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Glenn Beck, The Second Coming of Jack Kemp

Thomas F. Roeser 23 September 2010 No Comment

The other night when I was watching Glenn Beck hopping with excitement about something a Founder wrote in 1772 I thought: Who does this guy remind me of? And it instantly came to me: Jack Kemp! Both Kemp and Beck came late to ideas. Kemp whom I knew very well and campaigned for…first for president against George H. W. Bush…and next for vice president when he was yoked with Bob Dole…had firecracker enthusiasm about the nature of capitalism. Dole who seemingly was born bored picked Kemp for his veep because he added enthusiasm and fervor for the free market system (which Dole assuredly needed).

When I met Kemp after he came to the House having defeated Max McCarthy and told him my company had a major plant in his upstate New York district, he literally grabbed me by the coat lapels and touted Adam Smith’s analogy of pin production, I thought: We heard all this before in Econ 101…but you know what? This guy was playing football when they were teaching it and missed out! And coming late to ideas…good ideas…he’s imbued with the enthusiasm we had as freshmen—only he’s in his `40s!

That beguiling enthusiasm for the free market never left Jack. In some ways I marveled at it—even old conservative me. In those days I’d travel to Washington from Chicago once a week as a Quaker Oats lobbyist and made it a point to keep in touch with him. And every day I’d see him for years it was exactly the same. His enthusiasm for Adam Smith…David Ricardo…the dead white males was co-mingled with his latest bulletins about the latest theories of Ludwig von Mises. Believe me, at first I thought he was putting me on but in short order I realized he wasn’t. Here was a freshman Congressman, a former pro-football quarterback pontificating about how brilliant Ludwig Erhard (the then finance minister of West Germany) was…how important it was for us to return to the gold standard. The erudition was impressive but my God the enthusiasm and energy could bring emotion out of a stone! Why? I asked. Why?

It’s like if I would wake up every morning, hop out of bed and roar with enthusiasm for the multiplication table. Okay, the multiplication table is there; it’s ingenious; archives scholars say it was compiled in the East Han Dynasty of China—but what’s the big deal? But coming late to free market economics and reading economic theory voraciously as the Buffalo Bills were traveling to their next game, Jack soon imbued everybody that he was indeed a rara avis, a rare bird. But he was never, ever, a cut-the-budget to the bone guy.

The guy who influenced him enormously was a fellow he introduced me to in the early `70s—Jude Wanniski, an associate editor of The Wall Street Journalwho coined “Supply Side” as a theory. (He later introduced me to the guy who actually made it an actual cult—Arthur Laffer…who drew the famous Laffer Curve on a piece of paper for Dick Cheney. But I digress.

Wanniski had Kemp as a disciple and one more: Bob Novak who said that the two greatest books he ever read…the books that shaped his philosophy forever…were Witness by Whittaker Chambers and The Way the World Works by Wanniski. Not being as smart in econ as either my two friends, Novak and Kemp, I took their word for Wanniski although I privately thought of him as Jude the Odd. Why? Because I heard Wanniski explain his Two Santa Claus Theory and thought it was designed more for political consumption than for economics. I still feel that way.

Wanniski, Novak and Kemp had no use for Milton Friedman because they felt Friedman was an old-fashioned, slash-the-budgets-to-the-bone economist rather than as they were, a powerful advocate for tax cuts. The Two Santa Claus theory was this: Guys, the Dems have been winning elections since the 1930s as Santa Claus, the party that will bring federal goodies for your stockings. What’s needed is a second Santa Claus: and that’s us, the Supply Siders. We’re going to get elected on promises of bringing tax cuts for your stockings.

I agreed that espousing tax cuts was in the party’s best interest. Up to then the only conservative theorem was to cut spending…which sounded like root-canal procedure. In fact that was all that Ronald Reagan had been promising as a candidate for governor of California. It’s to their credit that Kemp, Jude, Laffer and Novak collectively got Reagan to listen to the dynamic story of tax cuts rather than the slashing of spending. Later, a young House aide Dave Stockman became interested. He became a big supporter of Supply Side and Reagan hired him as OMB director.

I was in touch with Kemp closely during the Reagan campaign and knew that Kemp was lobbying like everything for Stockman to be named OMB director. But no sooner was he put in charge than Stockman showed he wasn’t a Supply Sider at all but wanted to balance the tax cuts with budget cuts. And failing to do that, he leaked to the enemy…one liberal reporter, William Greider—an enemy of Reagan and all conservatives—a startling “for publication”…not off the record…assertion that he, Stockman, regarded Supply Side as a Trojan Horse. It should have gotten Stockman canned but wasn’t…but it diminished his influence to near zero by the time he quit of his own volition.

During this time I noticed one thing about my friend Kemp. He was definitely not interested in supporting reduction of government. Just tax cuts. When he became secretary of HUD he was a big government guy. Why, I wondered, could he ever imagine that the books could be balanced just with the revenue growth caused by tax cuts as per the Laffer Curve and not have the slightest interest in cutting spending? He wasn’t all that interested in using leverage to defeat the USSR as Reagan was. He was more the gentle, persuasive guy. I have no doubt that if he were president he’d be suckered by Gorbachev and his like.

What it came down to…as least to me… was this: Jack really was a super-compassionate…extraordinarily compassionate…government bureaucrat. It disappointed me. Didn’t he perceive the need to cut government even from the standpoint of our reclaiming our liberties?

I noticed something else about Jack when he ran for president. He was compared to Ronald Reagan. But that’s not exactly true. We had a terrible time getting Jack to make a pro-life speech whereas Reagan could do it flawslessly. As far as the other ingredient of social conservatism, support for traditional families Kemp would dust that off with a few bromides but that was it.

Unlike Reagan who had about four things he believed in passionately, Kemp was specifically a one-trick pony. The one-trick was free market, particularly returning to the gold standard and a eulogistic almost Baptist preacher kind of oracular bombast on why blacks must identify with the Republican party. Reagan was inestimably smarter than that: he knew better. So did Novak. And Wanniski. And I suspect Laffer but I don’t know for sure.

Everybody but Jack realized that blacks for the most part have forsaken the plantation where as commodities, they worked as slaves for the Democratic party to today where they are willing to continue as indentured and exploited by the Democrats. That’s the way it is and whenever somebody introduces me to a bright, affable stunningly eloquent black candidate and says “will you help him get elected?” I say—can’t spare the time.

Reason, advocacy and issues don’t enter into it. They make no dent at all. Blacks made two political moves in the country’s life…after slavery as Republicans…and after the Depression as Democrats. And that’s where they’ll be to the end of time.

So Jack Kemp, who came late to ideas, was a one-trick pony and while he was touted as possibly the Next Reagan, even when both were alive and vital, I knew Jack was not in Reagan’s league. But he was nevertheless a very great man and received deserved accolades when he died at too young an age. He more than Reagan at the time led the GOP to Supply Side. But he couldn’t do more than that. Even as blacks cannot bring themselves to vote Republican, Kemp would not have been able as president to be tough—on spending, on measuring up to the Kremlin or any of our adversaries. He’d be for holding just one more conference…just one more Summit. And as for social issues, forget it. Today he’d be one of those addressing the Log Cabins.

That brand of Cain, an unjust one, wounded Jack—a married man to a gorgeous blonde and father of four including a professional running back. But knowing the kind of guy Jack was…a “can’t-we-all-get-along?” type he’d be addressing the Log Cabin Republicans next weekend.

Now to Glenn Beck.

Restoring Patriotism By Understanding Our History.

You see, people of my age and decrepitude were lucky—because we learned American history from those who admired us. We learned about the patriots from those teachers who were enamored of our country and patriotism itself. The downgrading of America which is a major thesis at key universities has produced teachers who believe in multi-cultural propaganda and the guilt…that means guilt…that we have for “exploiting” everybody—Indians, Mexicans with the conquest of California and the West, the original Hawaiians, the Filipinos with the cruel war Mr. Hearst supposedly created at the snap of his fingers et al. That’s why Glenn Beck is such a godsend. He comes to us with the same fervor as Kemp had for free market economics.

Civics doesn’t exist in most of our schools; if it does, it’s been merged to something called “contemporary problems.” But Beck has brought to prime time television the truthful restatement of the American Dream. On his show he defends the unborn. In fact he’s done something Limbaugh hasn’t been able to do—he’s moved out of the studios and meeting halls to the outdoors, addressing almost a million at a time. He and the Tea Party are responsible for much of the healthy revolution at the grassroots that is going to change Washington. His Restoring Honor rally in Washington was one of the most impressive ever held…and the controlled way he kept it from being just another bash Obama rally certified that as much as media tried, they could not diminish it or the cause.

Like Kemp, Beck has come late to ideas. The is ample reason for the lateness. He had a terrible home-life: one filled with tragedy. His mother committed suicide; he turned to alcoholism and drugs. He kicked his addiction and to cleave to something substantial found refuge in the Mormon Church. Unlike Kemp, Glenn Beck may be more than just a great communicator: he may be a genius. He has found patriotism and a return to God and broadcasts it brilliantly, with an eloquence Kemp found only in extolling the free market.

Beck’s power with his audience seems to dwarf Limbaugh’s. Limbaugh gives his audience classic one-liners, good arguments for the gang down at the Club. Beck gives his audiences real historical insight. Of the two, Beck is indisputably the more invaluable to the conservative movement. He is singularly powerful when he radiates belief in God and a First Cause. But because he has come late to ideas…and has had a short time as a student at Yale Divinity (of all places)…he is…unwittingly, I fear…playing into anti-Family hands. I hope and pray he can re-tune his message.
The problem began not long ago when as a guest on O’Reilly he was asked this by the host: “Do you believe gay marriage is a threat to the country in any way?” His answer:

“No I don’t. Will gays come and get us?” Then he quoted Thomas Jefferson (who wrong-headedly lionized the French Revolution) “If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket what difference is it to me?”

As bright and as dedicated as he is, Beck does not understand that surrender on gay marriage is a surrender on marriage—which is a surrender on the family and which could lead this country into further decadence.

Voters of 30 states have amended their constitutions to ban these pseudo-arrangements or couplings by an average vote of 67%. Even in the liberal state of California, 7 million voters stood firm while a politicized Court overruled them.

Beck’s is a classically stupid, ultra-libertarian argument devoid of all trace of Natural Law which has underpinned Western civilization for 4,000 years. Ultimately gay marriage will put traditional churches in the cross-hairs including Beck’s Mormon one. Gay activists will insist all churches perform same-sex marriages and will push for withdrawal of charitable tax-exemptions for those which don’t. Given the unutterable weakness of the churches to respond to so-called “populist” crazes, including my own Catholic one, social warfare will be on with passage of that stricture.

“Hate crime” laws will be pressed to apply to churches that teach Leviticus or Romans 1:26-27. In Europe and Canadaclerics have been dragged before so-called Human Rights tribunals to account for their actions.

Beck is a great one to talk about American Exceptionalism. Let this self-educated populist advocate of patriotism understand something that somehow evaded his education as he moved upward from terrible degradation to prosperity. It is this:

American exceptionalism rests on Three Pillars: Faith, Family and Freedom. Erode and defeat the family and it doesn’t really matter if we defeat socialism or not.

Glenn Beck is at a kind of Jack Kemp point. Kemp never moved from one issue to embracing a philosophy with which, had he lived, he could have become even greater.

With Beck and the country the stakes are even greater. If Glenn Beck becomes a defender or apologist for a movement to inflict gay marriage or civil unions on this country, he will not only miss greatness…

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