Jack Kemp, the erstwhile successor to the failed heroism of Bob Dole and traditional Kansas republicanism, has died.
Let it be noted for the record that, in July 1998, as an attendant at the Mobil station on Main Street in Aspen, Colorado, I filled this man’s immense white Chevy Surburban with gasoline and wiped his windows.
As I did this, he had no cell phone with which to fiddle (it being the late 90s, and pre-Blackberry and all), and thus as I busied myself with the man’s vehicle I asked him a penetrating question which I will long remember:
“Are you Jack Kemp?”
“Yes, I am,” he nodded, stopping to look me in the eye.
Although the U.S.-China relationship would be erupting into terrific controversy within the year, I decided to simply say “Well nice meeting you,” summoning up all of my residual Midwestern reserve as I turned to finish checking his oil. Decent guy, no bodyguards, and, especially in comparison to Sarah Palin, something of a class act. Let’s hope some Republicans huddling around a twilight garbage can fire tonigh in Fairfax Virginia will pour some of their 40s on the ground for our dead homie, and think forward to nominating a decent mensch in 2012 to remind Joe Biden he doesn’t own his job or and needs to keep his office clean.
And I, for one, will imagine another history, one where I took a backseat ride with old Kemp in Aspen, because he said “Get in, kid,” all the while him spinning yarns and recollecting yards traversed in Buffalo, and me whiffing of cheap nostalgic gasoline, as he drives up Red Butte Road.
Long live American democracy!