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Schwartz: A Life Lived on the Front Lines of the Culture War
Townhall.com ^ | February 13, 2013 | Robert Knight

Posted on 02/13/2013 10:43:25 AM PST by Kaslin

Michael Schwartz, a great man who passed this earth on Feb. 3 at age 63, was an anomaly.

An Irish Catholic from the Duffy family, circumstances gave him a last name that suggested a different heritage. He was so smart and good at telling jokes that a lot of people were stunned to find out he wasn’t Jewish.

Mike had a soft heart, but was also a tough guy from South Philly who exulted in Philadelphia’s reputation for having the country’s “worst, most abusive fans.” He reveled in the fact that Eagles enthusiasts had thrown snowballs at Santa Claus. When it came to sports, though, he was a Phillies fan all the way.

Mike spent much of his career in Washington and yet was anything but an inside-the-Beltway type. He shunned fame, dispensing ideas to anyone who could give them currency. Mike was a mentor and strategist for the pro-life and pro-family movements before, during and after his stints as chief of staff for Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Coburn and then with Sen. Coburn.

Losing his courageous, two-year battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Mike stepped down last November on a day when Sen. Coburn gave him a moving tribute on the Senate floor.

“He is one of the kindest, gentlest people anyone has ever met,” Coburn said. “He has been a light focused on how we do things to honor other people.”

Mike possessed enormous passion. He’d suddenly blaze with anger over lies told by politicians or wrongs done to the poor, widows, the infirm, the elderly, immigrants or unborn children. A lifelong Democrat until only recently, he’d rail against “liberals” and their tax-hungry schemes to perpetuate a dependent underclass. Then, he’d go back to his calm demeanor. The more I got to know Mike, the more I understood Irish poetry.

When I came to Washington years ago to head the Heritage Foundation’s Cultural Policy Studies program, Mike was working for Paul Weyrich at the Free Congress Foundation. He was curious to see who would be handling cultural issues for Heritage.

Having recently escaped the Los Angeles Times newsroom for a fellowship at the Hoover Institution, I was full of libertarian enthusiasm for cutting Washington down to size. I still want to do that, but Mike’s visit changed my outlook.

“You say you’re a libertarian?” he asked with a smile. “Okay, I’m for reducing government. It’s out of control. They spend like drunks. But let me ask you something. Do you favor abortion? Pornography? Gay rights? Do you think marriage is important? Why do you think the government is so big?”

He didn’t wait for me to answer. He read my face. “Bob, you’re what we call a social conservative or even a paleo-conservative.” Then he gave a tutorial on liberty, which is the freedom to do what’s right, not the choice between doing good or evil, which is what many people think it is. True liberty, Mike explained, is the freedom to discover what God requires and being unhindered in living it out. It means rendering unto Caesar only what Caesar is entitled to – limiting the government to its God-assigned role of safeguarding peace and justice.

Mike was an evangelist for marriage, God’s way of organizing the world and civilizing men. Married to his dear wife Rose Ann for 41 years, he lectured single guys on the importance of starting a family. “Unmarried men are a blot on the universe,” he’d say, entirely serious. He also could, between sips of Guinness, explain colorfully why the Irish are not especially fond of the British.

Mike’s passion and humor occasionally got him into trouble. Regarding the role of federal judges in legalizing abortion and undermining the rule of law, he quipped to a reporter, “I don’t want to impeach judges. I want to impale them.”

Mike influenced countless people, often by example. When we were hurrying to lunch one day, a homeless man accosted us. Mike spoke gently to him and walked him to a sandwich shop and bought him a sub and a Coke. That was standard procedure. He had a love for the downtrodden that reflected his relationship with Jesus, his beloved church and his blue collar roots.

Two decades ago, Mike became aware of some church officials covering up abuses by homosexual priests. Failing to get change through private channels, he led a press conference exposing the cover-up. “That cost me some friends,” Mike told me.

A couple of weeks before he died, Mike received the Pro-Life Recognition Award from the National Pro-Life Religious Council, and the Cardinal John J. O’Connor Award from Legatus for his 40 years of pro-life service. O’Connor was the courageous New Yorker who quietly opened AIDS treatment facilities and prayed with patients. Because he upheld the church’s moral teachings, he endured hate and even spitting. He was one of Mike’s heroes.

For several years, Mike served as Concerned Women for America’s director of government relations. When I agreed to work for CWA in 2001, Mike was a big reason. If a stand-up guy like that could do it, so could I. We joked for years about the mild flak we got. Mike’s favorite line was, “if you’re a woman and you looked like me, you’d be concerned, too!”

Last Thursday, an overflow crowd at Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, Md. said goodbye to one of the most decent, kind and wise men ever to enrich our lives. Our hearts and prayers go out to Rose Ann, four grown children and seven grandchildren.

As for Mike, I have no concerns about where he is right now


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 02/13/2013 10:43:29 AM PST by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin
who exulted in Philadelphia’s reputation for having the country’s “worst, most abusive fans.”

I have not heard of Schwartz, but he's right on that score. I was at a Sabres-Flyers hockey game, and two out-of-town, visiting Flyers fans (men) were dropping F-bombs on a 70 year-old woman because they didn't like the jersey she was wearing.

2 posted on 02/13/2013 10:52:23 AM PST by PGR88
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To: PGR88
"Do you favor abortion? Pornography? Gay rights?" [...] True liberty, Mike explained, is [...] limiting the government to its God-assigned role of safeguarding peace and justice.

So porn and gay sex are unpeaceful? Or unjust?

3 posted on 02/13/2013 11:23:09 AM PST by JustSayNoToNannies ("The Lord has removed His judgments against you" - Zep. 3:15)
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To: Kaslin

The major problem I have with the so-called “culture war,” like all matters involving neoconservatives, is that it was really an internecine struggle between leftist and people ever so slightly to the right of them. I’m not motivated to take part in a debate where my side consists of Bill Kristol and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.


4 posted on 02/13/2013 11:27:45 AM PST by Tublecane
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To: JustSayNoToNannies

To be fair it says gay rights, not gay sex. In my experience “gay rights” can mean anything, including a right to gay marriage.


5 posted on 02/13/2013 11:30:41 AM PST by Tublecane
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To: Tublecane
True - but since Schwartz apparently didn't recognize the natural right to be let alone for makers and viewers of porn, he probably didn't recognize it for gays either. Another limited-government-except-for-acts-I-disapprove-of "conservative."
6 posted on 02/13/2013 11:35:28 AM PST by JustSayNoToNannies ("The Lord has removed His judgments against you" - Zep. 3:15)
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To: JustSayNoToNannies
...but since Schwartz apparently didn't recognize the natural right to be let alone for makers and viewers of porn ....

....and counterfeiters?

....and crank cooks?

....and spammers?

....and pedophiles? (Come on, kids aren't "victimized" -- they like it!!)

....and sweatshop owners who "hire" bond labor?

....and bookies?

....and street racers?

We could go on.

7 posted on 02/13/2013 11:52:25 AM PST by lentulusgracchus
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To: JustSayNoToNannies

You’re right, probably. It’s just that I’ve become sensitive to the panoply of tertiary issues packed into phrases like “gay rights.” If this guy doesn’t share our (and the Constitution’s) understanding of natural rights you can rest assured the sort of people who use the phrase gay rights don’t, either.


8 posted on 02/13/2013 11:56:02 AM PST by Tublecane
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To: lentulusgracchus

Nice try, but you comppetely miss the point by lumping together real with phony crimes, as well as various different sorts of crimes (fraud, enslavement, sexual assault alongside safety and voluntary exchange) without regard for why they’re crimes. It’s not really worth explaining to you why various of your examples should or shouldn’t be criminals. Why don’t you explain why pornography, specifically, and the production and viewing thereof, is any business of gubmint. Explain who is harmed, or how it otherwise involves legitimate state interest.


9 posted on 02/13/2013 12:19:15 PM PST by Tublecane
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To: Tublecane
It’s not really worth explaining to you ....

It's "not worth" replying to me, but then you're going to turn around and give me a homework assignment?

Ha!

10 posted on 02/13/2013 12:38:33 PM PST by lentulusgracchus
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To: lentulusgracchus
...but since Schwartz apparently didn't recognize the natural right to be let alone for makers and viewers of porn ....

....and counterfeiters?

....and crank cooks?

....and spammers?

....and pedophiles? (Come on, kids aren't "victimized" -- they like it!!)

....and sweatshop owners who "hire" bond labor?

....and bookies?

....and street racers?

Most of those you listed forfeited the protection of the natural right to be let alone by violating that right.

Bookies engage in purely voluntary adult transactions - as do crank cooks unless their cooking methods place other people at risk (which they sometimes do).

11 posted on 02/13/2013 12:45:26 PM PST by JustSayNoToNannies ("The Lord has removed His judgments against you" - Zep. 3:15)
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To: PGR88

I remember Howard Cosell, who was biased and as hated as he was, saying that Philadelphia fans boo when planes land safely at the Philadelphia airport. I think that that was the only time that I ever laughed at anything he said.


12 posted on 02/13/2013 1:13:53 PM PST by spel_grammer_an_punct_polise (Learn three chords and you, too, can be a Rock Star!)
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To: spel_grammer_an_punct_polise

A famous baseball coach (I’ve forgotten his name) once said that Philly fans would cheer on the electrocution of Benjamin Franklin for being dumb enough to fly a kite in a lightning storm.


13 posted on 02/13/2013 2:23:51 PM PST by Amberdawn
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