Kemp's speech blends outreach, conservatism Vice presidential nominee embraces Americans of all backgrounds

Republican Convention

Campaign 1996

August 16, 1996|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- Punctuating the call for inclusiveness that has )) rung out from the Republican convention podium all week, Jack Kemp reached out to Americans "of every color and background" in his speech last night accepting his party's vice presidential nomination.

"Tonight, I am putting our opponents on notice," said the dynamic Kemp, a social moderate tapped by Bob Dole to bring balance to his more conservative leanings. "We're going to ask for the support of every single American. Our appeal of boundless opportunity crosses every barrier of geography, race and belief in America. We're not going to leave anybody out. That's what we must be all about."

A former housing secretary, congressman and professional football player, Kemp blended his message of outreach to those traditionally outside the Republican circle with one of fiscal conservatism. He lambasted the Democrats as "elitists" who have more faith in government than "ordinary women and men" and stressed that the economic centerpiece of the Dole campaign, the proposal for a 15 percent tax cut that Kemp deeply embraces, would give Americans more of a chance.

He said Dole had the "will" to balance the budget and cut taxes at the same time.

"And guess what? All the critics aside, I'm going to be with him every step of the way," he said, trying to allay fears that, as a maverick, independent-minded politician, he would upstage or lock horns with Dole.

Kemp's selection last weekend as Dole's running mate has energized Republicans in San Diego, and he was warmly received by the audience last night.

"I accept. I accept. I accept," he said enthusiastically.

With a touch of humor, he alluded to his notorious long-windedness. "Before I speak, may I say a few words?" he joked at the start of his remarks that ran only five minutes over his allotted 20 minutes.

On the podium at the end of last night's proceeding, the former quarterback threw miniature footballs from the stage, props he used when he ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 1988.

In his rousing speech, Kemp sounded popular Republican themes of smaller government, fewer regulations and a lighter tax burden. He said a Dole administration would "end the IRS and its intrusiveness as we know it."

Peppered with references to "inner cities of despair," the "struggling, single mother," and "the face of poverty" he sounded themes more often heard from Democrats. And, like many of the remarks spoken at the convention in the past four days, his address contrasted sharply with the staunchly conservative platform approved by the delegates Monday.

A champion of civil rights efforts, Kemp said his goal was to make "the ideal of equality a daily reality."

"Dr. Martin Luther King believed that we must see a sleeping hero in every soul," he said. "America must establish policies that summon those heroes and call forth the boundless potential of the human spirit."

Considered more liberal than most Republicans on issues such as immigration, Kemp said the nation's opportunities should be available to "those who come to America from other countries."

The crowd did not applaud his remarks on immigration until, quoting a former college president, he added, "The reason we have to close the backdoor of illegal immigration is so that we can keep open the front door of legal immigration."

He tread delicately on the subject, one of those in which, in the past, he has parted ways with Dole.

In fact, since his selection last weekend, Kemp has soft-pedaled some of his long-held beliefs -- on affirmative action as well as immigration -- to better mesh with Dole's more conservative agenda.

In interviews and appearances this week, the social moderate has admitted that he is wrestling with himself over these issues and is going through a "metamorphosis."

For instance, two years ago, an outspoken Kemp was denounced when he boldly broke with the GOP leadership, including Bob Dole, and opposed the much-discussed Proposition 187, a California ballot initiative that barred the children of illegal immigrants from public schools.

But in the last few days, Kemp has spoken obliquely about his views on the successful ballot measure, suggesting that he might now favor the ban.

Similarly, since joining the ticket, Kemp has backed away from his support for affirmative action, a position that made him a rarity among Republicans. In the last week, he has suggested that he now supports another California ballot initiative, also endorsed by Dole, that would eliminate all affirmative action dTC programs based on race and sex.

Speaking to California's delegates Wednesday, he said, "We must replace race-based quotas and affirmative action programs that are predicated solely on race, replace [them] with an opportunity for every man, woman and child, irrespective of income, irrespective of color or ethnic background."

Kemp has acknowledged that he is tempering his views to be more in sync with Dole. But he has repeated this week that "unity" did not require "uniformity." He has said that in return for keeping his own views in check he was promised an open door to Dole to discuss ideas.

Pub Date: 8/16/96

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