If you're one of the thousands of motorists who have driven by one of the area's three Roses & More stores in the last several months, you've probably noticed the political messages that owner Steven Schwartz has been posting. If you're not inclined to give George W. Bush a second term in the White House, you've probably looked forward to seeing what this businessman and U.S. Army veteran comes up with next. If you support the president, you might be among those who are taking their floral business elsewhere, which Schwartz estimates has cost him half his annual profits and resulted in vandalism to his stores and threats made against him and his employees. There was still glass in the parking lot from a smashed van window when we met to talk.
Why do you post the political messages?
I always voted, but I never got involved in any other way. I believe that one person can make a difference. If I can inspire enough people to get out and vote, we can put an end to the mismanagement of this administration. This is the most patriotic thing I've done. It's worth the risk to my reputation and business.
Are you as liberal as your signs make you seem?
People might think I'm a bleeding-heart liberal, but I'm pretty independent. Fiscally and socially, I have some conservative opinions. I've been to 23 countries in my life. People love the United States because of our freedoms and values. They hate us for our actions and policies, which are contrary to our freedoms and values.
Not all the messages are partisan. You urge people to register and vote, and you sometimes offer discounts for showing your voter registration card.
The voter registration deadline is Oct. 4. If you're not registered, you won't be able to vote. This will be the most important election of the 21st century. History will judge us on Nov. 3 (the day after the election).
You were on local talk radio recently?
I was on KNST. It was supposed to be just 10 minutes, but it wound up being two hours. The phone lines really lit up. They told me that seven out of 10 responses were favorable. I'd love to go on the air again and debate the issues.
Did you see Fahrenheit 911?
Forget Michael Moore and his closet socialism. That wasn't a documentary; it was half-baked conspiracy theories and political satire. If you want to see a couple of good documentaries, check out Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, and Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election. They're on DVD. A good book is Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. Another one is Crimes Against Nature, by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., about how Bush's corporate cronyism is plundering our environment. I'm really into history and politics and policy. I'm a policy wonk.
Why do you dislike President Bush?
What's not to dislike? He blew all the goodwill America had after Sept. 11. He's put former lobbyists in charge of regulatory agencies. It's country club stuff. The more you learn, the more you realize that this administration will go down as one of the most corrupt this country has ever had.
What did you do in the Army?
I was stationed in Germany in the 1980s, stationed with infantry and combat engineers units. Those were nerve-wracking days, lots of saber rattling. We were on alert all the time. I liked being a soldier, though. I was a good soldier. My father was a Marine for 24 years. He told me that your battles will pick you.
How did you wind up selling flowers?
I was in the restaurant business, but I didn't want to cook anymore. I had been in car sales, but it was too stressful. Flowers are an easy sell. There's a lot of great karma in delivering flowers. They help people communicate their emotions. It's been good for my friends, my family and myself. I've never had any regrets.
What's in the future for the business?
We're Tucson's largest retail florist and the largest seller of roses in Southern Arizona. We've got the market wrapped up. There's been some talk about franchises. There's no national chain of flower shops.
It's an order-taking business. They get a percentage of the order.
Are there liberal and conservative flowers?
You know, we just had the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. During the fight to pass that amendment, roses were worn by both sides--yellow ones by those in favor of the amendment, red ones by those who were against it. It was our own War of the Roses. So no, there aren't liberal and conservative flowers, but it seems like liberals and progressives buy more flowers. They certainly have a better sense of humor.