Neil McCabe

After being at the side of the legendary conservative leader Howard Phillips from more than three decades, a Washington-native talked about his boss and friend who died April 20th after a long illness.

“In the 1970s, I went to meetings and so forth with the Conservative Caucus—there was even a 10th Congressional District Conservative Caucus, run by Helen Blackwell—I knew the people there, and one day I casually mentioned: ‘Hey, if you’re ever looking for anybody, let me know,’” said Arthur L. “Art” Harman, who was an aide to Phillips and produced his weekly television show “Conservative Crossroads.”

Harman, who is now a Capitol Hill aide to Rep. Stephen E. Stockman (R.-Texas), said he got a call the next morning and began a very nice 30-year career at the cutting edge of conservative politics.

The Conservative Caucus was founded by Phillips in 1974, in the aftermath of his resignation as the acting administrator of the Office Economic Opportunity for President Richard M. Nixon. Phillips took the job running OEO for the purposes of dismantling the agency, which had been in-charge of the “War on Poverty.”

Nixon promised Phillips that as the OEO administrator, he would have White House. When Nixon wavered, Philips quit.

Harman said, The Conservative Caucus continues to operate under the leadership of Phillips’ boyhood friend Peter J. Thomas, based in Warrenton, Va. “Howard used to joke that he and Peter ‘grew up in the same slums together.’”

The conservative stalwart was born in Boston Feb. 3, 1941, and although the political tides picked him up and took him away to Washington, but he never stopped loving his hometown or living the lessons he learned on its streets.

His first street fight was the fight over ratification of President James E. Carter’s treaty with Panama’s President Gen. Omar Torrijos, which transferred the canal and the American territory along the canal to the Panamanians.

Harman said ratification battle was the defining moment for the Conservative Caucus, then in its fourth year.

To rally opposition against the treaty, Phillips and Harman traveled across the country bringing the case directly to the American people, he said.

“The canal battle was probably one of the most publically, bitterly fought issues in public policy that I can remember,” he said.

“There were so many stories of how votes were bought or arms were twisted,” he said.

Neil McCabe

Neil W. McCabe is a journalist working in Washington. He was a senior reporter for the Human Events newspaper and for many years a reporter for The Pilot, Boston's Catholic paper. In 2009, he deployed to Iraq with the Army as a combat historian for 15 months.