Early last month, as the pundits and analysts turned their attention to
the GOP convention,
few noticed the battle lines being drawn within the right itself. Except
papering over of the Republicans' disagreements on abortion at the
right appeared to have won the day in setting the GOP agenda. During the
hearings, Bay Buchanan and Phyllis Schlafly -- respectively manager and
the Buchanan for President campaign -- pushed through nearly the whole of
Pat's program, most of which flowed from the minds of the right's idea
The acceptance speeches of Bob Dole and Jack Kemp were rife with nods to
advanced by such right-wing strategists as the Christian Coalition's
Ralph Reed, Gary
Bauer of the Family Research Council, and Paul Weyrich of the Free
Foundation: taxpayer funding of religious and private schools, tax cuts
for all, and
tax incentives for childbearing. For rhetorical muscle, Dole lashed out
teachers' unions, the Internal Revenue Service, the World Trade
Organization and the
United Nations -- all favorite targets of the right.
But as Schlafly and Bay Buchanan worked their magic in the platform
hearings and Reed
sidled up to the Republican nominees, fellow social conservative Weyrich
blistering attack on GOP leaders at a closed pre-convention meeting of
Council for National Policy (CNP), an umbrella group of the right's
religious leaders headed by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III.
According to the text of Weyrich's remarks obtained by this reporter
assignment for Ms. magazine, the right's leading philosopher
creating the blueprint for the GOP's recent welfare reform bill) opened
his August 10
address by deriding Jack Kemp as a "big-government conservative" who
would help Dole
only marginally, if at all. "What you have now," said Weyrich, "is two
are not going to run on the Republican Platform. And if I were the other
side, I would
simply crank up a debate between the just-passed platform and the two
running on it and make that the story for the rest of the election."
"It's very clear," Weyrich added, "that a majority of the people in this
affirmatively do not want Bob Dole to be president."
Weyrich went on to criticize Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, Trent Lott, and Don
the bulk of his ire was reserved for House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who,
"never was trustworthy."
"I will tell you that this is a bitter turn for me," he lamented. "I have
years of my life working in Washington, working on the premise that if we
our people into leadership that it would make a difference...Now, I feel
as if I have
wasted thirty years of my life -- I really feel that way."
According to the text, the primary source of Weyrich's anger is
actions against Congressmen Bob Dornan of California and Chris Smith of
These two signed a fundraising letter in support of an anti-abortion
primary challenger to incumbent Sue Kelly of New York's 19th district.
Weyrich described as a "radical feminist extremist," sits in the
The Speaker, of course, is trying to hold on to the seats he gained in
revolution of 1994. According to Weyrich, Gingrich demanded that Smith
desist or face severe disciplinary action. Enraged by the Speaker's
Weyrich then called upon his CNP conferees to defy Gingrich by throwing
behind Kelly's challenger, former Congressman Joe DioGuardi, and went on
to urge his
allies to see to it that their members of Congress sign a "Resolution of
now being circulated in the Republican Caucus that would prohibit such
"Many of you have media outlets. Make this an issue. Many of you have
this count. Others of you have influence because you have been
contributors to some of
these people. Put them on the carpet on this," Weyrich pleaded.
In a 1990 speech to the University Club, Paul Weyrich had outlined a
strategy for felling the enemies of the right which he termed
polarization" -- the putting forth of policy proposals "that build
constituencies and divide liberal ones."
The divisions that now exist on the right all but beg for a liberal turn
strategy. Ironically, the wedge was set by the candidacy of Pat Buchanan,
the right's moral idealists from its political pragmatists, and called
for an economic
nationalism that is antithetical to the supply-side, trickle-down
long embraced by the right's moneymen.
The day after Weyrich's speech to the CNP, Pat Buchanan's divisive
influence was again
on display. At an event at the California Center for the Arts, Buchanan's
still stinging from the prospect of a Pat-less convention, sat
spellbound, eager for
orders to march their cause outside the stakes of the GOP's "Big Tent."
Oliver North, hero of the religious right, made an appeal for party
loyalty, he was
mercilessly booed. Even Buchanan was heckled by his own troops as he
tried to herd
them back into the tent. "U-S-T-P!" they chanted, invoking the initials
hard-core United States Taxpayers Party, with which Buchanan enjoyed a
flirtation throughout the primary season and in the weeks leading up to
It could be argued that
had Buchanan the candidate never existed as a point of comparison, the
Republican leadership wouldn't look nearly so awful to Weyrich, who,
string of recent successes, has chosen to take on some of his most
allies in Congress.
Adele M. Stan is a contributing writer to Mother Jones.
Illustration by Mark Zingarelli.
Read the full
text of Weyrich's CNP speech.