Cover Story

Retiring but not shy

"Retiring but not shy" Continued...

Issue: "Dick Armey's parting words," Dec. 14, 2002

"Who has seen such a moment of such personal courage and conviction larger than that in this town? Not I," Dick Armey said. "For me to have been able to sit and watch that example and experience all the emotions of fear, and hope, and awe, and respect, and then be able to say, 'That's my personal friend.' He gave me a gift of experience I don't think I'll ever see duplicated in my life. I will love him forever for the example he gave to me."

What's coming up for Mr. Armey? A pair of black cowboy boots stood waiting behind his desk as the Cando, N.D., native noted happily that his adopted hometown, Dallas, has a National Hockey League franchise, the Stars. Although the 62-year-old former college professor plans to remain active during his "third career" (which will include public-policy advocacy, writing, editorializing and, probably, a "book or two"), he is looking forward to watching more sports on television. "My wife took me downtown to show me a big-screen TV; I walked in the store, they had the Stars on, and I thought to myself, 'I love this lady. She deserves to watch the Stars on big-screen TV.'"

Mr. Armey holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Oklahoma, and in an interview for his 1996 profile in WORLD he described the economics of salvation: "With the market it's quid pro quo. With the family, everything is based on need. But with Christ, it's free. And there ain't no end to it! ... Salvation does not have a condition of scarcity." He said then, "What I attempt to do in Congress is pretty straightforward. My job is to prevent government from destroying our freedom. But the most important work to be done is for a person to come to terms with Jesus. That's my advice for anybody."

In 1996, Mr. Armey told of how he had recently come to terms with Jesus as he sat on an airplane bound for New York City. "I was supposed to get on a plane to go to D.C., but I got a note from my staff saying I had to be in New York. Sitting on that airplane, I started to think: How can I trust people so much that I will change my plans and go to a place I don't want to go and yet not trust God to get me to a place I want to go? It was pretty clear to me at that point ... I decided that Jesus knew more than a typical college professor."

In our recent interview, Mr. Armey spoke of the importance of President Bush's faith-based initiative: "Faith-based is antithetical to the belief system of the left. Liberals ... are threatened by private charity because private charity does those things they think government should do. But if you do faith-based, you are saying you recognize the fact that real people in their real lives from the charity of their heart will take care of one another, and that should be encouraged by government policy, not preempted by government policy. It will be fought by the left, and it needs to be prioritized on our side more than it has been."

The choice, he concluded, is between "government encouragement and support" of faith-based initiatives and "government preemption.... Whatever we do for one another voluntarily through charitable belief preempts the government's need to be there and do it. I've heard that expressed actually by a liberal. It never came to me until I heard him say it. He does not believe in private charity because private charity does in his life what [he believes] government should do."

Mr. Armey hopes that President Bush and the next Congress will stay the course in poverty-fighting. "With welfare reform we've improved the lives of children all over America," he noted. "With housing reform we affected the lives of real people and gave them a sense of controlling their own housing destiny instead of being housed as wards of the state."

He also hopes the GOP will push to "fix retirement security for all Americans by honoring American citizens' ability to do what ... those who have successfully retired have done throughout all our lifetimes: use their own resources in the growing potential of the American equity market." Privatizing Social Security, he said, "is the biggest public-policy opportunity of this generation, and we need to rise to the occasion. I think this election cycle removed political demagoguery from the issue. Democrats won't gain by practicing it, [so politicians can] treat the subject as adults."

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