A Prophet Has Fallen: Howard Phillips

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By Wallace Henley, Special to CP
April 23, 2013|8:02 am

It was another Monday morning, and Howard Phillips – who died April 20 – sat at my White House desk once more, his eyes afire with the inferno of a Hebrew prophet.

Howie, a Jew, was living proof that the best prophetic temperament is Jewish. Later in life, when he embraced Israel's Messiah, his prophet mantle was broadened.

I loved those mornings in the early 1970s when Nixon's Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity would sit across from me. He saw much more than I could see. Howie's understanding of political philosophies and strategies was inexhaustible. His insights at times stunning.

Howie's searing intellect easily consumed the rich banquets of sophistries offered up by Harvard – where he had been president of the student council. Yet Howie's intellectual palate was far too discerning to swallow everything Harvard shoved down his gullet. Neither extreme of Left nor Right sat well on his stomach.

But neither did bland centrism. Howie knew the Constitution is not a document enshrining dreamy platitudes and elastic clichés, but commitment to universal principles arising from Judeo-Christian values. In fact, when Jewish Howie embraced Christ, he became a living, breathing "Judeo-Christian."

Howard Phillips knew well the dangers of Rightist extremes. Howie loathed racism and discrimination, and all the other cancers that frothed in bloodstreams ranging from Hitler to the Klan. As a Jew, he would have been hated by the soldiers of the rightist heresies.

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But Howie knew the secret current establishments work hard to keep hidden. Right-wing extremists are the "usual suspects," but the Left hides in the shadows, preaching "liberation" and all the other savory promises to an increasingly gullible, unthinking public.

If you don't believe that, consider how quickly Leftists sought to link at least the possibility of the Boston bombings with "right-wing extremists." Maybe the murderous assault came from such knuckle-draggers protesting "Tax Day," opined Obama strategic mentor David Axelrod. Other leftist voices duly joined the chorus like a flashmob at a mall.

Howie was among the "usual suspects" behind Hillary Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy." But when did she last warn against a "vast conspiracy" from the Left? The left-wing, for example, labors to keep the Gosnell horrors in the murky shadows, but forms a posse of celebrities and socialist academics to ferret out the right-wing extremists they are certain brought death in the heart of Boston.

Howard Phillips' passing is a massive loss in a world where a celebrity whose millions have been made putting a round object through a net runs off to North Korea to "hang out" with the leftist beast who sustains hell-on-earth. Or where sometimes faux-conservative media titillate online readers and TV viewers with "Pop Tarts" and their escapades.

In every conversation I had with Howie in his days as Director of OEO – a bureaucracy established under Lyndon Johnson's Great Society – he expressed grave concern at how it was using taxpayer money to fund the Left.

Nixon had originally appointed Howard Phillips to dismantle OEO. Ultimately, however, the Nixon Administration betrayed Howie and that vision by folding it into other agencies. Still, the money flowed to leftists, and the community organizers who would give us the 21st century ruling class.

Howard Phillips saw through it all because he stood in the tradition of Edmund Burke, G.K. Chesterton, Malcolm Muggeridge, and other prescient intellectuals who could penetrate and expose populist flim-flam.

I lived and worked in Nuremberg just 20 years after World War 2, and traveled extensively in the old Soviet Bloc not long after the collapse of Communism. I have seen outcomes of the pretensions of the extreme Left and the presumptions of the far Right. Maybe those of us who quest for a "better way" chase the wind, but I don't think so.

Some described Howie as a Don Quixote because of his runs at the presidency as candidate of the Constitution Party. However, it was not a delusionary madman tilting at windmills that we have lost. Even if his presidential quests were quixotic, Howie could see into the heart and soul of people and movements, as Cervantes' "knight" could see into the heart and soul of Dulcinea, and awaken her to the truth about herself (in the musical, if not Cervantes' book). Or perhaps Howie was like the "sons of Issachar," who "understood the times" and knew what the nation should do. (1 Chronicles 12:32)

A warrior has fallen. No, more than that – a prophet.

Wallace Henley, a former White House aide and congressional staffer, is senior associate pastor at Houston's 64,000-member Second Baptist Church. He teaches worldview studies at Belhaven University, and is author of Globequake, published by Thomas Nelson.
 

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