Republicans nationwide need to expand their base if they hope to remain in control in the Capitol and the White House, Bob Dole's former running mate said Monday.
Jack Kemp, who ran with Dole during his 1996 presidential bid, said the GOP needed to take cues from both the current illegal immigration debate and the racial and social implications of Hurricane Katrina to reach out to people whom he said the party often isolated.
"What a monstrosity," Kemp said of the Republicans' immigration policy. "What an embarrassment."
Kemp was at Kansas University Monday, speaking at the annual Vickers Memorial Lecture Series presented by the KU School of Business.
But before he spoke to a Lied Center audience, he spoke to a smaller audience just before touring the Dole Institute of Politics.
Although border control is a priority in a post 9-11 world, Kemp said at the Institute, the people the party has isolated often pay into the system and embody the history of America as a place for people to succeed.
"It's one thing to protect our borders," Kemp said. "It's another thing to criminalize people that are working here and paying taxes."
But Kemp still predicted many Republicans would hold onto their House and Senate seats, if only from lack of a real Democratic strategy.
Iraq will certainly weigh heavily on the minds of voters, he said. His criticism of the war on terror would set the tone for his later speech at the Lied Center: The economics have to add up to work toward a democratic, capitalist world.
"We all support the war on terror," he said. "But it doesn't have an economic end."
Economic ends have occupied Kemp's thoughts recently. He's been reading Tom Friedman's "The World Is Flat" for two weeks and can see America must strive toward globalization, rather than fight against it.
In his political days, Kemp said, he considered himself a hawk, a hardliner that stood by Reagan-era conservatism. Now, however, he sees himself as a dove, ready to bring politicians together to help his vision of economic freedom.
Most of Kemp's work since his political days has been in the private sector. He's formed two nonpartisan Washington think tanks - Empower America and Foundation for the Defense of Democracies - and has served on the boards of several businesses, including the banking and real estate firm FreeMarket Global Limited, which he co-founded in 2003.
But Kemp said he was still a statesman, and at the Lied Center Monday night he again took issue with the proposed immigration law.
He equated the law to an attack on the capitalist, democratic America that all citizens immigrated here for at one point in the country's history.
After all, he said, America was built by immigrant labor. To turn people away now would be closing the door on the American dream for many.
"Immigrants," he said, "are ubiquitous."