Paul Ryan, You’re No Jack Kemp!

Over on one of Patheos’s progressive blogs, Faith Forward, Franky Schaeffer has written a very highly trafficked, angry post whose point is summed up in parentheses: “(Ryan Is No Kemp).”

Republicans can only pray to the gods of the Electoral College he’s right about that. Jack Kemp as vice presidential pick was an unmitigated disaster.

Kemp’s debate with Al Gore — in which he responded to Gore’s charge that he was one of the few non-racists in the GOP by thanking him and twice refused to say Roberto Alomar shouldn’t have spit on an umpire — was a worse performance than when Dan Quayle got pasted by Lloyd Bentsen in 1988. It helped to rehabilitate Gore after the beating Quayle had delivered in 1992 and set him up to run for president in four years.

None of that would have happened if Kemp had been an even minimally competent debater or was a little less in love with his own self-image as Mr. Nice Guy.

Unlike the presidential snoozefests, the vice presidential debates are serious slugfests. Kemp didn’t get that at all. He led with his chin the whole time and got bloodied. If the GOP wants to win in November, Ryan had better be willing to lace up.

  • Mark Byron

    One thing that Kemp did do is help solidify the base. Bob Dole and conservatives were a marriage of convenience at best; from what I recall of 16 years ago, conservatives were very relieved to have one of them; Kemp was the godfather of the Reagan tax cuts and the first major supply-sider office-holder on the right. He might not have been from the MMA school of debating, but his economic chops made him far from “an unmitigated disaster” as a nominee. Ryan echoes that very strongly, although he seems to have a bit more of a street-fighter in him; that’s not saying much.