Throwing Long

RN EUROPE desk at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the omission clearly frustrated Jack Kemp. Kemp -- the former football star, nine-term congressman and perpetual Young Turk of the supply-side Republican right -- was secretary of HUD during the Bush administration. Lithuania, then struggling to throw off the Soviet yoke, was a big issue to him. As Marlin Fitzwater tells it in his 1995 book, ""Call the Briefing!,'' Kemp at one point got so worked up over Lithuanian independence that he nearly got into a fistfight with Secretary of State Jim Baker in the White House. The incident began when Kemp told Baker -- in front of the president -- that he was simply ""wrong'' not to recognize Lithuania. ""Fk you, Kemp,'' Baker growled. Kemp, stung, leaped over furniture in the Oval Office to run down the hall after Baker, though Fitzwater says the two were separated before any punches were thrown. He also says that Bush, asked if he'd consider Kemp as a replacement for Dan Quayle on the '92 ticket, said, ""I could never take Kemp. Can you imagine how out of control he'd be?''

Four years older -- he is 61 -- and quite possibly mellowed by his years in the po- litical wilderness, Jack Kemp is now Bob Dole's running mate. He brings welcome qualities to the Dole campaign -- a personal magnetism that borders on star quality and an instinctive ability to reach the common man that reminds some observers of Jack Kennedy and Teddy Roosevelt. Kemp is an affable man who is genuinely liked even by those who disagree with his views, which are an odd blend of far-right economics and vocal concern for America's left-outs. And as his career in football demonstrates -- he played quarterback for the San Diego Chargers and the Buffalo Bills in the old American Football League -- Kemp is a scrambler and never-say-die competitor. None of that is likely to hurt Bob Dole.

But as Fitzwater's anecdote suggests, Kemp also has a well-founded reputation for being something of a loose cannon. He is plainly aware of his own good looks and much taken with his gift of gab. A phys-ed major at Occidental College, where he met his wife, Joanne, Kemp later devoted much time to reading economic history, an effort that he says led to a ""road-to-Damascus-like experience'' -- the revelation that ideas matter, even in politics.

Kemp has been spouting High Concept ever since -- the theories of supply-side economics, policy innovations like urban enterprise zones and unfashionable nostrums like putting the U.S. dollar back on the gold standard. Bush administration veterans recall windy lectures on U.S. urban policy during cabinet meetings, and friends say Kemp will debate anything with anyone, any time. ""We used to laugh at him for going to Iowa, where he'd wind up talking the gold standard with two farmers, three hogs and two dogs,'' a former staffer says. ""Everyone else had left.''

To the loose-cannon image, add a bit of ideological heresy. Kemp's unrepentant belief in supply-side economics may make him, as many Republicans believe, the truest heir to Ronald Reagan's legacy. But his outspoken advocacy of policies to help the downtrodden can make him sound like a closet liberal, and he is politically suspect to some kinds of conservatives. Kemp is among the few nationally known Republicans who defend affirmative action. He publicly opposed Proposition 187, the anti-immigration measure backed by California Gov. Pete Wilson, and his support for Newt Gingrich's ""Contract With America'' was conspicuously hedged by his rejection of two crucial items, term limits for federal officeholders and the balanced-budget amendment.

He can be quixotic. This year, Kemp's endorsement of fellow flat-taxer Steve Forbes, which came just days before Forbes folded his campaign, raised eyebrows among party pragmatists. ""Booking a room on the Titanic never makes much sense,'' strategist Roger Stone said at the time. Add it all together, as one conservative journalist recently wrote in The Weekly Standard, and you are left with a chicken-and-egg conundrum: ""Is [Kemp] leaving the Republican party, or is the Republican party leaving him?''

Proud guy: The truth probably is that Kemp is simply a maverick -- a proud guy who is too stubborn and too vain to trim his sails to accommodate the prevailing breeze. That makes him a leader -- a title he is happy to claim -- but it also makes him headstrong, mercurial and a glutton for the limelight. Top aides in the Bush administration, like budget director Richard Darman, fought running battles to contain Kemp's endlessly enthusiastic -- and wildly expensive -- proposals to ""empower'' the urban poor; according to The New York Times, Darman once told one of Kemp's aides at HUD never to use the word ""empowerment'' in memos to the White House.

Well aware of Kemp's tendency to showboat, White House aides quietly picked someone else to head an administration team sent to inspect the aftermath of the Los Angeles riots in 1992. They then decided his ties to the black community could be a political asset for Bush -- and watched in consternation as Kemp, touring L.A. with the president, was mobbed by the press.

You would think a politician with Kemp's knack for people would be a powerhouse campaigner -- and he will be, if he can learn to stay on message. But he has never been able to do that. Kemp's 1988 campaign for president, Ed Rollins writes in his new book, ""Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms,'' was a nightmare for the professional staff. ""Jack was a totally unmanageable candidate . . . a total pain in the a,'' Rollins writes. ""He was impossible to discipline and simply wouldn't listen. He loved making speeches and relished the intellectual combat of candidate forums and debates. He had a magic with the crowds.'' Rollins says that when the staff tried to rein Kemp in he would ""behave for a speech or two. Then it was back to mumbo-jumbo like the gold standard, Malthusian theory, baskets of commodities, T-Bill rates, Hannah Arendt and Maimonides, whoever the hell that is.''

This impulse to display one's erudition may betray the doubts of an intellectually insecure man. Until he was in his mid-20s and playing professional football, Kemp spent most of his time perfecting his throwing arm. Then he went back to graduate school to tackle the world of ideas. He read the classical economists and became a disciple of Arthur Laffer, father of supply-side economics. It had to be tough going, and Kemp, like many self-taught thinkers, seems never to have learned that even powerful theories must ultimately yield to facts. ""This isn't economic policy to them,'' former Fed chairman Arthur Burns once said of supply-siders like Kemp. ""It's a religion, and there's no arguing with religion.'' Kemp's fierce drive to improve his mind may also conceal a fear that he is not quite as intelligent as other people. In his book ""The Choice,'' journalist Bob Woodward reports that Kemp told friends he had decided not to run for the presidency in '96 because ""he probably was not smart enough to be president.''

The dismal results of his 1988 presidential bid may also have been a factor. Kemp finished fourth in Iowa, third in New Hampshire and got clobbered in South Carolina after spending $400,000 that Rollins says ""we didn't have.'' Finally, he threw in the towel.

His former staffers on Capitol Hill say much the same things Rollins does -- that Kemp's lack of focus makes him tough to work for. Kemp's congressional office was low on hierarchy and long on fun, but hardly anything ran on time. Like Bill Clinton, Kemp surrounded himself with staffers who would munch pizza and listen to the boss's monologues on some book or article he'd just read. ""Sometimes you'd say, "Jack, we've got work to do','' one aide says. ""And he'd say, "Well, you gotta read this article; it's incredible'.'' Everybody got a say on big policy decisions, and if the group grope ended in disagreement, Kemp would slam his elbow on the desk and say, ""Come on -- you wanna arm-wrestle for it?''

A speechwriter, fed up by Kemp's habit of junking his prepared texts, once gave the congressman three blank pieces of paper en route to an appearance. ""What's this?'' Kemp asked. ""It's your speech,'' the writer said. ""All you do is read the first sentence and use the rest for scratch paper.'' Kemp turned red, then roared. ""Anyone else would have fired me right there,'' this staffer says. Kemp didn't.

Impulsive, warm and ever enthusiastic, Kemp is a fun guy who will add humanity to the starchy Dole campaign. Despite past rumors about his personal life, he is also a staunch family man whose devotion to his wife and their four children is unquestioned by those who know him well. The Kemps live in Bethesda, Md., in a modest house. Their kids -- Jeff, 36; Jennifer, 33; Judith, 30, and Jimmy, 24 -- are grown and have children of their own: Jack and Joanne now have 11 grandchildren. Jeff and Jimmy were star quarterbacks in high school who followed their father into professional ball; Jimmy now plays for the Montreal Alouettes. A former staffer says that when the kids were young, Kemp ""used to blow off all these appointments'' so he could attend the girls' ballet recitals and the boys' football games -- then sit in the stands shouting encouragement and advice.

His core philosophy -- for his children as for himself -- was distilled to three words: ""Be a leader!'' With his re-emergence on the fast track of Republican national politics, Jack Kemp now has the opportunity to show that he can do just that. But first, he must show that he can follow, too.

From the gridiron to Congress to President Bush's cabinet, Kemp is used to making bold, flashy moves. A look at his life:

1935: Kemp is born in Los Angeles. The son of a small trucking-firm owner, he grows up dreaming of becoming a professional football player.

1957-70: Unable to make it in the National Football League, the Occidental College quarterback finds a home with the American Football League's Buffalo Bills and, in 1965, earns the league's MVP award.

1967: During the off season Kemp serves as a special youth adviser to California Gov. Ronald Reagan, for whom he would later help pass deep tax cuts in Washington.

1970: Fresh from his AFL heroics, Kemp runs for Congress in Buffalo and wins. He serves from 1971 to 1989.

1981: The Kemp/Roth supply-side tax-cut plan, which the congressman had fought for since 1978, becomes the cornerstone of President Reagan's economic plan.

1988: Running against Dole and Vice President Bush as the heir apparent to the Reagan revolution, Kemp's candidacy never catches fire. He drops out after the Super Tuesday primaries.

1989-92: Named HUD secretary by Bush, he is hailed as a compassionate and innovative conservative by the press, but within the administration he is viewed as a motormouth with limited influence.

March 1996: After Dole appears to secure the nomination, Kemp endorses flat-tax guru Steve Forbes, Dole's primary opponent.

They weren't always teammates. Rivals for years, Bob Dole and Jack Kemp have differed sharply on key issues. Where they've clashed:

Dole: "Instead of making things better, it has made things worse. No ammount of tinkering can rescue it. It was never supposed to be permanent. We know it has failed." September 1995

Kemp: "Of course, the goal of equal opportunity is paramount and a worthy destiny to seek -- but to say that we have arrived at the goal is simply not true." September 1995

Dole: "The states provide a free education to people who by our laws should not be in the United States. I don't believe it's fair to impose these burdens on the states...[Illegal Immigration] represents a drain on public resources." June 1996

Kemp: "Charging teachers and nurses with the duty of reporting people they suspect to be illegal immigrants is profoundly anti-conservative. It relies on a highly intrusive Big Brother approach." October 1994

Dole: "[Balancing the budget] must be our first obligation." June 1996

Kemp: "My hope is that Bob Dole does not put balancing the budget ahead of the growth agenda." June 1996

Dole: "Kemp wants a business deduction for hair spray." July 1985

Kemp: "In a recent fire, Bob Dole's library burned down. Both books were lost and he hadn't even finished coloring one of them." July 1985