Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Paul Weyrich is the kind of man we skeptics face. I found the book, BLINDED BY THE RIGHT by David Brock pretty scary. The men he describes pander to the very worst in human nature. Much depends upon just how nasty the American conservative base is. History says they'll support any Hitler or Stalin who comes along and pushes their prejudice buttons. Brock, by the way, knows these conservatives from inside out. He worked with and for them for a long time until his conscience got the better of him. Here’s Brock’s take on one of the men he worked with.

Paul Weyrich, a tall, rotund, pink-skinned man who for some reason always wore a black undertaker's suit, avoided the press and worked largely behind the scenes, but he was a familiar figure to me from around town, where he was revered as one of the architects of the modern conservative movement. Beginning in the early 1970s, when he left the staff of a conservative U.S. senator from Colorado, Gordon Allot, Weyrich set out to create an infrastructure on the right—political and legal interest groups, coalitions, think tanks, magazines, and political action committees—to rival that of the left. With $250,000 from Colorado brewer Joe Coors, and help from direct mail fund-raising wizard Richard Viguerie, Weyrich founded the Heritage Foundation and made it into the premier research institution on the right. He then started the Free Congress Foundation and its PACs, dedicated to reversing entrenched Democratic rule on Capitol Hill. Within a decade, Weyrich is operation dwarfed anything like it on the left, making it possible for people like me to flock to Washington in droves and find jobs.

While Weyrich's organizational abilities were impressive, I was put off by his conservative populism—anti-New Deal, anti-civil rights, antiabortion, antigay. One of the first conservatives to see that southern evangelical Christians and northern ethnic Catholics alienated from the Democratic Party over civil rights [There's that nasty racism in the Republican party, hidden but still there.] and cultural issues could provide grassroots troops for the GOP, in 1979 Weyrich supplied the name for the Reverend Jerry Falwell's New Right group—the Moral Majority. In the 1980s, when I joined the movement' the Christian Right's political activities focused heavily on building support for anti-Communist guerrilla insurgencies around the globe. With godless Communism now vanquished, Weyrich's attention turned to mobilizing resentments for the domestic fight against the liberaL culture, as defined by such things as abortion rights, gay rights, feminism, liberal judges, pornography, multiculturalism, affirmative action, and sex education in schools. Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, for example, published a tract called The Homosexual Network, which warned direly of "a widening homosexual power grab in our society."

By his own words, Weyrich revealed that he wasn't really a conservative at all in the older sense of the term. "We are no longer working to preserve the status quo. We are radicals, working to overturn the present power structure of the country," he declared. Weyrich described his views as "Maoist. I believe you have to control the countryside, and the capital will eventually fall." He advocated no-holds-barred tactics. "I am struck by the fact that we have lots of people who want to be nicer than God. If you read Scripture, Jesus was not some sort of milquetoast person with supreme charity," Weyrich said. "He cut people in two." One booklet on political tactics published by the Weyrich organization included a section saying that for the right reasons lying was to be regarded as a permissible "mental reservation." (Moon, too, taught that lying is necessary, even under oath, when one is doing "God's work.")

What no one expected was that the first casualty of Weyrich's campaign to restore "basic values" would be a Republican. In a move that stunned conservative Washington, Weyrich testified before the Senate that Bush's nominee for defense secretary, Senator John Tower of Texas, was a drunk and a womanizer. "I have encountered the nominee in a condition—a lack of sobriety as well as with women to whom he was not married," Weyrich told the Senate. Word in movement circles was that Weyrich was flexing his muscles with a new, more moderate administration that might be tempted otherwise to ignore him. Tower also may have provoked Weyrich's ire because he was pro-choice. Though unproven, the charges were widely believed and sunk the nominee, who was unmarried at the time.

Though the Tower scandal is largely forgotten today, coming not long after Gary Hart dropped out of the 1988 Democratic presidential primaries when allegations of marital infidelity surfaced in the press, it fundamentally changed the way political battles were fought in Washington, seriously eroding the barrier between public and private. Though most Beltway conservatives were aghast at what Weyrich had done, he identified a dormant culturally conservative constituency in the Christian Right that believed the private lives of public people mattered just as much, perhaps even more, than their policy views. Weyrich's vicious attack on Tower demonstrated this new power of sexual politics, of making accusations with no proof, and of using ill-defined issues of "judgment" and "character" to discredit opponents based solely on alleged personal behavior. Sexual McCarthyism had been introduced into modern right-wing politics.

[PS: The man in the picture is not Paul Weyrich; he's just the kind of man who drives a Lexus according to an ad I came across in Interview magazine.]

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