CONSERVATIVE REVISIONIST HISTORY
‘‘It is unlikely that the Reagan era
will prove to be the historic change
in the direction of America that we have sought.”
Edwin J. Feulner Jr., president of the Heritage Foundation,1985.
The conservative world is mourning the passing of Paul Weyrich, lionizing him as a conservative icon, and one of the stalwart architects and supporters of the “Reagan Revolution”. While it is obvious Weyrich was a good family man, staying married to the same wife for many years, raising a large family, I have a difficult time viewing him as a man of honor.
Paul Weyrich, Richard Viguerie, Howard Phillips, and a few other rather strange individuals basically tried to take over the GOP in and around 1980. Today’s anti-moderate view in the GOP, and the denigrating of “country club and chamber of commerce” Republicans came directly from them. They were on an ego trip. When Ronald Reagan, after years of very hard work within the party, finally achieved the nomination in 1980, these men had the audacity to claim that they were the ones who created the “Reagan Revolution”.
“...New Right leaders such as Viguerie, Howard Phillips, Paul Weyrich of the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, and others have deliberately labored to cultivate a constituency traditionally antagonistic to the long-standing Chamber of Commerce base of the Republican Party, which has been described by John T. “Terry” Dolan of the National Conservative Political Action Committee as a “social club where rich people go to pick their noses.”…Any mistakes by the Reagan administration can be attributed not to Reagan himself nor to the conservative program he has traditionally championed, but to White House treachery – to subversion from within by non-Reaganite Republicans whose real loyalties lie with the dreaded Rockefeller wing of the party, Wall Street and international business interests soft on communism.”
In my mind, a person who has honor does not exaggerated their role in an important part of history, deride a great American, threaten that person, then lie about how much the loved, worshipped and adored the man. That was the role Paul Weyrich played during the “Reagan Revolution”. His actions and threats against Reagan were more the work of a small time bully and union organizer than a stalwart conservative icon.
“…Moral Majority creator Paul Weyrich offered a direct analysis of the Reagan era and the Christian Right’s response to it. “Most of them [Christian Right leaders] wouldn’t admit that they were disappointed … [Reagan] was so nice a guy they really didn’t want to come to grips with the fact that he basically didn’t do anything for them.” (46) In 1999 two of Jerry Falwell’s lieutenants from the Moral Majority, Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, wrote Blinded By Might. (47) The book told their side of the story of the Reagan era. They bluntly claimed that “twenty years of fighting has brought us nothing.” (48) By the end of the Reagan era, they were both tired of seeking political solutions to what they saw as spiritual problems. Recently, scholars have come to agree with these conclusions. In his recent study of the Reagan era, John Ehrman conceded that “Reagan gave only lukewarm support to the social conservatives.” (49) Conclusions such as these rarely appeared a few years ago. …”
But, conservative revisionists see him differently. James Pinkerton thinks all “true” conservatives should mourn his passing. Frankly, I thought Pinkerton had been around DC long enough to remember the overt threats and malicious mischief Weyrich, and his fellow “Conservative Icons” such as Richard Viguerie and Howard Phillips perpetuated against Ronald Reagan. I gather his amnesia is selective.
“…Religious conservatives received a hard lesson in political reality soon after Reagan took office. In March 1981, Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker announced that, as long as the economy of the nation was in turmoil, social issues would be put on the back burner. He referred to social issues as both “collateral” and “emotional” and claimed that the GOP was united in this view. (7) The next day Reagan gave an interview to the Washington Post in which he said much the same thing. (8) For some evangelicals, this was a clear sign that Republicans wanted their votes but not their agenda. Paul Weyrich, founder of the Moral Majority and leader of the Free Congress Foundation, was incensed. He felt that this was the most serious blow that religious conservatives faced during the Reagan years, because it came on the heels of their support for Reagan just months earlier. Weyrich called a special meeting of Christian Right leaders including Robertson, but not Falwell. Weyrich told the men that Reagan would not have won if it had not been for their help. Several senators had the Christian Right to thank for their victories and as a result, the Republicans controlled the Senate for the first time in years. He claimed that the Christian Right was valuable but was being taken for granted. Weyrich recalled saying, “Could you imagine if the Democrats had won and they issued a statement saying civil rights legislation has to go on the back burner?” (9) The other Christian Right leaders were not convinced, so Weyrich pressed the issue: “You have to show righteous indignation over this and you can’t just take it. You have to say, ‘Sorry this isn’t acceptable.’” When he finished speaking, Weyrich thought that the other leaders treated him like he had leprosy: “They told me to calm down and give these people their due,” he recalled. (10) The Christian Right had surrendered to Republican political pressure while they were still celebrating their victory. …”
He conveniently forgets how Weyrich and his fellow “Conservative Icons” were so enraged with Reagan they did everything in their power to prevent Reagan from seeking a second term. From the Miami Herald, January 19, 1983
“…Conservatives may not back President Reagan for reelection in 1984 unless he reverses what they consider “almost a stampede to the left” in the White House, New Right leaders said Tuesday. “Quick and comprehensive changes” in Reagan’s staff and policies are needed to win back longtime supporters in the conservative wing of the Republican Party, they indicated. Howard Phillips, who heads the Conservative Caucus, and Richard Viguerie,..
What you need to realize is even though Weyrich’s name is not among those mentioned, he was part of the movement and part of the problem. Consequently, when someone like Brent Bozell remembers Weyrich this way, I find it rather bemusing.
“…That will be the Paul Weyrich I will always remember: principled, committed, courageous and honest to a fault. He spent his entire adult life working to make America not just a better place, but a good place. How many people were influenced by Paul? It’s an easy answer: Everyone who knew him. What a legacy. What a man….”
Men of principle don’t lie about their intense dislike of a legendary President. Weyrich did.
Mike Allen at the Politico basically turns Weyrich into a saint. At The Next Right, Weyrich is falsely remembered as one of the brains behind the Reagan Revolution. If Weyrich had any role, it was a bit part for a bad actor. But – according to Weyrich, he was the power behind the throne. In a way that makes a lot of sense. When one reads what Weyrich wrote and said about Reagan while that great man was POTUS, it is obvious Weyrich had absolutely NO respect for Reagan.
“…Despite its successes, the hard right felt that Reagan lacked a true commitment to their ideology. In 1988, during Reagan’s second term, some key New Right leaders, including Weyrich, Viguerie, and Phillips, began denouncing Reagan as a “useful idiot” and dupe of the KGB, and even a traitor over his arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union….”
Things reached such a boiling point, that on June 30, 1985, The Boston Globe published a piece entitled God Save Reagan from His Friends. Basically Weyrich accused Reagan of pandering to terrorists – and not obeying HIS agenda.
“…The vitriol with which some of Reagan’s closest supporters now question his conduct shows us that no one is safe from being branded a gutless appeaser when the New Right is in full panic. “While Reaganites fear their leader is being Carterized,” moaned conservatives Rowland Evans and Robert Novak in an alas-and-alack column, “a princip al perpetrator of the transformation is the president himself.”…. The brilliant organizer of the New Right revolution, Paul Weyrich, who first realized the potential of harnessing abortion foes, born-again Christians, critics of the Panama Canal treaty and school-prayer partisans into an effective political force, knows an inflammable issue when he sees one. So he whipped up a New Right claque to fan the flames for harsh retaliation.
“By failing to carry out our threats against terrorists, we have invited more terrorism,” said Weyrich in announcing his umpteenth pressure group, Coalition for Actions Against Terrorism. His first target: Secretary of State George Shultz. Shultz said last fall: “The public must understand before the fact that there is potential for loss of life of some of our fighting men and the loss of life of some innocent people.”
But Weyrich and his allies fear Reagan is pussyfooting, now that the nightly news shows our hostages in all their vulnerability. So Weyrich targets Shultz. Reagan is still untouchable; the president is beloved by all the folks whose $10 and $20 checks fuel the New Right’s direct mail operation.
The New Right savaged Carter all through the 1980 election campaign, assailing his manhood, his judgment, his nerve. The New Right can’t quite target Reagan with the same vehemence, so Shultz is dragged in as the surrogate weak sister….”
In January of 1988 Weyrich and his minions officially turned on Reagan. From a Jan 17, NY Times article:
“…“…A sharp split developed over strategy. Howard Phillips, chairman of the Conservative Caucus, and Richard Viguerie, the direct-mail specialist, wanted the conservative movement to break openly with Reagan. Others agreed to fight his policies but argued that it was bad politics to attack the President personally, urging their colleagues to ”Remember N.C.P.A.C.,” the National Conservative Political Action Committee. After the Soviet Union shot down a Korean airliner in 1983, the committee’s chairman at the time, John T. (Terry) Dolan, had attacked President Reagan for not being tougher with Moscow. ”It boomeranged,” said one conservative leader. ”Some people wrote that they’d never give N.C.P.A.C. another dime” because of Dolan’s criticisms.
At the Ramada Inn dinner, the leaders decided to set up a new coalition, the Anti-Appeasement Alliance, which would fight the trend exemplified by the INF treaty but would not attack the President personally. However, in a television interview two days later, Reagan infuriated old allies by declaring that foes of the INF treaty believed war with Moscow was inevitable; and he seemed to excuse Gorbachev’s occupation of Afghanistan by saying that the Soviet leader had inherited the policy.
The next day, Phillips charged that Reagan was ”fronting as a useful idiot for Soviet propaganda.” In the Senate, several longtime Reagan supporters voiced outrage at Reagan. Boomed Malcolm Wallop: ”Almost as offensive as his calling us warmongers was his apology for the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.”
The right-wing alarm grew during the Reagan-Gorbachev summit, which many hard-liners condemned as ”a love-in.” Some right-wing leaders moved quickly to exert grass-roots pressure on the Senate, tapping various networks: the Christian right; the ethnic, anti-Communist right, made up mainly of refugees from places such as Estonia, the Ukraine, Cuba, Korea, and Vietnam; as well as traditional pro-defense groups, such as the Coalition for Peace Through Strength, which fought earlier arms treaties.
In a letter mailed to 110,000 people, John M. Fisher, the 65-year-old chairman of the American Security Council, urged members to barrage the Senate with letters opposing the treaty. Fisher persuaded retired Adm. Thomas Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and more than 2,000 other retired admirals and generals to sign a petition opposing any arms agreements that ”would lock” the United States ”into strategic or military inferiority” or ”make our allies more vulnerable, like the proposed INF treaty.” Sixty organizations endorsed the petition, Fisher said, including Citizens for Reagan, the Naval Reserve Association, the Assembly of Captive European Nations, the American Federation of Small Business and the National Confederation of Ethnic Groups. A parallel drive to galvanize right-wing protest was mounted by Howard Phillips, the stout, tart-tongued, 46-year-old former political campaign organizer and founder of the Conservative Caucus. Phillips showered 175,000 letters on his caucus members, and mailed audio cassettes of General Rogers’s 30-minute attack on the INF treaty to 5,000 delegates and alternates to the 1984 Republican National Convention.
But Phillips’s knock-out punch will be a full-page ad scheduled to run this month in such conservative-minded newspapers as The Washington Times and New Hampshire’s Manchester Union-Leader. Under the headline, ”Appeasement is as unwise in 1988 as in 1938,” photos of Reagan and Gorbachev are paired with photos of Neville Chamberlain and Hitler, followed by the appeal: ”Help Us Defeat the Reagan-Gorbachev INF Treaty.” Other leaders, such as Daniel L. Casey of the American Conservative Union and Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, are quietly lobbying Senators. They hope to tie the treaty’s passage to tough conditions on arms control, conventional forces, Afghanistan, or human rights. These conservatives are poised to launch mass campaigns as soon as right-wing leaders inside the Senate decide what conditions to fight for.
”The only way these campaigns work,” said Weyrich, ”is when the inside and outside work together.”…”
Conservative revisionists might want to note that according to the NYTimes on Feb 22, 1982, Reagan was NOT the most important or leading conservative in the country. That honor went to others.
“…“…In a new survey of conservatives most admired by their fellow conservatives, President Reagan has fallen from first place to third. No. 1 is Rev. Jerry Falwell, leader of the Moral Majority, and and No. 2 William F. Buckley Jr., the writer and television personality. The Conservative Digest survey, made public in Washington yesterday, was an admittedly ”unscientific” one of 1,000 of the publication’s readers, according to John Lofton, the Digest’s editor. Mr. Reagan ranked seventh in the poll before his election, which swung him into the first position some months ago. Mr. Falwell moved to first place this time, from seventh. About the President’s new standing, Mr. Lofton said, ”I think it’s not surprising in this sense. The New Right is made up of leaders and followers who are not Reagan loyalists.” The most admired conservative woman, according to the survey, is Phyllis Schlafly, leader of the forces opposed to passage of the equal rights amendment, with Nancy Reagan in second place. Conservative Digest is published by Richard Viguerie, who has raised millions of dollars for conservative candidates and causes through mail solicitations.”…”
Do you remember the stories about conservatives being highly critical of Nancy Reagan? Well, Paul Weyrich was the ring-leader there. Go ahead and call him a man of honor and stellar qualifications. Anyone who would say this about the leader of their party is not a man of honor. Boston Globe, March 8, 1987:
“…“…”I’m very concerned,” said New Right leader Weyrich, a frequent White House visitor in recent days. “The position right now seems designed to get an agreement with Moscow. It’s getting a great push from Nancy Reagan so that there can be a Nobel Prize at the end for her husband.”
Adds Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus, “I think it may be the same game Nixon played back in 1974 at the height of Watergate, using talks with Leonid Brezhnev as a prop to show that he was still an effective president. . .
“On this and other foreign and domestic issues, the concern I have is that our options are not going to be presented forcefully . . .”
Weyrich is only slightly less gloomy. “In the very short-term, we’re going to know whether conservatives are just window-dressing,” he said. “Howard Baker is saying to everybody and his mother that he wants to really reach out to us. We’ll soon see.”
Many White House watchers take the mood of those on the New Right as a clue to which direction Reagan is moving in, which means the signs appear to point toward the middle — recalling Reagan’s moderation and compromises during his second term as governor of California in the early 1970s. Howard Phillips accepts the analogy but adds a warning to all Republicans.
“As Reagan drifted to more of a consensus politician, he bought surcease from heavy criticism,” he said. “But in the process he also spent all his time responding to his opponents’ agenda, in effect legitimizing it. Just in case anyone has forgotten, I believe Reagan was succeeded as governor by Jerry Brown.’…’
Paul Weyrich, in later years, never advertised the fact that he publicly accused Reagan of being a pawn of Gorbackev. So short-sighted was Weyrich, that he was incapable of comprehending what Reagan was doing, and how he was bringing about the fall of the Evil Empire.
“…Mr. Gorbachev may run some short-term risk in this game, however, especially if he damages his reputation with Mr. Reagan, who has based much of his policy toward Moscow on his assessment of the Soviet leader.
This became clear to a group of conservatives who met with the President on Sept. 22. Organized by Paul Weyrich, a leading conservative who is president of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, the session was designed to present Mr. Reagan with some concerns about policy in various fields.
”On the overall discussion of Soviet-American relations,” Mr. Weyrich said, ”we didn’t feel the meeting went terribly well, because the President accepted the view that Gorbachev is a different kind of Soviet leader, that the Soviets have changed their design. He talked about how Gorbachev was the first Soviet leader not to talk about world domination, that economic problems inside the Soviet Union are forcing them into our arms.” Seeks Another Reagan Meeting
Mr. Weyrich, who has now asked to meet with Mr. Reagan again, interpreted Mr. Gorbachev’s refusal to set a summit date as an effort to ”shake out a few more concessions” from an Administration Moscow perceives as weak and in a state of decline.
”I think the Reagan Administration was in the process of developing a wholesale detente,” Mr. Weyrich said, ”and this stroke of reality may make them rethink it – at least I hope so.”…”
In an absolutely pathetic commentary at Townhall Matt Lewis wrote the following balderdash:
“…As Morton Blackwell aptly noted, “Without Paul Weyrich, there would likely have been no conservative movement worthy of the name — and no Ronald Reagan presidency. If there were a Mount Rushmore for conservative leaders, Paul’s face would have to be on it.” …”
Liberal revisionists are one thing, but brain-dead conservative revisionism is another. If conservatives cannot tell themselves the truth, and cannot see through the prevarications and canards of one of their most “sainted” luminaries, then they have built their house on the sand. Like the foolish man of the Bible, their house will fall flat when the rains come down and the floods come up.
Oops – that’s what is happening now.
It appears that the more vicious luminaries of the conservative movement – Paul Weyrich, Howard Phillips, Richard Viguerie and a hand full of others built a “movement” on lies, half-truths, and outright hatred of others. In later years Weyrich did nothing but lie about his devotion to Reagan, choosing to ignore his outright betrayal.
Is this how you want to rebuild the “conservative movement” based on the false lessons of men who outright lied about their role in building the Reagan Revolution. These are people who had absolutely NOTHING to do with it. Reagan is gone. His side of the story cannot be told, so men like Weyrich, Vigureie, and Phillips have been free to spread their special little lies for years.
What a sorry state of affairs.
I read somewhere that Paul Weyrich chose a terrible time to die, just when the conservative movement and the GOP needed him the most. Maybe his passing is just what the doctor ordered. The “conservative movement” needs to free itself from the shackles of the mendacity of men like Weyrich and get on with the process of rebuilding the GOP based on truth, decency, and honor – the real legacy of Ronald Reagan.
NOTE: This post is dedicated to The Pink Flamingo’s loyal reader, and very good friend, Sally Vee, who is in the process of recovering from some very rough physical problems. Please keep her in your prayers.
Trackposted to Rosemary’s Thoughts, Allie is Wired, Woman Honor Thyself, The World According to Carl, DragonLady’s World, Rosemary’s News and Ideas, Cao’s Blog, Democrat=Socialist, CORSARI D’ITALIA, Conservative Cat, Right Voices, and Gone Hollywood, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.