You Don’t Know Jack

CNN commentator Michael Smerconish–a former right-wing pundit who was effectively chased out of the conservative movement after he endorsed Barack Obama in 2008–has attempted to hold up the late Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY) as a model of the broad-minded bipartisanship today’s Republicans should emulate. However, his analysis doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Smerconish suggests that Kemp rejected right-wing orthodoxy throughout his political career, citing the following views:

Possessing the forethought to have opposed the Iraq invasion.

Willing to oppose an effort to deny public services to illegal immigrants, including education to children.

Equally reverential of Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Eager to seek votes in all neighborhoods and say things like: “We may not get every vote, but we’re going to make it unambiguously clear . . . that we want to represent the whole American family, that no one will be left behind, that no one will be turned away.”

Utterly incapable of launching a personal attack…Kemp was a big-tent Republican, the original compassionate conservative.

Apparently, Kemp’s compassion didn’t extend to those victimized by human-caused climate change. Nineteen years ago, Kemp–then-GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole’s running mate–launched an acid-tongued attack on then-Vice President Al Gore during their sole debate, accusing Gore of promoting “fear of the climate” and embracing an “anti-capitalistic mentality” because Gore dared to call for strong action to combat carbon pollution. (This was, of course, two years after Kemp appeared at a mid-February CPAC conference and moronically joked, “So much for Al Gore’s theory of global warming!”)

In 1999, Kemp aligned himself with the powerful climate-denialist “think tank” known as the Competitive Enterprise Institute; in this capacity, he viciously attacked climate science and took credit for President George W. Bush’s decision not to regulate carbon pollution from power plants. Some centrist.

Yes, Kemp criticized the racists who blamed the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act for the 2008 financial crisis. Yes, he said some nice things about Obama’s historic 2008 victory. However, when it came to climate change, Kemp was as extreme as the rest–and as a model of GOP rationality, he was far from the best.

UPDATE: From 1997 and 2002, more on Kemp’s vicious attacks on climate science.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.