Those still shaking their heads in puzzlement over John McCain’s veep choice in 2008 have short memories: before there was Sarah Palin, there was Jack Kemp. In 1996, when Bob Dole chose the former New York congressman as his running mate for the GOP tilt against the Clinton/Gore ticket, TIME called it an “astonishing choice.” Politically gifted and hugely popular, Kemp would certainly boost the campaign in key states; indeed, he would’ve been an ideal running mate for almost any other candidate. But he and Dole had become something close to sworn enemies, butting heads ideologically and personally on a number of fronts. His selection, while it must have rankled, was conclusive proof of how badly Dole wanted to win. As TIME wrote:
Kemp the supply-side tax cutter and Dole the dogged budget balancer have been ideological enemies for almost two decades. At some point the political antagonism tilted into the personal. Kemp was partly responsible for the single most painful political betrayal in Dole’s life. In 1985, after the supply-side tax cuts championed by Kemp were followed by an exploding federal deficit, Dole pushed through the Senate a politically daring curb on cost of living adjustments (COLAS) for Social Security recipients. To squeeze out a one-vote majority in the Senate, Dole had to arrange for Republican Pete Wilson, then a Senator from California, to be wheeled in from emergency surgery. But when the bill got to the House, Kemp, who still believed that growth spurred by tax cuts would make deep spending cuts unnecessary, got White House chief of staff Donald Regan to persuade Ronald Reagan to oppose it. The bill died after Reagan allied himself with none other than Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill to do it in. The episode helped Democrats regain control of the Senate the next year. Dole aides said Kemp would never be forgiven.
Next Al Gore, 1992