Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jack Kemp

Sad to see Jack Kemp passed away, and you can't say that about too many politicians.

Back in the 80's I was assigned to interview Kemp, and to be honest I knew more about him as a football player than as a politician. I didn't feel anything about him one way or another, as I've always tried to remain open minded about any politician.

While interviewing him I noticed that his answers were anything but canned; he was actually talking, not reciting. And he had thoughtful answers to my followups. We chatted for about five minutes, then for my last question, I asked him about football and who he liked for the next Super Bowl.

Jack Kemp turned into a regular guy, going on about the game like a neighbor who had come over for a beer. On the way back to the station, we talked about the fact that Kemp didn't seem like an average politician.

In 1988 we were convinced George Bush was going to choose Kemp as his running mate, and brought b-roll with us to the Republican National Convention in New Orleans. Then of course, Bush picked Dan Quayle and sent us all scrambling.

I remember only a few other instances when I got to see politicians without their game faces. In 1980 John Anderson was running for President, and we were all waiting for him in a meeting hall. I was leaning up against a table while some technical people were having problems with the microphone. Anderson walked in, was told it would be awhile before he could speak, grabbed a drink and headed in my direction. He leaned against the table right next to me and said, "Hey, how you doing?" I was new to the news business so I was blown away that a Presidential candidate wanted to talk to me. We chatted about all sort of things, none of them political, while Secret Service men stood by.

Flash forward to today when every politician has a staff of spin control people who create stock answers that can be regurgitated like a download from a computer. I often wonder what would happen if a politician just ran a campaign by winging it, just saying what he or she thought, and letting the voters see the real person behind the candidate.

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