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Michael Karem, aide to four GOP presidents, dead at 72

November 11, 2018

Republican lawyer and presidential campaign aide Mike Karem, who served four U.S. presidents, died in Louisville on Nov. 5. He was 72.

Mr. Karem, a story teller of some skill, regaled friends and family with recollections of things he did and things he saw done while working for Presidents Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and for the presidential nomination runs by other candidates.

Some of his most memorable and least printable tales were of what he saw and heard as an advance man for Ronald Reagan’s 1976 presidential nomination bid and 1980 presidential campaign and then for Mr. Reagan as president. There was nothing scandalous just humorous, sometimes uproarious, examples of the ticks and tricks of the Reagans and their aides, especially at the presidential ranch retreat in California.

During President George W. Bush’s administration, Mr. Karem traded the polemics battlefield at home for one where bombs and improvised explosive devices did the talking. He went on a Defense Department assignment in Iraq as a senior advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority.

From his living quarters in the relative safety of the Green Zone in Baghdad, he would sometimes phone me at the oddest hours.

“You won’t believe what I’m watching that the locals are stealing before my eyes,” he would say.

He’d would follow it up with a list of things that you would think were too large and expensive for anyone to make off with and get away with it. But they did over and over again, as Mike used to tell it.

Back home, his passion for political combat propelled him to the front lines of various House, Senate, and gubernatorial battles around the country. It wasn’t always clear to me whether he did it primarily for money or fun. What was clear is that he had more fun crushing the opposition than perhaps should be legal.

In the three years leading up to his death, Mr. Karem was beside himself with glee that the his son, Jordan, was following in his old man’s footsteps and then some.

“Did I tell you Jordan’s doing advance for Trump?” became Mike Karem’s way of saying hello. Eventually that changed to: “You know Jordan’s heading advance for Trump now.”

Just before his death, Mike Karem slipped into any and every conversation this notification: “Jordan’s deputy assistant to the president now and director of Oval Office Operations. His office is next to president’s, in the White House.”

A graduate of the Louis D.Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, Mr. Karem is also survived by his former wife, Beverly Karem, his daughter Tiffany Donnelly, his brother, Bruce Karem, and his sister, Debbie Webb.

Mr. Karem’s family has scheduled a memorial service at 11 a.m, Nov. 17 at Beargrass Christian Church, 4100 Shelbyville Road, Louisville.

A private celebration of Mr. Karem’s life will be held in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 19 for immediate family and friends.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations in his name to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758516, Topeka, Kansas 66675-8516.

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