Jack, The Jerk
Jude Wanniski
October 8, 1996


Memo To: Maureen Dowd, NYTimes
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: JFKemp, My Kind of Jerk

In your Sunday column, about the hapless Dole campaign, you observe that Jack Kemp has been “doing his best to avoid the few Republican areas that are still in play. Instead, he races from the barrio to the hood, talking to wary black audiences who are not going to vote Republican, comically recalling Steve Martin in ‘The Jerk,’ a movie about a white guy who blithely goes around thinking he’s black until his black adoptive father breaks the news that he isn’t.” What are you trying to say, Maureen? I can understand you trying to make an argument that no matter how hard he tries, Jack is not going to persuade blacks to vote Republican this year. But I cannot fathom what you mean by saying you find it comical, that somehow Jack is under the illusion that he is black, that his effort in trying to persuade black Americans that he wishes to represent their interests in exchange for their votes is ridiculous on its face.

The last time I noticed, you were white, Maureen. How is it that you can speak for that one-eighth of the population that is black, almost one-fifth that is colored, when you present no evidence that you have spoken to any of them about Jack’s political ministry among them. The last time I noticed, in fact, there has not been a single white political reporter, left or right, to go to the trouble of picking up a telephone and calling around to black opinion leaders and asking what they think of Jack the Jerk. I’ve read all the major stuff written about him since he joined the ticket in San Diego, and I haven’t even seen a serious piece on his views of why he is doing what he is doing. On "Meet the Press" Sunday, Tim Russert did point out that less than 10% of the black vote is showing up in the polls for Dole/Kemp, and Kemp did comment, promising that more than 10% would wind up voting for the ticket. Yet Russert never asked why this should happen or probe Jack for this thoughts on why this is so important. Can it be that the political press corps -- left and right -- has decided that the black vote belongs to the Democratic Party? Just why is it that you can assert blacks “are not going to vote Republican”? Is it your inference that blacks are too smart to vote Republican? Or too dumb?