Howard Phillips, RIP

Howard Phillips died a few days ago, and I trust he went to be with the Lord. He ran for president several times on the Constitution Party ticket. He was a principled conservative who was a founder of the Moral Majority and a Ron Paul supporter.

Back in the deathly dull vacuum of the 1996 Dole-Clinton presidential “contest,” Phillips and Libertarian Harry Browne were third-party candidates and frequent guests on shows like Larry King. Trust me, they were the only interesting things about that campaign. Their debates were funny and illuminating, even if they bounced right off Larry King’s uncomprehending noggin.

Phillips was always great at soundbites. He was a frequent guest on CNN’s influential show “Crossfire” in the 1980s (he may have been an occasional co-host; time is the tide to a seashore on one’s memory). I actually remember watching his testimony where he was nearly alone in warning (from the right) against David Souter’s nomination to the Supreme Court. This was while we were being continually assured by Souter’s promoters in the Bush Sr. Administration (e.g. John Sununu) and elsewhere that Souter was a reliable conservative.

Souter ended up being reliable all right: reliably liberal. Later we were told that the Souter choice was a mistake, but how could anyone have known that this unassuming, retiring bachelor from New Hampshire would be another Earl Warren? Well, Phillips warned them ahead of time. (Cynical me, I think they knew better all along, but at least Howard made those excuses seem hollow).

A hefty man with a booming voice, Howard Phillips never minced words. He spoke naturally in concise, strong tones. He believed what he said, and I think he saw the wit in throwing a good, hard punch. He was a voluminous intellect and a fun listen.

The public airwaves are emptier without men like him.

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