This is the time of year when we send expressions of love to those we hold dear: sweethearts, relatives and special friends.
I’m offering this Valentine to a friend I will not meet again this side of Heaven, a friend who served as a mentor to me and hundreds of conservatives in the trenches all across America, in Washington, D.C., and in the halls, offices and meeting rooms of Congress.
He helped write legislation, make policy and shape public opinion, all in relative anonymity. He was brilliant, thoughtful, sensitive and witty. I can’t tell you how many powerful one-liners he’s given me over the years. He couldn’t use them in the positions he held, so he freely passed them on to those of us who write columns, host TV and radio programs and make speeches.
Michael Schwartz was a treasure. Although separated by 2,600 miles, when I needed insight on a pressing issue, advice on a column or simply encouragement, I would pick up the phone and dial Michael.
As the country lost its moral underpinnings, as we headed off a financial cliff, as the electorate swooned over a sweet-talking, handsome, left-wing ideologue and I was tempted to throw up my hands and say, “What’s the use!” I would dial Michael.
For many conservatives like myself, Michael was our plumb line. I used to tell him, “When you turn out the light in your office, then and only then will I know it is time to pack it in.”
Michael taught me what it meant to truly love your country. He gave all his working hours for her. He could have used his knowledge of the issues and talent for working with people to cash in, but no, he chose to work at pro-family think tanks and empower others.
I identified with Michael. We began life as Democrats with a desire to help the poor and middle class. We were on a quest with many other tender-hearted young people who, at some point, realize that government is not the solution and that one is not poor because someone else is rich.
We met in the early ’80s at the Free Congress Foundation when I was doing research on the effects of the anything-goes-as-long-as-it-goes-with-a-condom brand of sex education that was being pushed on our public schools.
Michael produced an extensive poll conducted by Louis Harris for Planned Parenthood that showed that teens who had traditional sex education had no higher rate of sexual activity than teens who had no sex-education classes. However, the rate of sexual activity went up a whopping 30 percent among teens who had Planned Parenthood’s brand of sex education that included the use of condoms and other birth-control devices. Planned Parenthood did its best to bury that study, but it did not escape the careful scrutiny of Michael Schwartz. He was the consummate warrior in the trenches.
In 1994, Michael left public policy to become the chief of staff for Rep. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Coburn, a family physician from Muskogee, won a seat in an overwhelming Democratic district when Republicans were swept into power with the Contract with America.
Coburn promised his constituents that he would not become part of the culture in Washington and would come home every weekend and see patients. With Michael by his side, Dr. Coburn never wavered from his conservative principles and the mandate to shrink the size of government. When his Republican colleagues lost their way and began spending like Democrats, Coburn blew the whistle on them.
Dr. Coburn also kept his promise to term-limit himself. When he returned to his medical practice, Michael went to work as director of government relations for Concerned Women for America. Yes, it takes a real man to work at Concerned Women for America, and he was one of their most effective representatives ever on Capitol Hill!
In 2004, when the Republican establishment backed a milquetoast candidate to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Don Nickles, Dr. Coburn was pressed to enter the race. He was the longest of long shots. Nevertheless, Michel spent his vacation sleeping on Coburn’s couch and helped the good doctor pull off a major upset. (See my column “The good guy won.”)
In November, Michael was forced to retire due to Lou Gehrig’s disease. Last week, he lost the battle with ALS, but I’m happy to report that his light is still on and will burn brighter still in the hearts of all those he mentored and befriended.