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D. Alan Heslop.

GROWN MEN CRIED WHEN THEY heard the news of Mike's death, and on the internet many grieving friends shared wonderful stories of knowing him. Some friends recalled the help he gave to their careers, finding them jobs, opening doors, writing recommendations, and giving life counsel. They were the lucky members of the Uhlmann Network. Mike had made friends everywhere: at the Hill School, Yale, Virginia, the Goldwater campaign, National Review, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Reagan campaigns and White House, New York and Jim Buckley's office, the Department of Justice, a dozen Republican national conventions, presidential transitions, Claremont McKenna College and the Rose Institute, the Pepper Hamilton law firm, the Bradley Foundation, Claremont Graduate University, the Federalist Society, the Claremont Institute, the James Wilson Institute, Catholic congregations in several churches, and innumerable academic conferences. He gave enormous energy and great organizational skill to dozens of worthy conservative causes: their leaders owed him favors and he called them in--for others, often his students.

Many of Mike's friends recounted the pleasures of his company. They and his students remembered the mischievous wit, the deft interruption, the telling anecdote, and the robust laughter of a man at ease with his world. His conversation, with or without whiskey or wine, always sparkled. He could tell of times spent with long-dead political and legal figures, some great, others very far from it; of struggles over the electoral college; and of countless political campaigns. He often spoke of his heroes in the law--John Marshall above all--and of his friends Bork, Scalia, and Thomas. He talked knowledgeably of music, especially Bach and Beethoven, and he delighted in evenings at the opera. But it was English literature, his first love, that lit up many conversations. Mike could quote from Chaucer, Shakespeare, the Metaphysical poets, T.S. Eliot, and Auden. In old age, he could still faultlessly recite lines from the Canterbury Tales (said in careful Middle English), Shakespeare (particularly Macbeth), and Wordsworth (the only Romantic he cared for).

There was a kind of sad pleasure, too, for friends who followed Mike's mind as he surveyed the broken world of American government. He spoke brilliantly, persuasively, about threats to the Constitution: the fast-growing despotism of the administrative state, the decline of congressional oversight, and the underlying tendencies toward plebiscitary democracy. He would wax gloomily on threats to freedom of speech, the decline of the press, the hypocrisy of both parties, the mounting deficit, the evils of the primary system, the rise of lobbyists, the baneful influence of finance, and the base character of those in power. He saw patriotism as undermined by a kind of hysterical mass sentimentalism that faulted America for some of humanity's oldest ills. Sometimes he would say bleakly, in his deepest voice, "We're doomed!" But he didn't really believe it for, at heart and in belief, he was an optimist.

MIKE'S CLOSEST FRIENDS BELIEVE IN God. Sure and certain in his faith, he had no time for materialism or determinism or the schemes of "sophists, economists, and calculators." He disdained Puritanism and all its companion depressants. For him, the Christian life meant battling "our ancient foe," as the hymn has it, through the daily practice of loving kindness. He made friends, one by one, with a word of thoughtful praise or a small gift (carefully chosen, neatly wrapped), or a book inscribed in his beautiful penmanship with a perfectly apposite message--little tokens of caring and kind comfort. People grieved so deeply at his death because they had seen and felt the goodness in him.

Mike gave help quietly, almost secretly. Few knew the work he did for poor nuns at Thanksgiving, when he painted, cooked, and cleaned for them. Long ago at the Hill School, Mike sang George Herbert's great hymn-poem and it stayed in his mind:
   Teach me, my God and King,
   In all things Thee to see,
   And what I do in anything
   To do it as for Thee....

   A man that looks on glass,
   On it may stay his eye;
   Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
   And then the heav'n espy.

   All may of Thee partake:
   Nothing can be so mean,
   Which with his tincture--"for Thy
      sake"--
   Will not grow bright and clean.

   A servant with this clause
   Makes drudgery divine:
   Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
   Makes that and th' action fine.


God bless you, Mike, our dear friend, great teacher, and true Christian gentleman.

D. Alan Heslop is professor of government emeritus at Claremont McKenna College, former executive director of the California Republican Party, and founding director of CMC's Rose Institute of State and Local Government.
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Title Annotation:IN MEMORIAM
Publication:Claremont Review of Books
Date:Sep 22, 2019
Words:770
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