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“The Last Honorable Politician” and Presidential Candidate, Howard Phillips, Speaks On Judge Roberts

John Jalsevac
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WASHINGTON, D.C., August 16, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Howard Phillips has been called the last honorable politician. A 1962 Harvard graduate, where he twice served as president of Student Council, Phillips has served throughout the years in numerous positions in the executive branch of the United States government. From the day he was born politics was in the conservative leader’s blood, and he began his political career at a very early age by volunteering for Republican election campaigns in the mid 1950s.

In 1974 Phillips left the Republican party after years of service in jobs as varied as precinct worker, election warder, campaign manager, Congressional aide, Boston Republican Chairman and assistant to the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Under Nixon Phillips headed two Federal agencies, ultimately resigning from his position as Director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity after a disagreement with the president.

Since 1974 Phillips has served as Chairman of the Conservative Caucus, which is self-described as “a non-partisan, nationwide grass-roots public policy advocacy group.” Founder of the recently renamed Constitution party, Phillips was also nominated as a United States Presidential candidate in 1992, 1996, and 2000. 

More importantly, throughout the duration of his illustrious political career Phillips stood firmly by his unwavering political ideals and Judeo-Christian moral convictions, no matter what the cost. He is the father of six children.

For all of these reasons and more LifeSiteNews contacted and interviewed Phillips, seeking to know his thoughts on President Bush’s nomination of Judge John Roberts Jr. to the United States Supreme Court. Phillip’s opinions are remarkable and noteworthy for their cool-headed reasonableness and their basis upon his many decades of high-ranking political activity and insider experience in the United States Government

INTERVIEW:

LifeSiteNews: Could you explain for us what your current position on Judge Roberts is? 

Howard Phillips: Basically my position has been that in the case of Sandra Day O’Connor and in the case of David Souter, two Republican court nominees, the record was clear, they were both pro-abortion—O’Connor as a member of the Arizona senate and Arizona judiciary, and Souter as the trustee of two hospitals where he worked actively and successfully to change the policies from zero abortion to convenience abortion. Robert’s record is more clouded and my hunch is that he would probably not vote to overturn Roe V. Wade, but that he might, in more limited cases, such as partial birth abortion, support the anti-abortion side.

I was very troubled by the discovery that he worked with Lambda legal defense in the run-up to Romer V. Evans, which is a very dangerous case, which laid the predicate for Lawrence V. Texas and the overthrow of Bowers V. Hardwick. He apparently had no compunction about doing it. There was no moral principle which caused him to say “I don’t want to advance the homosexual agenda.” And then there have been other cases he has taken, promoting the concept of welfare rights in the District of Columbia, his work for Playboy, his work for the American gaming industry, and other things, which cause me some concern. 

However, in the spirit of fair play and acknowledging that I don’t know everything, I’m going to defer reaching a definitive conclusion until I see what he has to say in the judiciary committee hearings.

LSN: With Bush nominating Roberts, and Roberts being the blank slate that he is, what do you think that says about Bush? 

HP: Well, there are two kind of leaders. There are leaders who want to achieve a significant result. And they are willing to take 51% victories. Such victories are hard to win, harder to win than 85% victories. Bush is looking for an 85% victory, and he’ll probably get it with Roberts. 

Bush has certainly not kept his promise to name a Scalia or a Thomas to the bench. Indeed, in the Romer case Roberts was on the other side from Scalia. Charles Krauthammer, and others, have said that he’s probably more like Justice Kennedy than even Rehnquist, and I think that’s probably a good guess. 

My wife and I have exhaustively been reviewing all of his available writings. We even looked at the Harvard Law review. We’ve looked at his confirmation hearings as an appeals court judge. We’ve studied his responses to the questions from the judiciary committee. We’ve read dozens and dozens and dozens of in-depth news articles and many, many other things, and the impression I get is that this is a man whose ambition overcomes his principles. I believe that he knows what the Constitution stipulates, but I think that for the sake of his career he will often set it aside in favour of what he believes is a more pragmatic course of action.

LSN: What do you make of Roberts’ so-called oft-trumpeted constructionist jurisprudence?

HW: Well, if you look at many of the memos that he wrote—for example on Article 3, the ability of Congress to limit the jurisdiction of the federal courts—his position is that clearly Congress has that authority, but it would not be prudent for us to recommend that course of action. I think he made such comments in the case of forced busing, voluntary prayer, etc. So, as I say, he knows what’s right, but I think he lacks the moral courage to do what’s right. I hope that’s not unfair, but that’s what seems to me the case based upon what I’ve observed of his record and his writings.

LSN: What about the comment of Ann Coulter, who said that any man who has gone fifty years without saying anything controversial, especially when everybody claims he’s a conservative, seems a little questionable?

HP: A liberal law partner [of Roberts] at Horgan & Hartson says—and this is a rough paraphrase: “I’ve had dinner with John Roberts, or lunch, on more than a thousand occasions, and if you asked me what he thinks about anything other than whether he prefers bacon, lettuce and tomato to tuna fish I couldn’t tell you.” In other words caution is warranted. 

One of the things that has concerned me about the conservative movement and the Christian leadership in the country is that they let their emotion get in the way of their judgment. And there is no way you can assess a person fairly and comprehensively forty minutes after his appointment is announced. And basically that’s what they did. 

For example, one of the things that caused me to be cautious about him was that during the announcement ceremony with President Bush, he twice talked about this being a constitutional democracy, and we’re not. We’re a constitutional republic. The framers of our Constitution, the authors of the Declaration, despised the notion that by a simple majority vote people can be deprived of their rights. And the use of that language, and his repeating it, while it might seem of trifling importance to some, to me suggested that he’s going out of his way to pander to his potential critics on the left. 

I don’t want to be unfair to the man, but this is a very important appointment. I have no illusions that anything is going to stop it. I think that there is no doubt that he will be confirmed, but I think that people will remember the three United States senators who had the courage to vote against the confirmation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And I wish that there were more senators who voted on the basis of what they believe to be morally sound and correct on principle than on the basis of joining the bandwagon. 

LSN: Right. As far as practical results are concerned, as you said you have no illusions that you are going to stop the confirmation of Roberts.

HP: I don’t think that there is any realistic likelihood that his confirmation would be stopped. But as a matter of principle, our job is to tell the truth; the truth will be remembered. For example, right now there are many people patting me on the back, however belatedly, because I was the only conservative who opposed the confirmation of David Souter, and that was because I was the only one who read the record, and I believed it to be accurate. 

One of the things that influenced me in the Souter nomination was having read his senior honors thesis at Harvard where he rejected all higher law theory and characterized himself as a legal positivist. The authors of the Declaration were not legal positivists. They said we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. 

LSN: So at this point would you encourage senators, with the information we have now, to vote to oppose the confirmation of Roberts?

HP: Well, I would repeat what I have said before. What senators ought to do is withhold a final determination pending further information. The man is entitled to have a full and fair hearing, and I think members of the senate ought to ask him tough questions, and then I think all of us should take a look at what we ought to do following those questions. I might conclude that he is worthy of support after observing those hearings. On the other hand it might reinforce some of the concerns I now have and cause me to say the right vote would be a vote to deny the confirmation, even as I fully recognize that he is going to be overwhelmingly confirmed.

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