wrote, "is reflected in the quotation posted on many athletic team locker room walls across this country, which says, 'A Team That Won't Be Beat, Can't Be Beat."
Kemp was a relentlessly physical quarterback -- during his career, he suffered two broken ankles, two broken shoulders, a broken knee, and 11 concussions. "Given the choice between running out of bounds and taking on Dick Butkus one-on-one, he would go after Butkus," a Buffalo teammate remembers. In 1964 and '65, he led the Bills to the AFL championship -- finally achieving the on-field glory he had fantasized about while spinning his roulette wheel 20 years before.
But to Jack Kemp, winning was more important than the nature of the game. By 1969, after a series of injuries and disappointing seasons, he knew that his time in pro football was about to run out. He knew, too, what game he wanted to play next.
"I HAVE THE SAME FIRE FOR POLITICS."
It was January 1970, and Jack Kemp was standing before the 44 members of the Erie County Republican Executive Committee. For weeks, Kemp had been lobbying them behind the scenes, urging that they abandon their consensus choice of Edward A. Rath Jr., son of a prominent local politico who had recently died of a heart attack, for the Republican congressional nomination in what was then New York's 39th Congressional District. Now it was time to make a formal appeal.
Why would a retired quarterback with no real political experience want to run for Congress? he was asked. "I have the same fire for politics that I had for football," Kemp replied.
So it seemed -- Edward Rath Jr. was Kemp's friend, and Kemp was about to block his nomination. When Kemp had decided late in 1969 that he wanted to run for Congress, he had talked to his mentors, Klein and Finch, about whether he should return to California. Unfortunately, as Finch recalls it, "they didn't have that many Copley [controlled] seats available." That left Kemp with the New York 39th, a nominally Democratic, suburban district that the Erie County Republican leadership had targeted for victory in 1970. And it also left the sticky problem of Rath, who was considered to have a lock on the nomination as a kind of tribute to his deceased father.
Rath and Kemp had known each other for years and had renewed their friendship in 1964, when Rath chaired the local Barry Goldwater speakers bureau. Since then, the Kemp and Rath families had gone on a number of ski vacations together. "We had several discussions," Rath remembers. "We took the posture, let the best man win."
Kemp's first move was to approach Alfonso V. Bellanca, then chairman of the Erie County Republican Committee. Bellanca told Kemp he was wasting his time. But Kemp said he had a "predestined" feeling about politics similar to the feelings he used to get on the football field. His confidence and charismatic speaking ability impressed Bellanca and convinced him to help Kemp lobby the rest of the committee. Bellanca reminded the members that Kemp's connections (Klein was now in the White House and Finch was Secretary of Health, Education & Welfare) would give him a head start in Washington. "Everyone finally agreed that Jack was more attractive than Rath -- except Rath," Bellanca remembers.
Rath, now a New York State Supreme Court justice, took his defeat in good spirits. "There may have been some influence from Washington on Jack's behalf," he says. "But I supported him wholeheartedly -- and financially -- after he got the nomination. And he was helpful during my campaign this year." Adds Al Bellanca, "Jack is a fellow I never saw trade an old friend for a new one."
In his first contest, Kemp had learned a crucial lesson: Politics, like football, is a fundamentally team sport that nonetheless demands a measured, individual ruthlessness. In the general election, he ran against a candidate who had been undermined by infighting in the local Democratic Party. Klein, Finch, and New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller all campaigned for the ex-Bills quarterback. It was a tight race, but in the end -- despite revealing in an important cost of living was going up or down -- Kemp won, by less than 2% of the vote.
"YOU PUT YOUR TENNIS SHOES ON WHEN YOU WORKED FOR JACK."
Jack Kemp was acutely conscious that his football background would tag him as a Washington lightweight. "When I came down," he says now, "I wondered if I could compete in a far greater intellectual arena -- even though I'm not suggesting that Congress is the Public Forum in Athens." To overcome the label, Kemp knew he must serve quickly and well the people responsible for his election.
"The Administration always knew they could count on him," recalls Jim Cromwell, Kemp's top aide in the early 1970s. "He would articulate their issues." Kemp backed both Nixon and the war effort in Vietnam until the end. On the home front, the young congressman worked doggedly to channel federal money into his district for subways, sewers, and waterfront development. He reached out to Buffalo's influential labor unions, whose leaders he invited to Washington for daylong "bull sessions" in his office. Kemp's working-class bearing and locker-room honesty earned him respect, even though his voting record on union issues was unyieldingly conservative. In a mere two years, he had locked up the 39th; he won the 1972 election with 73% of the vote.
Despite having so quickly achieved the one thing all congressmen crave -- electoral security -- there was no abatement of Kemp's determination to make his mark. He worked grueling hours, often remaining in his office until minight. "He was very aggressive and always interested in a million things," a staffer recalls. "You put your tennis shoes on when you worked for Jack." And always there was the reading, the studying, the pushing to make up for his lack of intellectual credentials. "Jack had the biggest briefcase I'd ever seen," remembers Lou Rotterman, Kemp's press secretary and executive assistant during the '70s. "He always had these books in it -- he couldn't close it."
But there was a disturbing side to Kemp's drive. He was hugely impatient, quick to ridicule, quick to shut off an argument he felt wasn't up to snuff. "He was often yelling at people in his office," a staffer recalls. "He would yell, 'I've got to know! What's going on on the floor? I've got to know!' We liked him, but damn, he was impossible." Recalls another, "He showed a lot of impatience and that had the impact of making people yes-men."
Then there was the handsome young congressman's sizable ego. Kemp always kept a bottle of hair spray at hand with which to primp his Kennedyesque locks, and one former staffer insists Kemp was reluctant to read speeches on the House floor because "he didn't want to wear glasses." Along with talk about Kemp's vanity went persistent rumors about his extramarital involvement with a number of college-age women, including some on his staff. Two independent sources close to Kemp during this period say the congressman did indeed have "more than a few" liaisons with women much younger than himself. "I think this is an area where Jack is the most vulnerable," says one source. "He was is the most vulnerable," says one source. "He was exploring the world in that direction like he was exploring the world in a lot of directions." Another source says that "people were hurt by him," and that Kemp's experiments were not "love affairs" but more like "ego gratification."
Some Kemp staffers insist such accusations are just wishful thinking. "Women used to come to the door and say, 'Oh, Jack Kemp,' and peer inside," a former aide recalls. "And of course, that sparked stories." Even sources who remain distressed by what they know of Kemp's behavior admit that "the sad truth is, what he did isn't that unusual on the Hill." Kemp himself has refused to comment on the subject; his office issued a statement pointing out that "public figures are often the objects of gossip and innuendo," and suggesting that "it would be wrong" for the congressman to respond.
In any case, those who know Kemp well say he has changed his outlook since his early, exhilarating days in Washington. "I think Jack has grown ecormously," says one of the people who talked about Kemp's alleged infidelities. "I reflect back on 'The Candidate' -- the Nixon robot -- and it's clear that he's diversified greatly. And he paid his dues, he studied, researched. . . . There were times [back then] when he was just like a little boy -- he would flounder a little or be awestruck in a new setting.Now he's done a bit of suffering. He knows the skeletons that are supposed to be in his closet. He's wised up. He didn't want to hurt his kids. He intended to do right by those children."
And to do right by himself. His firm hold on the 39th District made it obvious that he was no fluke, and by 1976, he was already being mentioned as a potential running mate for President Ford. Says a former aide, "I always had the feeling that he was looking downfield politically -- to go deep."
"NOT NOW, I'M BUSY SAVING WESTERN CIVILIZATION."
Kemp had arrived in Washington with some very ordinary economic ideas -- he was a dependable party man, devoted to the usual cut-spending-but-not-in-my-district Republican posture. By his fourth term, however, he had become obsessed with economics. During his drive to educate himself about conservative philosophy and policy, he read treatise after economic treatise, from the eighteenth-century French classicists to the twenteith-century Keynesians to influential monetaries like Milton Friedman and neoclassicists like Herb Stein and Alan Greenspan. He befriended conservative economists, often inviting them to his Bethesda, Md., home for dinner and late-night discussions. The more he learned, the more he believed that Keynesian economic policy was the cause of both the nation's ills and the worsening crisis within the post-Watergate Republican party. But Kemp saw a way out -- for the country, the party, and himself.
Actually, none of the ideas and legislative proposals that would eventually be popularized as "supply-side economists believe that the key to economic growth lies in stimulating individual production and investment. They propose to do this by lowering marginal tax rates, reducing regulation, and easing monetary policy. Keynesian economists argue that growth is driven by consumer demand and government spending, and that supply-side policies will lead only to instability and inflation.) With the exception of his "enterprise zones" bill, every major piece of economic legislation Kemp has introduced is a near-duplication of a preexisting bill. Kemp's original supply-side effort, the 1976 Jobs Creation Act, was a smorgasbord of business tax breaks largely copied from legislation introduced by Sen. Paul Fannin (R-Ariz.) in 1974. And the famous Kemp-Roth bill, which cut federal individual income taxes by 25% when it passed in 1981, closely mirrored tax cuts proposed by John Kennedy in the '60s. Kemp-Roth was born one day in 1977 when Kemp turned to one of his economists and said, "Look, we've been talking about this Kennedy tax cut for so long -- why don't we just do it? Just introduce the bill!"
But the radically conservative economists who gravitated to Kemp in the mid-70s weren't looking to him for ideas -- they wanted political leadership. They wanted an energetic outsider, someone with the capacity to learn, someone willing to risk political embarrassment to advance a bold and unproven cause. And in Kemp, they found the only man in Washington perfectly suited to the task.
"Not now, I'm busy saving Western civilization," Kemp would say to his staffers during the late '70s when he was too preoccupied to talk with them. And truly, there was something apocalyptic about the urgency he attached to his newfound ideology. Day after day, night after night, he talked about supply-side ideas -- not only in economics, but as they pertained to history, morality, and social evolution. The group was an odd lot of intellectuals. There was Jude Wanniski, a former socialist turned editorial writer at The Wall Street Journal; Irving Kristol, another former socialist, now editor of the neoconservative journal The Public Interest; California economist Arthur Laffer, whose famous tax revenue curve was drawn by Kemp on cocktail napkins all across America; Robert Mundell, an iconoclastic economist at Columbia University; David Stockman, a young congressman from Michigan; and assorted other youthful, self-styled radical Republicans.
"We started with just a tiny number of people challenging the whole established order," Wanniski recalls. "Our objective as revolutionaries was not to win offices, not to win a Presidency or a specific Senate seat or governorship. Our objective was to change the whole order of things so that all the candidates are supply-siders."
To this end, Kemp redoubled his seemingly unbounded drive and enthusiasm. The Republican leadership opposed Kemp-Roth, arguing that taxes could not be cut until spending was under control. Kemp's colleagues charged him with "blatant hucksterism," and privately, some questioned his intelligence. But as ever, Kemp pushed on. When his press secretary told him he was overemphasizing his economic ideas, Kemp snapped, "Keep hammering it. Keep hammering it." He hit the road to promote his legislation, and within two years, he was making more speeches nationwide than all but one or two of the Republicans' top leaders.
And out there in the Rotary Clubs and union halls and at the chamber of commerce breakfasts, Jack Kemp -- the fast-talking, arm-waving ex-football player -- started to catch fire. He brought a potpourri of tax-cutting economic remedies and an optimistic vision of an American renaissance to a middle class battered by inflation and disheartened by Jimmy Carter's "national malaise." Well before Ronald Reagan did, Kemp struck a deeply responsive chord among Americans fed up with the Democratic "era of limits." He promised it all: economic growth, low inflation, sound money, and balanced budgets. The ridicule his proposals had received in Washington was suddenly overmatched by the enthusiasm for them beyond the Beltway. Requests for speeches began to pour into Kemp's Washington office -- 300 a month by 1980. Talk surfaced about a Kemp run for the Presidency against Reagan and Bush. To head it off, Reagan's campaign manager asked Kemp to brief the candidate on supply-side economics, promising him a prominent role in the Reagan campaign.
For three 12-hour days in early 1980, Kemp and four close advisers sat in a Los Angeles hotel room with the next President of the United States and taught him about their revolutionary brand of economics. Many of Kemp's friends and associates had been urging him to run for the Senate. But Kemp chose instead to join Reagan's inner circle -- his instinct was that there would never again be such an opportunity to promote supply-side ideology.
"Governor," one of Kemp's teaching party said, "do you realize that of all the Fortune 500 CEOs, only 3 say they are for you?"
Reagan laughed. "Well, let Bush and Connally have those 497 guys. I've got to be the candidate of the farmer, the entrepreneur, the independent small businessman." It was working -- within weeks after his meetings with Kemp, Reagan had moved, as one of the Kemp advisers puts it, "from a candidate whose view of the economy was centered on the welfare queen of the South Bronx to one centered on growth." Only after he secured the nomination and named corporate favorite George Bush as his running mate did such Fortune 500 emissaries as superlobbyist Charls Walker begin to play a role in Reagan's campaign -- and by then, the supply-side horse was out of the barn.
When an uncharacteristically nervous Kemp stepped to the podium in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena around 11 o'clock on the second night of the 1980 GOP convention, the delegates rose to their feet and erupted in a thunderous chorus of "We Want Kemp!" In a "spontaneous" $60,000 demonstration organized by Kemp strategists, thousands of "Reagan-Kemp" posters sprang up across the convention floor. As the demonstration subsided, a Reagan floor manager turned to a reporter and said what Kemp's political operatives had been thinking for weeks: "Kemp could be what John F. Kennedy was to the 1956 Democratic convention -- the guy who turns heads and will be heard from again."
Up on the podium, Kemp launched into the most effective speech he had ever delivered. "There is a tidal wave coming in this country," he began," a political tidal wave as powerful as the one that hit in 1932. . . . We can have growth, expansion, hope, and opportunity -- for our nation, our cities, our neighborhoods, and our children. . . . Which will it be? An era of limits, or an era of expansion? An era of despair, or one of hope?" The crowd roared in answer. When a smiling Kemp came backstage afterward, he told reporters proudly, "I can no longer be considered a single-issue politician, or just a football player. . . . I'm not testing the waters, I'm moving them."
"IT'S IMPORTANT TO BE A LITTLE UNPREDICTABLE."
At 50, Jack Kemp is a broad-shouldered and imposing figure, fit and deeply tanned. His hair sweeps perfectly across his forehead, although it is peppered with much more gray than was visible a few years ago. His eyes have begun to droop a little, and his face is heavily lined. But there is no lethargy in his manner. In his Rayburn Building office on Capitol Hill, he sits in a low, cushioned chair, and it is clear he would rather be moving about. As he speaks, he drums his hands like a bongo player; when he gets excited about a subject, he leans forward and quickens his pace, as if his thoughts are racing away while his vocal chords try to keep up.
But Kemp also seems conscious of his reputation for a kind of headstrong arrogance. He seems to listen to himself during an interview, circling like a hawk above his words, then plunging to intercept any escaping boats. Trying to explain that his economic ideology has helped him bring a new perspective to such social issues as school prayer and abortion, he says haltingly, "What I take some pride in -- not smugness, but some pride in -- is elevating issues and words and ideas to a higher -- ugh, higher sounds self-righteous -- to another level of discussion." Defending his decision not to run for statewide office, he stops himself in midesentence: "I am interested in issues and ideas and policies and reforms. These are the things that have brought me where . . . well, I don't know where I am, but they've brought me as far as I've come."
This awkward self-restraint is the last and most difficult phase of a determined effort to reposition Kemp as a viable Presidential candidate in 1988. The program began in 1980, after David Smick, a young, savvy former Democrat, was hired to manage the congressman's sudden fame and to move him away from his image as a supply-side fanatic.
To a political operative like Smick, Kemp's economic evangelism not only made economic sense, "it made political sense. It was people-oriented, as opposed to institutionalized economics." The problem was that the supply-siders were too abstract, and were politically naive. "One of my concerns," Smick says," was that Kemp not be seen as a Johnny-one-note tax cutter. It's important in politics to be a little unpredictable -- as soon as you can be pegged, you're dead. It seemed to me that a Republican needed an urban policy. I proposed that we really push enterprise zones -- I drafted the first bill on the back of an envelope on a plane."
Thus was born the attractive platform of "entrepreneurial populism" on which Kemp intends to run in 1988. The enterprise zones legislation, co-sponsored by South Bronx Democrat Robert Garcia, achieved Smick's objective of "unpredictability," and gave Kemp a way to reach out to such normally hostile constituencies as blacks and Hispanics. More important, it offered a way to redefine the "radical" tenets of supply-side ideology.
"Words are so precious, and they have shades and variations and nuances. . . . I find the word 'entrepreneur' is less pejorative than the words 'General Motors' or 'business,' "Kemp explains." I think it is possible today to sell liberal, democratic, entrepreneurial ideas not only to the inner city but to the Third World. . . . We're kind of redefining political compassion. Compassion ought to be concern about the dollar, concern about interest rates, concern about the family, concern about your ability to go out and start a new enterprise."
Kemp's new stance has made some of his old supply-side advisers uncomfortable, although many are anxious to play down their differences with a candidate who may soon hold vast political power. "There is a fracturing occurring within the supply-side movement," admits Jude Wanniski. "At times it seems that there's as much disagreement among supply-siders as there is between supply- and demand-siders. [But] that's all an illusion." Kemp himself is less cautious about distancing his views from those of his former counselors."Jude has all sorts of . . ." Kemp begins, stopping himself before he says "crazy ideas." "He thinks [economic growth] stops SS-18s in mid-flight, that growth cures the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. He would go far beyond where I would carry it."
That is because Kemp wants to take it to the White House -- those who know him well say he wants desperately to be President. With this in mind, it is possible to see his recent fondness for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial terminology as merely the savvy and cynical invention of the political strategists who have helped to reposition him in the past few years. Certainly, there are aspects of Kemp's career in politics -- his relationship with Klein and Finch, his adoption by supply-side economists -- that would support that view.
But the essence of Kemp, the soul of the man and of the politician, belies that assessment. Kemp is a quarterback, through and through.He says frequently that the key to politics is to keep getting the first downs -- however you can -- and then the touchdowns will "hit you in the face." It is the touchdowns Kemp is after; for reasons having at least partly to do with his longstanding view of himself as an inadequate outsider, he has been driven throughout his life by what he calls a "fire" in his belly and a "predestined" vision of triumph and achievement. That drive has produced obsessions -- with winning at football, winning at politics, and proving himself as a student of economics. None of those obsessions has abated.
The White House is a strangely transforming place, and no one can predict what effect it would have on Kemp's beliefs. Easy money, lower taxes, large budget deficits, and continued Cold War confrontation would be the likely by-products of his current views. But more predictable, and perhaps more important, is the character he would bring to the job. Kemp blatantly cultivates comparisons with John F. Kennedy, and some of the comparisons make sense. But the personal passions that have dominated Kemp's life also evoke the spirit of another twentieth-century President -- swashbuckling Teddy Roosevelt. And like both TR and JFK, Kemp exudes an inspirational, peculiarly American brand of machismo that suggests the potential to be great, or dangerous, or both.
In July 1973, Jack Kemp delivered a speech in Canton, Ohio, entitled "Excellence: The Real Meaning of the Pro Football Hall of Fame" -- a speech he remains proud of to this day. In it, he talked about "the spirit of American football . . . the spirit of competition, that win or lose, you keep trying." At the climax, he invoked the name of Teddy Roosevet, and he quoted Roosevelt as saying, "The credit in life goes not to the critic who stands on the sideline and points out where the strong stumble, but rather, the real credit in life goes to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face may get marred by sweat and dust, who knows great enthusiasm and great devotion and learns to spend himself in a worthy cause, who at best if he wins knows the thrill of high achievement and if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that in life his place will never be with those very cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
The speech was a telling glimpse of how Kemp describes his own soul -- and an even more telling prophecy of the nature of a Kemp Presidency.It would be a time of great enthusiasm and great devotion, of high achievements and spectacular failures, of bold victories and terrible defeats. And one thing is certain, for better or for worse: Given a choice between heading for the sidelines and taking on Mikhail Gorbachev or Paul Volcker one-on-one, Jack Kemp won't be stepping out of bounds.
Additional reporting for this article was provided by Greg Critser.
CORRECTION-DATE: October, 1985
The photographer's credit in "Fast-Growth Candidate" (August, page 59) should have read Paul Conklin/Uniphoto Picture Agency; in "Start-up Fever May Return to Computer Industry," (Insider), it should have read Michael Goodman/The Picture Cube.