Jack Kemp’s Loss Overshadows Specter’s

Jack Kemp, former Republican Congressman from New York and who also served as first President Bush’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996, died over the weekend at the age of 73.  Before serving in the Congress, Kemp was a top pro football quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. 

A few days before Kemp’s death, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, also a Republican, left the GOP and declared himself a Democrat.  While Specter’s loss to the GOP was headline news across the  country, Kemp’s passing barely rated notice among the national media.  Yet, Kemp’s loss is more revealing of the state of the national Republican Party than is Specter’s symbolic defection.

Jack Kemp’s passing signals the loss of one of the best of the young, energetic conservative leaders who cut their teeth on the Goldwater-Reagan movement that truly was the birth of what had been, until the presidency of Bush II, the modern Republican Party – a movement that culminated in the Reagan presidency of 1980-88.  Whether one liked or disliked Kemp as a candidate or Republican leader, it is undisputed that he conveyed a sense of energy, charisma, and strong conservstism that was both broadly based and clear.  His was a brand of politics rarely seen or heard in the Republican Party of this early 21st Century.  Precious few Republican leaders on the national scene today are able to match those qualities as exhibited by Kemp during and after his congressional career. 

Instead, the Republican Party today is administered by tired functionaries, most of who, like Specter, cannot bear to give up their hold on power no matter how unworthy they might be in terms of exercising that power.  The messages they deliver are vague, garbled and inconsistent.  Specter, one of the GOP’s more tired and long-serving members, left his party with a meaningless statement that the “Republican philosophy” was less to his liking than that of the Democratic Party.  Even now, Specter obviously fails to grasp the reality that the Republican Party arguably no longer even has a “philosophy,” and is little different in the size and power of government it champions than is the party Specter now embraces.  It has all been reduced to the lowest of the lowest common denominators — which of the two major political parties that jointly enjoy a virtual monopoly on power offers the best chance for one’s electoral win.  “Philosophy” has precious little to do with it.

Although he never won the hignest office to which he aspired, Jack Kemp’s years in politics were characterized by developing and implementing a broad conservative philosophy of governance that allowed also for significant diversity.  The fact that the GOP eschewed that philosophy and energy in favor of what they have today, explains in large measure what they are today.

37 comments Add your comment


May 4th, 2009
8:17 am

A very well written article sir.


May 4th, 2009
8:40 am

Chris Broe

May 4th, 2009
8:54 am

Never play cute with words in an eulogy. You really don’t know any better do you?

“Kemps passing signals the loss….” Shame, sir.


Worse, Barr tries to link the passing of old guard Republicanism to Kemp’s death. Not even Newt would hand off a statue of liberty play like that. Kemp deserves his own obituary.

Conservatism was never defined. It was never more than a refuge for scoundrels and trolls like you, Mr Barr. The hippies who burned flags in the sixties honored liberty more than anything you’ve ever written, Mr Barr.

Now, if you apologize to Kemp’s family, like I know you’re going to, maybe I can convince the lurkers that you really didn’t mean it. Imagine someone so insensitive to other’s pain that he would try to capitalize on a second-rate play on words in a fumbled dirge of self serving Gator tears. Is this your Barr Code? Run your pieces by me before you publish them, cause I donts be expectin to be respectin no man what don’ts lives by the code. (The code of decency).

Condolences to Jack Kemp’s family, and I will light a candle for his Republican Soul.

Brad Steel

May 4th, 2009
9:13 am

“Jack Kemp’s passing signals the loss of one of the best of the young, energetic conservative leaders …”

Jack Kemp was 73. Only the twisted logic of the deluded withering GOP would eulogize him as young. Too bad Kemp did not leave a better legacy at the helm of the GOP. The current leadership is laughable.

Kent Woodward

May 4th, 2009
9:23 am

“The current (GOP)leadership is laughable.”

I guess Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi are pillars of liberal world.

What does that tell you about your “leaders” Brad?

[...] Jack Kemp has died. Bob Barr eulogizes. [...]


May 4th, 2009
10:00 am

Brad Steel (or BS),

Had you read (and quoted) the next sentence in the story, you would understand the context.

Bob Fiorentino

May 4th, 2009
10:05 am

Jack Kemp was a rock of a man. He represented the city of Buffalo and the state of New York with honor, dignity and a passion that does not exist on the football field or in government today. His legacy does not compare to some in the statistical catagory but he was a winner in every aspect of his life.
Jack Kemp to me was and is the reason so many of us are proud to be both Buffalo Bills fans and loyal to the city were we were born and raised Buffalo, NY.


May 4th, 2009
10:07 am

Don’t forget to mention Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Al Gore

Democrap Party

May 4th, 2009
10:24 am

The GOP “leaders” are on a listening tour, which is code word for we have no idea what our principles are, and the Bush’s are telling the people it’s time to leave Reagan. Now, last time I checked, Reagan brought conservatism to the main stream in his 1980 landslide victory over Carter. Bush 1 and 2 helped destroy that which Reagan built. No wonder the GOP is in huge trouble. Too many RINOS running the party.

Brad Steal aka Barney Frank, shouldn’t you be over at Bookmans blog? I mean you two do enjoy stroking Obamas ego.

Brad Steel

May 4th, 2009
11:25 am

Yea, the only problem the GOP has is that it has abandoned conservative principles.

And with geniuses like Limbaugh, Rove, the Bushes, Hannity, Palin, Jindal, Cheney, Steele…, the GOP will certainly be back in the drivers seat soon.

With the entrenched tired conservative dogma and the monumental blunders of the Bush/Cheney regime, the GOP is where it deserves to be. Too bad the only interesting leadership the GOP had was at the helm a quarter century ago.

Mrs. Norris

May 4th, 2009
11:47 am

Please forgive me for being a prat but I must say this:

It’s the loss of Jack Kemp, not jack Kemp’s loss;
It’s the loss of Specter, not Specter’s loss.

If I lose my keys they are lost but it is my loss. As an attorney Bob, I’m sure you appreciate the significance of semantics. Other than these minor violations of grammar I think this is an excellent article and completely agree with your assessment; although, Goldwater was a nasty bit of goods and even he admitted to such in the end.

Manuel Uribe

May 4th, 2009
11:49 am

While trying not to read too much into your article. Any political party of an honorable caliber can usually back-down the fist-fighting word-play when a respectable opponent has fallen/or passed..

Much of what he did, can be looked over and criticized or just serve as memories. It depends on the person. You took his death, and give it more press than ‘The Press’ did. While you are no obit writer, I do agree you’re not here to do that. But to acknowledge not the passing of an abstract idea, but the passing of what was a very real man.

And that, is what is truly anyone wants, when they die. To be remembered, not only for what they did, but for who they were because of it. Frankly, it’s what keeps his memory alive.

Great article Barr.


May 4th, 2009
12:16 pm

Chris Broe, obviously you have reading comprehension issues. Bob only stated that Kemp personified what the Republican party may have been at one time and should be today, instead of the bigoted noninclusive party of terrified and angry people that it is today.

Ga Values

May 4th, 2009
12:34 pm

Really well written, hits the nail on the head.. Please oh please run for the US Senate, Johnny the Socialist is a waste.


May 4th, 2009
12:45 pm

I disagree with Barr’s article comparing Kemp to Spector! It is like comparing a patriot to a traitor.

The conservatives have lost their lead because liberals like Spector ran as a Republican and somehow got elected. I am ready for the others to meander toward their homebase, the liberal party.

Who cares if the liberals get a veto proof senate because King Obama will soon load the supreme court with justices that will make law that is the liberal party’s agenda. No one wins!


May 4th, 2009
12:58 pm

While Kemp was fairly solid economically (via his laissez-faire approach), he was ultimately a Globalist “RINO” who was a member of the CFR, a 33rd degree Mason & support Leftist items such as (Marxist spawned) affirmative action & empowerment of illegal immigrants (via is opposition of CA’s Prop 187, etc.). He was NOT a true (paleo)conservative like patriot Dr.Ron Paul.


May 4th, 2009
1:09 pm

I agrew with your point that “. . . the Republican Party arguably no longer even has a ‘philosophy’. . . .” It is obvious, therefore, why the Libertarians, who have even less philosophy than Republicans, claim to have burst forth full blown from the forehead of Reagan — Reagan never possessed a “philosohy,” either.

Mrs. Norris

May 4th, 2009
2:24 pm

I beg to differ Democritus, the Libertarians have quite a strong philosophy. It is basically that less government is most conducive to personal freedom and independence and that with freedom comes responsibility. I must also point out Libertarians have never claimed to be “full blown from the forehead of Reagan”. What is obvious is that you know very little about the Libertarian party.


May 4th, 2009
2:33 pm

I concur with Mr. Barr’s assertion. Jack’s passing signifies much more to me than Sen. Specter rush to the exit and the abandonement of what
GOP principles and values he had left. It’s like the time worn cliche, a
montain versus a molehill.
Jack represents the end of an era and frankly, the end of much chance that the party of Lincoln will return to its mantra as the fountain of
liberty and the gateway to freedom. We not only lost our message, we have lost our most fervent messenger. As I recall several Kemp
stories, I will long remember his version of how he and others like him called “black republicans” thanks to the actions of then Cong. Lincoln (IL). He wore it as a badge of honor. The only sadder thought that I have this day is that of the oxymoronic efforts of some to mint a Lincoln-Obama coin and suggest that there is a cent of similarity between the two men.

chris broe

May 4th, 2009
3:38 pm

Lincoln/Obama parallels: Lincoln was prez when Picket’s charge was thought to first have 15K rebels in it. Then it was 12K, then 7K, then back to 10 or 12K, and now we realize it was about 5K.. With Obama, the tea bagger party in Atlanta was first thought to have 15K rebels in it. Then it was 12K, then 7K, then back to 10 or 12K, and now we realize it was about 5K morons, all threatening to secede from the union.

Georgia seceded from the union once………………Once.

chris broe

May 4th, 2009
3:40 pm

And the sign-carrying tea baggers are generically called pickets

chris broe

May 4th, 2009
3:41 pm

I rest my case.


May 4th, 2009
3:48 pm

Mrs. Norris. That’s not a philosophy; that’s a delusion.

Salvatore Giuseppe

May 4th, 2009
5:53 pm

yes, Democritus, because believing in personal freedoms and liberties is a delusion. Believing in the principle of self-determination is a delusion. *rolls eyes*

Just because you do not agree with a philosophy doesn’t make it delusional. There is a reason why multiple philosophies exist, because they all have flaws, but none can be proved entirely wrong or right.


May 4th, 2009
6:16 pm

In other media outlets, Specter blamed Kemp’s passing on the GOP. He said it was their lack of pushing forward cancer research funding that killed Kemp. Just how many other people in this country think that humans can become immortal? Thinking like that tells me it is time for the 79 year old, now Democrat to retire. He is delusional. And, yes, BS, Mr Barr was referring to the term of Kemp when he entered the political arena, in the age of Reagan. He was a young, conservative when he entered the fray. Sheesh……is that called spot-reading? RIP, Jack Kemp.

Steve Anderson

May 4th, 2009
6:41 pm

A well written aticle about a true American Patriot. Kemp believed in the free market and supply side ecomomics and he witnessed his philosphy in action from 1980-1988 with the election of President Reagan and roughly 20 years of ecomomic growth for all- yes the rich got richer but that did not bother Jack Kemp because everyone benefited. The GOP has the blue print to return this country to the foundation of principles it was founded on and in my opinion the current administration will help them greatly in reminding Americans what the liberal agenda really is. RIP Jack Kemp.

chris broe

May 4th, 2009
6:57 pm

Conservatism remains undefined, unrefined, and obsolete. All the GOP needs is a face. Mine’s available. I look like a president should. Not one of you pudwits would dare try to define conservatism in my presence. Go head. Make me a Thomas Paine.



May 4th, 2009
7:15 pm

Almost all of the members of Congress, the majority being Democrats, are loathe to indicate any position which could lead to an election defeat and the loss of the political power held. Most back track if an expressed opinion is viewed negatively and offer a lame excuse. We need to establish term limits and get rid of these people who have no real philoshiphy except to remain in power.


May 5th, 2009
9:04 am

Mrs. Norris,do not waste your time with the likes of lazy lefties. Libs do not want a free society because they cannot compete on a level playing field. Have you ever seen a liberal campaign on the platform of self help or prsonal resposibility ? No, libs/dems campaign on what they can take from resposible people and gave to the leeches.

[...] Bob Barr says Jack Kemp’s loss hurts worse than the GOP loss of Arlen Specter. [...]

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

May 5th, 2009
11:33 am

Kemp, unlike the vast majority of GOPers, refused to appeal to the racists, xenophobes, and fundies that form the GOP core constituency. He was pro-Civil Rights, and pro-Affirmative Action. He worked hard for housing and economic opportunity for the poor.

Unlike some people (like, say, one former US Representative that was a leader of the partisan and priggish impeachment of Clinton for having consensual sex, and also sponsored the homophobic Defense of Marriage Act), Kemp was totally true to improving America’s economic opportunities.

He made no appeals to the mean and the stupid, so very un-Republican.

Jack Kemp was a decent man, an optimist about people. So rare in our country, doubly especially from the right…

Democrap Party

May 5th, 2009
12:24 pm

For all of you Fox News haters who claimed W only watched Fox. At least Fox has terrific ratings unlike President Teleprompters favorite news channel.

Obama official Kareem Dale confirms White House’s love for MSNBC

For some inexplicable reason having to do with who knows what, a widespread impression has grown among many politics fans that MSNBC and its crowd of talkers — including Chris “Thrill Up My Leg” Matthews, Norah “The GOP Is Doomed to Die” O’Donnell and Ed “It’s Time to Grind Them Into the Ground” Schultz — are somewhat in favor of President Obama.

Well, actually in complete love with the Great Change Agent.

Now, thanks to the ubiquitous cameras of C-SPAN, comes official videoed word from Kareem Dale, special assistant to the president for arts and culture and a key White House advisor on disability policy.

At the 1:51 mark of this video, Dale candidly reveals the new administration’s reciprocal feelings. Hint: Apparently the new White House has a popular internal saying involving the words “love” and “MSNBC.”



May 5th, 2009
7:54 pm

To Chris Broe: WTF man? I’m new to this area (Atlanta) and just happened across the AJC site. I am having trouble getting what you are saying, you’re a bit incoherent. What is the relationship between defining a conservative and being Thomas Paine? Isn’t it a bit arrogant to defy someone to do something in your presence?
Now, you can give me a straight answer, because I really didn’t get your post and and am trying to get what you are saying, or you can blow me off and be flippant about it.
Of course, how you handle the criticism will say a lot about you, too.

Mrs. Norris

May 5th, 2009
9:36 pm

I just read the column by Mary Grabar and I feel bad about what I said about Goldwater. I take it back. Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all. I guess I’m just catty.

Nathan Loewen

May 7th, 2009
3:51 am

I love how liberals like to make it seem as if “nice” people had beliefs that weren’t aligned with those of the Republican Party.

Also, call it “old” and “undefined”, but conservatism doesn’t change. Conservative ideals are just that: Conservative. These ideals were never closer to perfection than when the Constitution of the United States was signed. Would you like to know why? Those men had a profound belief in God, and their principles were rooted in the Bible. What they created was VERY good, drew upon previous experience (freedom to worship GOD, whom they considered to be the god found in the King James Bible, in a person’s own way was the very reason the men who shaped America up until it’s independence came to America; they realized the failures of the European monarchies), and casted a wary eye towards the future (Why do you think they made it a point to write that a set of rights (religiously- inspired, might I add) was not to be infringed upon.

I don’t understand how people continue to cite the “failures” of true conservatism. Where has it failed when put into action properly, and when it was TRUE conservatism? I won’t spout off and say that the Republicans support TRUE conservatism. They don’t. And do not make it seem as if we need to become less “conservative”. Do not bring up Reagan in the light of being too conservative. Reagan was VERY good. But guess what? He wasn’t as conservative as he could have, and should have been. That’s right, I want “Ultra”- conservatism. Don’t “Republicans” realize being un- politically “correct” will put them back in the driver’s seat? “Oh, we shouldn’t be as hard- hearted as Reagan, we should listen to the other side more, we should be tolerant of different beliefs”. What?! That isn’t conservatism and it won’t work. Conservatism is a back- bone you either stick with, or you don’t. It works best when fully intact. People want to hear that when they work hard, they will get just due. People want to hear that people who don’t make efforts to better themselves won’t be seeing the aforementioned people’s tax money. I know I want to hear it. That’s why I like people like Alan Keyes, Ron Paul, Bob Barr, and the like.

I find it funny how this new- age (Last forty- fifty years, a “healthy” dose with FDR early in the twentieth century) “tolerance” psycho- babble encourages the acceptance of many things traditionally seen as wrong, yet bashes the people who continue to look at ideas through Biblical perspective. I think I will just stick with my “frigid”, “out- dated” Bible teachings. That way I will have the satisfaction, that at least I, will be a moral- driven person.

Alright, I’m done bitching, but don’t give me any of that nonsense about Libertarians not having a philosophy. Just think a little bit. Did Hitler have a clear philosophy? Yes. Was it right? In my opinion, no. I am in no means implying that Libertarians are evil, I’m just making the point that EVERYBODY and every belief has a philosophy. And don’t say that Libertarians don’t have a clear philosophy. They straight- up tell you what they have done, what they want to do, and what they plan to do if given power MUCH BETTER than either the “Republican” party or the Democrat Party.


May 20th, 2009
10:56 am

The key thing about Jack Kemp was that he was INCLUSIVE in his ideology! He knew that it took ALL kinds of people to make a team!! Because of his football background, he was open to experience the commonalities AND differences of people so that his position of quarterback/team leader was a greater influence towards achieving success!! Kemp was the one of a few Republicans that I, as an ethnic minority, would have found myself voting for if he’d run as the PRESIDENTIAL candidate.

May the angels receive your spirit, Jack; you were a GOOD man!!