"The world is young today;
Forget the gods are old,
Forget the years of gold,
When all the months were May.
— Digby Mackworth Dolben
both young then, Jack Kemp and I, in the spring of 1978.
one of the gods of football, recently morphed into one of the gods
of the political right. The former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills
had been elected the Republican congressman from Buffalo.
I was a
political neophyte, volunteering for the campaign of Bill Bronson,
who was running against liberal Congressman Michael Harrington here
in the 6th District. For some reason, I'd been assigned to a
committee organizing the campaign kickoff dinner that was to feature
Congressman Kemp at a function hall in Danvers. The other two
committee members were men from the Marblehead Regiment, recently
formed for the Bicentennial.
Bauer and Bob Erbetta were chosen for their known creativity and
patriotism; I was picked probably because I had only a part-time job
as a lifeguard at the YMCA, so could put in the hours to make phone
calls seeking support for the event.
Nevertheless, I think I was the one who had the brilliant idea of
getting Nerf balls for the former quarterback to sign. This is safe
to say since Bob now recalls that it was Fred, and Fred thinks it
was Bob; neither guessed me.
Regardless, we went directly to Parker Brothers in Salem for a
bucket of balls, which Kemp autographed for an additional donation
at the event. It was my job to hand him a little football for each
fan, and I remember that he was gracious. Erbetta, who picked him up
at the airport, called him "a real gentleman."
also remembers going with Bronson to the Boston Tea Party ship,
where the candidate tossed an empty crate into the harbor to
symbolize "the failure and enormous cost of the liberal experiment."
Last month, Erbetta attended the Tea Party rally on Boston Common, I
guess to symbolize continued resistance despite the recent successes
of the costly liberal experiment. True patriots never give up.
Bauer, who created Bronson's campaign slogan — "He's tough and he
listens" — remembers having to explain to his wife, Jane, why she
found a pair of panty hose, not her size, in his glove compartment
during that campaign.
can remember is that I hated wearing panty hose, so on the rare
occasions when I dressed up, I'd put them on over briefs so I could
pull off the tight nylon leggings right after an event.
odd memory: I recall Jack Kemp at a later event, always a good sport
but sitting somewhat embarrassed while Donna Nelson, the then-wife
of the Republican State Committee chairman, Gordon Nelson, did her
traditional campaign-event belly dance, wrapping a scarf around the
congressman's neck. Republicans had a lot more fun back in those
personal memory of Kemp comes from 1995, when he'd been appointed by
Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich to chair the Economic Growth and Tax
Reform Commission, which traveled the country to hear suggestions.
Then-governor Bill Weld and I were invited to testify in Boston, and
I remember arguing with Kemp when it was my turn about my support
for the "no new taxes" pledge. Finally another commission member,
the CEO of Domino's Pizza, had to step in to make peace, noting that
there could be new taxes if they merely replaced the old taxes.
Well, OK then.
commission's final report recommended a single, unspecified
income-tax rate in place of the federal graduated rate structure; a
generous personal exemption; no taxes on interest, dividends,
capital gains or inheritances; additional retirement savings
incentives; and a new deduction for payroll taxes. Kemp later
recommended taxing fringe benefits such as health insurance, which
is being discussed today.
economic vision was for "the new world that this new system will
create ... a climate of economic growth. It will lift incomes,
reduce interest rates, put people to work, reduce the use of tax
shelters, (and) reduce the need for social safety-net spending."
some success in these areas with the Kemp-Roth tax cut during the
Reagan administration, but the flat tax never happened. And the
growth created by cutting taxes simply funded more spending, which
increased beyond the new revenues and added to the national debt.
Jack Kemp, an enthusiastic all-American optimist, may have missed
the inevitable, irresponsible momentum of political spending.
Bill Bronson didn't win either of his two campaigns for Congress,
and Jack Kemp didn't win later campaigns for president and vice
president. Fred is now known as Marshall Bauer on his Web site (thevanishingline.blogspot.com)
that celebrates staying young at heart; and Bob Erbetta is running a
business, "Aging in Place," which sets up homes for safer living as
aging happily myself, using it as an excuse not to do anything I
don't want to do, including wearing panty hose.
Nelson died long ago and Kemp died last week, leaving us with
memories of early years of political activism, when all the months
were May, and anything was possible.