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The last honorable politician?

Posted By Craige McMillan On 10/29/1998 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Columnist’s note: This is a long interview, but it is so refreshing in its candor that I could not cut any of it. In what has become a sea of media-induced, spin-doctor lies, you will be rewarded with no polls, no trial balloons, no word-parsing or back-pedaling; just honest, straightforward answers to a variety of thoughtful questions. Read it, and reflect on what has been stolen from us in political debate today. It says more than I could hope to say in any column today.

Howard Phillips on the Issues: A Christian News exclusive interview by Rev. Mark Dankof.

Christian News correspondent and Lutheran pastor Mark Dankof interviews Conservative Caucus chairman and 1996 United States Taxpayers party presidential candidate Howard Phillips on Richard Nixon, Pat Buchanan, the state of the Republican party, the New World Order, the Religious Right, Abortion, Y2K, the Euro-Dollar, and the state of education in America.

Effective conservative politics

Dankof: As a former member of Richard Nixon’s cabinet, I was struck by your analysis of him in Nixon: An Oral History of His Presidency, by Gerald S. and Deborah Hart Strober (1994) on pages 108 and 109, where you state the following:

 

    “Nixon was a liberal; there is no question about it. Go back to his career in Congress — his support for the (Senator Arthur) Vanderberg wing of the Republican Party on foreign policy issues — more foreign aid, more support for international organizations. Look at the people he chose in these areas, like Kissinger. If you look at his economic policy, he supported price controls, closing the gold window, the creation of regional governments. He basically institutionalized and expanded the Great Society; he was the one who perpetuated it; he was far more culpable than Lyndon Johnson, because he raised expectations that he would do otherwise. It was not that he really wanted to do this; it was because of his desire to avoid criticism — his desire to win brownie points with the liberals by giving this or that away. It was his administration that institutionalized the quota system, subsidized forced busing, heavily promoted abortion. I remember one of Nixon’s assistant secretaries at HEW (Health, Education and Welfare) saying, ‘Yes, we have to have the government pay for abortions, because if we don’t abort these kids, we are going to have to support them on welfare; this was before Roe vs Wade.’ So across the board — on all the key issues of the day — even though he gave some conservative rhetoric, the politics of his government were very, very left.”

     

Is your analysis of Nixon a microcosm of the larger problem for economic and cultural conservatives in the Republican Party generally?

Phillips: Not necessarily. Nixon was someone who inspired extraordinary loyalty on the part of Republican partisans. He was a quintessential Republican leader. He, more than any other figure of his era, was able to articulate the aspirations of grass-roots Republicans and to personify their hopes for the future in terms of policy. And his comments, for assuming the Presidency, were sufficiently Delphic as to cause expectations to rise among people of widely disparate views within the Republican Party.

I, for one, even then a very strong conservative, had hopes and expectations that Nixon would be a highly effective, unpredictably influential force for conservative policy. I was badly mistaken. And one of the lessons I learned from the Nixon era is that we need not to place our trust in Princes, but to focus on the core principles in which we have invested our hopes — and the policies which arise from those principles.

Christians, conservatives, Constitutionalists, will only be effective in politics when they begin with the standard, rather than beginning with the man. If you begin with the standard of God’s word, the Bible, if you begin with the political standard of the Constitution, and then assess the degree to which those who seek your support identify themselves with that which is required by the Bible and the Constitution, you are less likely to err. But there is no such thing as perfect discernment — we just do the best that we can.

Dankof: Given your analysis of what has happened in the Republican Party since 1964 and its failure to truly promote limited government and culturally conservative values, you decided in 1992 to create the United States Taxpayers Party (USTP). There are those who say that no political influence or agenda advancement is possible outside of the aegis of the two major political parties, that conservatives would merely marginalize themselves by affiliation with the USTP. How do you respond to this often heard criticism?

The early years: A very partisan Republican

Phillips: My own experience in politics began in the 1950′s, growing up in Boston. I worked in a number of campaigns for local, as well as national office. When I was 11 years old in 1952, I was active for General Eisenhower in his race for the Presidency. I, early on, became a fan of Richard Nixon. I managed a campaign for Congress for a Republican candidate against Tip O’Neill in 1958, when I was a freshman at Harvard.

I worked in many state legislative campaigns. I was precinct captain’ I was an election warden’ I was head of the local Republican club; I worked for a Republican congressman from Massachusetts who was on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committee; I was state chairman of the College Republicans; I was national vice-chairman of the Young Republicans; I was chairman of the Republican Party in Boston — managed dozens and dozens of campaigns; was assistant to the chairman of the Republican National Committee — ran a program for the National Committee called “Opportunities Unlimited” to work with young people and minorities entering the Republican Party.

I was on a first name basis with virtually every Republican governor, senator, congressman, in the middle-to-late 1960s. I was a very partisan Republican. I believed that the only way to advance the conservative policy agenda in which I devoutly believed, was by being a loyal partisan and by being loyal to Richard Nixon as our president.

Tempered by experience

My experience of some four or five years in the Executive Branch, heading two agencies, persuaded me that we have to give our loyalty to principle and policy, not personality or Party.

I discovered that for most people in Congress and the Executive Branch, platforms are irrelevant to that which is done. I came to observe that the only way in which one could correctly assess the policies of a congressman or Senator was by examining his voting record — that the only way in which you could assess the policies of an Executive Branch administration was by examining, in addition to their Judicial and Executive Branch appointments, their budget — that the budget is the script for the government.

And I came to realize that there was a huge disconnect between that which was said and that which was done. I observed the most outrageous examples of nonfeasance, misfeasance, and malfeasance within the Nixon administration — and the president himself has to be held ultimately accountable for what he permitted and authorized — presided over the disbursement from the Federal Treasure of billions of dollars to persons who in many cases were avowed Marxists, to persons who were promoting abortion and homosexuality — the then unheard of notion of “welfare rights”; the notions of class consciousness’ the consciousness of “students’ rights”; “children’s rights”; “prisoner’s right” — I am describing these things in terms which lack the emotional content and significant reality of the programs that were actually pursued, but it was horrendous what was being done.

Johnson’s policies expanded

The changes which we witness in American society today were the result of policies initiated during the administration of President Lyndon Johnson, policies which were consolidated, reinforced, validated, and extended during the administration of Richard Nixon.

When I began my tenure in the administration, my presumption was, “If the president only knew about these things. If he only knew that they were funding Angela Davis, Jane Fonda, the Republic of New Africa, and many other things worse than that, that he would immediately correct it.” The ultimate revelation was that he knew and he didn’t care.

Turning on Nixon

At one point, when the president under fire, had been brought so low that he would trade policy for more time in office, I organized the Committee for the Conservatives for the Removal of the President. And I believe that it had a lot to do with the president’s decision to resign, because as a result of his decision to trade money for his White House lawyers for the creation of the Legal Services Corporation, members of the U.S. Senate who had been previously loyal to him, including Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Senator James McClure of Idaho, decided and conveyed to him — and this was conveyed as well through others — Hugh Scott, Barry Goldwater — that if he were impeached, and placed on trial in the Senate, they would vote to convict, as they no longer had any confidence in his credibility.

Life after the Republican Party

I left the Republican Party in 1974, having left the administration in 1973, became an independent, and organized the Conservative Caucus, visiting every one of the 435 congressional districts in the country. We had meetings four times a day, eight a.m., noon, 4 p.m., 8 at night — each of two hour duration — on a long march around the country. I was on the road five and six days a week.

Our belief was, that in order to change the direction of policy, we either had to change the members of Congress or change the way they were perceived by their constituents. So we tried to organize caucuses in those districts, and we succeeded in about 375 of them, consisting of people of shared philosophical and policy premise, put it to verse — organizational and interest connection and association — and we did have a significant impact on policy.

Cracks in the Left’s armor

In the current era, it is taken for granted that the Republicans can control the Senate, but it was unheard of in the 1970s. As a result of the grass-roots work that was done, our campaigns against the Panama Canal treaties — there were some significant breakthroughs in the 1978 Senate elections. Bill Armstrong defeated Floyd Haskell; Roger Jepson in Iowa defeated the radical Dick Clark; and Gordon Humphrey defeated Tom MacIntyre in New Hampshire.

We continued our grass-roots efforts, and in 1980, 13 left wing U.S. senators were defeated. Even though we lost the vote on the Panama Canal Treaties, about 29 of the people in ’78 who voted for them were gone by the time the new Senate was sworn in, in January of 1981. Among those gone were Frank Church, George McGovern, Jacob Javits, and many, many others.

And I really think that the grass-roots coalitions that we built had a lot to do with it — and in ’78 as part of that, we organized at the time, along with a member of my staff at the time, Ed McAteer, what came to be known as the Religious Right. Ed and I traveled around, and had one-on-one meetings with many of the more famous Christian leaders at the time — Charles Stanley, Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye — many, many others. What came to be known as the Religious Right had an impact on the 1980 elections.

Reagan

With the election of President Reagan, it became clear that whereas we could previously have changed policy by focusing on the Congress, since all people who were not Democratic liberals had a stake in challenging the Congress, once Reagan was president, it was a very different scenario. In order to change the policies of Congress, we at least had to have at least one party on our side, and if we couldn’t win a battle at the White House, we couldn’t possibly win in Congress.

So our direction changed, and our focus was on influencing the policies of the Reagan administration. We were active on many fronts — we pushed for a 10 percent flat tax, we were the ones who conceived of what became known as SDI, we had a major campaign to defund the left which was unfortunately rebuffed by David Stockman, Michael Horowitz, and others in the administration.

We were the ones, together with Jack Wheeler, who promoted the idea of defeating communism by aiding anti-Communist freedom fighters at the periphery of conflict. I was very active in supporting anti-Communist movements, especially those in Central America and in southern Africa, and I made many trips to the region — Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, over to South Africa, Namibia, etc.

Shades of Bush

Through Reagan’s first term, although there were many disappointments, we had some degree of influence. I don’t mean me personally, but I mean those who had conservative policy objectives had some degree of influence in what was really the first Bush administration. Reagan’s Presidency was really the first of Bush’s three terms, because after all, Reagan put Bush’s campaign manager, Jim Baker, in charge of the government as his chief of staff, and Reagan was a “hands off” executive. And as a result, Baker’s policy preferences, except in those areas where the President determinedly asserted himself, and those were not many, saw Baker becoming the controlling policy figure.

In the second Reagan administration, conservative influence was lost completely. You had people like Frank Carlucci as national security adviser, and as Defense secretary. I had been Carlucci’s special assistant when he was one of my predecessors as the director of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). Mr. Carlucci is, to but it mildly, a man of the Left — he is a man of the far Left — but he was put into a key position by Reagan.

Carrying out the president’s policies

When Don Regan replaced Jim Baker as chief of staff of the White House, he wanted to carry out the president’s policies — he discovered there weren’t any. And that policy was really shaped during his tenure by the Cabinet secretaries. When Baker was chief of staff, Baker had his own agenda and so policy was set at the White House. When Don Regan was chief of staff, he had no agenda. He simply wanted to serve the President. As a result, the administration’s agenda became disparately and diversely, the agenda of the various Cabinet secretaries.

It became even worse when Nancy Reagan had Don Regan fired and replaced with Howard Baker, against with whom he had fought with so much passion in the ’70s, because of his instrumental role in surrendering the U.S. presence in Panama — and it was very dispiriting.

In 1988, I voted for Ron Paul for president, knowing George Bush’s policies, and my comprehensive disagreement with them. I couldn’t in conscience vote for him. Although Ron was a Libertarian, and there were areas where he and I disagreed, I knew him when he had been a member of Congress to be a person of great integrity and firm principle — he was a person for whom I was proud to vote, proud to endorse when he sought the presidency.

Moral conscience

The Bush administration was not too far along in 1989 when I reached the conclusion that it was no longer morally permissible for me to invite others to support the work in which I was engaged, either in terms of their time, their money, or their reputation, unless I had some concept of how we would win. And it was at that point that I spent a great deal of time reflecting on what had to be done, what I ought do.

Defining principles

I decided I had two choices. I had the one choice of withdrawing entirely from politics — because I could not in good conscience rally people to the banner of “losing as slowly as possible.” On the other hand, I had to define and articulate a vision of victory. So I had to spend a lot of time thinking about what victory in political terms meant. And in a nutshell, I concluded that it meant Biblical justice, biblical jurisprudence — a return to the working understanding that we live under God’s law, that He is sovereign, that He is our Creator, and that we are one nation under God, a nation which must live by the rules that He makes.

Second, that the federal government had to be tied down to the Constitution. It had to be limited to its delegated, enumerated functions. I concluded further, that in order to do that, we needed to have a political home of our own. The Republican Party was a house divided against itself, and could only offer the lowest common denominator in politics. Our hope for victory was through the strategy of a united plurality, rather than one of a divided majority. And that in order to do that, we had to start somewhere, building a Party committed to those biblical, constitutional principles which by God’s grace could at some point bring a government to office.

Buchanan: The candidate who wasn’t

Dankof: Pat Buchanan, according to Newsweek, was considering a third party presidential bid with the United States Taxpayers Party in 1996. In that report, Newsweek indicated that Kevin Forbes, Buchanan’s campaign communications director, had signed up with your team that year, a move widely interpreted as an indication of Buchanan’s intention to run. Yet Buchanan took himself out of consideration for a third party run on August 11, 1996, in Escondido, California, and endorsed the Dole/Kemp ticket the next day during the first session of the Republican National Convention in San Diego. Were you disappointed? And what does the Buchanan endorsement of Dole portend for Pat’s political future in presidential politics.

Phillips: I’ve always had great admiration for Pat Buchanan, whom I’ve always regarded as a friend since we first met in 1971. Pat is a man of extraordinary talent, who articulates many of the things in which I profoundly believe.

I recognized that if Pat would accept the Presidential nomination of the United States Taxpayer Party, in 1992, for I encouraged him to consider it then as well — or in 1996, that he would be our strongest possible candidate, stronger than I could be. He had a degree of media access, name recognition, personal connections, and access to resources which would have been of inestimable value. I sincerely believe that if Pat had joined us in either 1992 or 1996, he would have had an excellent chance of becoming president, perhaps not in his first run, but subsequently.

A man of Pat’s views, and frankly of his good character, is never going to be the nominee of the Republican Party. He would have to surrender his agenda in order to unite his party. It has always seemed to me that it would have been far wiser for him to go forward as the candidate of a party which agreed with the things that he stood for. I spent a great deal of time urging Pat to accept our nomination. At one point, my wife and I spent hours in discussion with Pat, his wife Shelley, his sister Bay, at a restaurant in Tysons Corner (near Phillips’ office in Vienna, Virginia). We went into it in great detail; I thought we made a very strong case for his running. I left the meeting feeling that his wife Shelley agreed, that his sister Bay agreed, but that Pat was as yet unpersuaded. I can’t speak for Shelley or Bay, but in the event that Pat decided he would stick with the Republican Party — while I found that to be, in my opinion, an unwise strategy — that was something which reasonable people could find themselves in disagreement.

What did disappoint me was his decision to endorse Senator Dole. Pat is his own man; he has a right to do what he deems appropriate; but given the facts about where Dole stood on the issues, and where I stood on the issues, and how much at variance Dole’s position was from the position of Pat, I was disappointed in his decision.

Christian Coalition

Dankof: It seems that once Buchanan was out of the presidential picture in 1996, that the logical person to receive the endorsements of groups like the Christian Coalition and the National Right to Life Committee was Howard Phillips. Yet these organizations froze you and the USTP from their voter guides, and stand accused of having distorted the real record of Bob Dole on issues like abortion and homosexuality. What was behind this, in your view, and what are the implications for orthodox Catholics and evangelical Protestants who trust these groups, and people like Ralph Reed, for political advice and endorsements?

Phillips: Well, let me take the easy part first. I have no confidence in Ralph Reed’s integrity. Others will have to make up their minds for themselves. The good news is that the new leadership of the Christian Coalition is a big improvement over Mr. Reed. I’ve known Don Hodel since the 1950s, and while he and I don’t agree on everything, there’s no doubt about his ardent Christian faith, his extraordinary character, his keen sense of fairness. Don Hodel is a very fine man and I hope that the Christian Coalition will play a far more constructive roll in 2000 than it did in 1996.

There were various reasons one could go into, many of which relate to the personal attitudes of Pat Robertson concerning particular individuals, which may have colored decisions he directed to be made by the Christian Coalition, and that may again be the case in the year 2000. Pat Robertson is the man ultimately in charge of Christian Coalition — he has already said that he would find Governor George W. Bush of Texas perfectly acceptable as the Republican Presidential nominee. So on the other hand, we have to recognize that Pat Robertson has his own agenda — that he is top dog at Christian Coalition — so we will just have to see what his agenda is…

National Right to Life Committee

With respect to the National Right to Life Committee, I regard the part that they have been playing in the political process as contemptible. Even as we sit here today, they have refused to endorse a pro-life candidate for the U.S. Senate, Congresswoman Linda Smith of Washington State, and have endorsed her pro-abortion opposition for the Republican nomination, Chris Bayley. In New York State, they have actively campaigned for Al D’Amato, to be the nominee of the Right-to-Life Party of New York for the U.S. Senate, despite the fact that D’Amato has voted for every pro-abortion Supreme Court nominee, including Breyer, Ginsburg, David Souter, Sandra Day O’Connor, etc.; despite the fact that he is one of the principal burden-bearers for the homosexual movement on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Despite all of this, the National Right to Life Committee has endorsed D’Amato for the Right-to-Life Party of New York nomination for the U.S. Senate over a 100 percent pro-life candidate. They can’t even make the excuse that D’Amato wouldn’t be on the ballot, that the only choice would be a liberal Democrat, if Droleskey (pro-lifer Droleskey) were to succeed, because D’Amato already has the Republican nomination, and the nomination of the so-called Conservative Party in New York State. So I regard this organization (the National Right to Life Committee) to have prostituted itself for the many hundreds of thousands of dollars it has received from the Republican Party. I think its behavior is disgraceful, reprehensible — they should be ostracized, repudiated, condemned, and exposed by every person who considers himself, or herself, to be pro-life.

Israel

Dankof: Shifting gears for a moment, one observes differences within the conservative movement over the issue of Israel, and whether or not the support rendered it by the United States, is truly in the interest of the American people. Within Protestant Evangelicalism, the prophetic school known as dispensational premillennialism has had a profound influence in the creation of the pro-Israel constituency extant among fundamentalists and charismatic Christians. Lutherans, influenced by the amillennial prophetic tradition, and Reformed Christianity, influenced by amillennial, historic premillennial, and postmillennial schools, have been historically far less enthusiastic about the Jewish state. What do Howard Phillips and the United States Taxpayers Party say about the subject?

Phillips: I can only speak for myself — the foreign policy of the United States should be based on what the Constitution provides for defending our nation’s just interests. I believe that our objective should be that which was articulated by George Washington in his farewell address, “no entangling alliances.” I believe that our policy should be one of friendship to all, and if circumstances are such that friendship is not possible, then declarations of war are appropriate.

Really, the principle issue with respect to Israel has been that of foreign aid. I’m opposed to all foreign aid. I can’t see any provision in the Constitution of the United States which justifies taxing the American people to subsidize any foreign government. And in the current context — well, I’ll just leave it there …

Globalism

Dankof: You observed many times in campaign appearances in 1996 and recently, in your Issues and Strategy Bulletin, that one of the most ominous trends in both the Democrat and Republican parties in recent years has been the support of both parties for globalism, the so-called New World Order, and by logical conclusion, world government as a replacement for individual nation states. Given widespread support in the American political establishment and news media for the United Nations, NAFTA, GATT, The World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other instruments of this One World trend, is there any realistic hope that Christian conservatives and Constitutionalists can effectively combat this trend? Has history passed us by?

Phillips: God is in charge — it is my prayer that he will grant us victory. This is really a religious issue. There are three choices in every civilization — about sovereignty — sovereignty lies either with man’s reason, with the State, or with God. Those who framed the American Republic in the Declaration of Independence acknowledged that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, that God is our Sovereign.

Law is always the will of the sovereign, and the Declaration said that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. That was a religious statement in the sense that the governed are God’s creatures who owe a duty of stewardship to their Creator. The first sentence of the Constitution as a corollary to that statement says that all legislative powers are vested in a Congress is that the Congress is the only institution accountable to the states and to the people, and the only institution through which the people can hold institutes of civil government at the Federal level accountable to them, so they can be accountable to their sovereign Lord.

The Constitution spells out the specific, limited, delegated, enumerated powers of the Federal government — and all of this is based on the principle of accountability, accountability to the States and the people. And our accountability, as citizens of the States, and as individuals, and as families, is to our sovereign Lord.

The problem with all of these globalist institutions is that they have different law systems. Our law system is based on the British common law, which is in turn derived from Holy Scripture. The law system of the United Nations is humanistic socialism. And there are many other presuppositions attached to the International Monetary Fund, NAFTA, and the World Trade Organization — and none of them are the Christian presuppositions of the American commonwealth.

Accordingly, when we surrender control over resources and policy to these institutions — what we’re really doing is shifting our loyalty from the sovereignty of God to the sovereignty of man and the sovereignty of the State. So it’s very dangerous. That’s why it should be opposed — that’s one of the reasons that the Tower of Babel was not a good idea, and I believe that ultimately, God will smash all competing sovereignties.

Y2K

Dankof: Sounds like you’ve been reading the book of Daniel lately! — You once suggested to me over lunch that maybe it would take a cataclysmic crisis in America to reverse the trend toward statism and the accompanying cultural decline embodied in increasing societal acceptance of abortion-on-demand and homosexuality. Your Issues and Strategy Bulletin suggests that the Y2K computer crisis which is less than 500 days away, and the advent of the Euro-Dollar in January of 1999, might be two developments suggestive of such a crisis. How serious are these two problems? What do you foresee in the Phillips “Crystal Ball”?

Phillips: Well, I’m not a prophet. But in the sense that I study history to discern clues about the future, several things seem to me to be likely. It seems to me that God will chastise our nation for its waywardness. It seems to me to be likely that as long as people are living comfortably in Fantasyland in front of their television screens viewing the world as one, vast entertainment and concerning themselves as spectators and consumers, that they are setting themselves up for a swift kick in the pants.

There is reason to think that swift kick may come soon. And I’ll be one of those who get kicked, so I’m not relishing the prospect, but I do think it’s likely — that at some point the American dollar will decline, as we become a nation of consumers rather than of producers; I think it’s clear that at some point we may be badly hurt by widespread epidemic and disease — clearly, sexual promiscuity has already wreaked havoc on millions of Americans and it could be that all of us to some degree, indirectly suffer from the consequences, the health consequences, of sexual immorality. We’ve seen significant changes in weather patterns — there very well could be more, which could wreak havoc.

But what is also amazing is the degree to which we as a nation have neglected our defenses. The Congressional injunction to provide for the common defense has been displaced with the notion, that somehow, our military is a vast social experiment where we consider the degree to which corrupt homosexual conduct will be permissible, where we have girls and boys bunking together, where we have women assigned to responsibilities which throughout history have been the exclusive province of men.

We look at a situation where those who serve in the Armed Forces very often are serving the United Nations or some other foreign interest rather than the proximate, vital interests of the United States of America. We’ve seen our military resources depleted, our military personnel demoralized — shortages of pilots, massive cutbacks in our Navy, our Air Force, other elements of our military. We’ve had this suicidal resistance to fully developing and deploying a strategic defense — and it isn’t just the Democrats in Congress today — Ronald Reagan, as matter of policy, decided not to move forward with a Strategic Defense because it was in conflict with arms control treaties. He and his predecessors, all the way back to Woodrow Wilson and Warren Harding, through Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter — and Reagan’s successors — have put more confidence in pieces of paper signed with hostile powers than in our own defenses.

There are more and more countries which have the ability to explore nuclear weapons on our own soil, if not by launch, than by suitcase delivery — the dangers of chemical and biological warfare are extraordinary — nuclear terrorism and other forms of terrorism are very possible — so we have led a charmed life, and I don’t know how much longer we will be able to lead it. It may well be that the Millennium Bug crisis may precipitate many other problems, or there may be some other instigating factor or instant cause. But I do believe that we’ve been living in a dream world, and that we’re to be awaking up from it in the next several years.

Dankof: Between Y2K, the Euro-Dollar, and now the recent bearish developments in the stock market in reaction to events in Asia and Russia, do you have any advise for the concerned Christian family as to the development of a strategy plan for how to survive the impending shocks to our economy and society? How for example, does one invest? Do we need to be thinking about how to produce our own food and how to develop our own water supply? Will there, or should there be, a demographic shift of informed Christians from urban/suburban residences to rural settings where survival might be a better bet during political and economic earthquakes? Or is all of this a paranoid overreaction to events?

Phillips: Well, the most important thing for us to do is to praise the Lord and be grateful for His abundant blessings, and to strive to serve Him. We should in all things act prudently, and try to discern that which is appropriate. It does seem to be appropriate that provision should be made by families to have adequate food supplies to deal with the prospect of crisis.

A crisis can come in many forms, as the result of computer failures, a trucking strike, an act of terrorism, but there are always places in any given year where people lack access to food, where deliveries aren’t made, shelves are empty, or for one reason or another it is difficult to get food. And so the wise family will make provision for that type of event.

Water is essential to life — the family should have a way of securing clean water. Defense is important — and in times of social breakdown, it is prudent for a family to have the capacity for self-defense, with provision to be made in that area. In terms of electrical power, the family should do that which is most practical for them, whether it’s obtaining a generator, held in reserve in case the power goes down — certainly that’s what hospitals have to do in order to make sure that people are kept alive, whenever there’s a lightning strike that turns off the electrical power. And the same is true for families — because there is the prospect of the extended loss of power during cold seasons or hot seasons, it makes sense to have alternative power in winter — a wood stove, a generator that can turn on power in the house.

It’s important that families think about the many things that we take for granted. Sewage and waste disposal, if not handled properly, is dangerous — human sewage can cause widespread disease — so families have to think about what they will do if human sewage treatment plants aren’t working, if we don’t have normal procedures in the disposal of human waste.

Families should anticipate potential lack of access to necessary medical supplies. Every family should have, in addition to things like blankets and flashlights, medical supplies, first aid kits. It makes sense to have a reserve of antibiotics. It is only in recent decades that people have been saved from death, very often from diseases like pneumonia because of access to antibiotics. And in a situation where the power goes down, and there is no heat in winter many people may become ill, and without antibiotics may needlessly die.

In terms of transportation, fuel — these are other things that ought to be considered — and locations away from likely points of crisis makes sense, whether they be retreats or permanent homes. Clearly, Senator Bennett and other elected officials, have suggested that there could be problems in the nations 120 largest cities if there is a Y2K style breakdown. And I would say that it makes sense for people to be living in areas where they have neighbors, friends, family members, co-congregants who will be helpful to them and to one another in times of crisis. So as in everything else, it makes sense to plan ahead. We don’t know if we’ll have something as comprehensively influential as the Flood was in the time of Noah, perhaps we will not, but I think there is a good chance of some serious problems facing us ahead, if not in 1999 and 2000, certainly not long thereafter. It makes sense for every good head of household to act prudently in preparation.

Public schools

Dankof: The public school system in America is obviously in miserable shape, educationally and morally. Does government have any role to play in funding education and shaping educational policies, or should it be out of the educational business totally? What do you think of vouchers? What is your assessment of the home school movement among evangelical Christians?

Phillips: The short answer is that there is no proper role for the federal government in education. First of all, there is the First Amendment, which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Every educational institution is an establishment of religion, because every system of education has presuppositions about the nature of God and man — that is an area in which the federal government has no valid role. So there should not be a single penny spent by the federal government on education. And that means that you don’t have to get to the question of vouchers, tax credits, or whatever — but to make clear that I’m not ducking the question, let me say that my views on this were significantly influenced by the Grove City College decisions of the 1970s, in which the federal government maintained that a college which accepted even a student who had received a federal scholarship, a federally guaranteed loan, but which itself had received no federal funds, was subject to federal scrutiny and oversight with respect to its policies. Not simply in its financial aid office, but throughout the institution.

The danger of vouchers is that he who pays the paper calls the tune and while one can argue that people are simply being allowed to keep or spend their own money, the reality is that the federal government will claim that you are subject to federal public policy standards if you accept a federal voucher as an institution. I think it’s suicidal for Christian schools, private schools, to accept vouchers. The risk of bringing through the back door, the same rules, conditions, and problems into the Christian or private school that caused one to flee the public school in the first place, should be a paramount consideration in considering the perilous temptation posed by vouchers.

From Judaism to Christianity

Dankof: Readers of Christian News would be interested to know something about your conversion from Judaism to Christianity. How has your relationship to Christ informed and motivated your involvement in national political policy and debate?

Phillips: Years ago, I was most profoundly moved by the cogent arguments and analysis of Doctor R. J. Rushdoony in a tract he had written opposing socialized medicine from a Biblical perspective. I had opposed socialized medicine for years, but had not had exposure to the Scriptural rationale Dr. Rushdoony had articulated for the position.

In the course of reading this, I began to spend more time studying the Scripture, both Old and New Testament, and began to come to grips with the constantly mentioned subject of blood sacrifice as the basis for atonement for sin where God was concerned. The ultimate blood sacrifice for sin, obviously, is Jesus Christ. I committed my life to Him as Lord and Savior and subsequently realized that there could be no disconnection between the Christian world view, based on blood sacrifice and redemption, the Scriptural testimony to this event, and one’s commitment to impacting the culture for Christ, inside and outside of the political and activist arenas.

Dankof: I would like to thank you for giving your time to Christian News and to me, for this interview. For those interested in learning more about the work of either the Conservative Caucus or the United States Taxpayers Party, what addresses, phone numbers, and website addresses are available? Many of our readers may want to know the specifics of how to subscribe to your Issues and Strategy Bulletin.

Phillips: The Issues and Strategy Bulletin is available on a twice monthly basis for $100 a year. It is issued through the auspices of Policy Analysis, Inc., 9520 Bent Creek Lane, Vienna VA 22182. The website addresses for the Conservative Caucus and the United States Taxpayers Party are www.conservativeusa.org and www.ustaxpayers.org respectively. We can also be reached by mail at 450 Maple Avenue East, Vienna VA 22180, where specific questions about our work are concerned.

[Ed: Howard Phillips will be speaking at an upcoming Y2K conference November 14th, in Pittsburgh, with Franklin Sanders, Jim Lord, Herb Titus, Donald McAlvany, and Ralph de Toledano. Call 1-703-281-6782 for more information.

Pastor Mark Dankof, who interviewed Howard Phillips at his Conservative Caucus headquarters in Vienna, Virginia, is the Vice-Chairman of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod -- USA. Currently he is pursuing a Th.M. degree is systematic theology and German at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, with a thesis emphasis in the life and theology of 16th century orthodox Lutheran, Martin Chemnitz.]

Copyright 1998 by Christian News. Reprinted from the 12 October 1998 issue, published weekly except August for $25 per year ($30 outside the US). Address: 3277 Boeuf Lutheran Rd., New Haven MO 63068-2213. Used with permission.


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