Rift in the New Right

In a speech to the secretive Council on National Policy, Paul Weyrich, the right’s leading philosopher, rails on the Republican leadership — shattering the illusion that the GOP convention created a united front.


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

for the
papering over of the Republicans’ disagreements on abortion at the
convention, the
right appeared to have won the day in setting the GOP agenda. During the

platform
hearings, Bay Buchanan and Phyllis Schlafly — respectively manager and
co-chair of
the Buchanan for President campaign — pushed through nearly the whole of

Pitchfork
Pat’s program, most of which flowed from the minds of the right’s idea
men.

The acceptance speeches of Bob Dole and Jack Kemp were rife with nods to

positions
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
Congress
Foundation: taxpayer funding of religious and private schools, tax cuts
for all, and
tax incentives for childbearing. For rhetorical muscle, Dole lashed out
at the
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

issued a
blistering attack on GOP leaders at a closed pre-convention meeting of
the secretive
Council for National Policy (CNP), an umbrella group of the right’s
secular and
religious leaders headed by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III.

According to the text of Weyrich’s remarks obtained by this reporter
during an
assignment for Ms. magazine, the right’s leading philosopher
(widely
credited with
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
candidates who
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
candidates
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

country
affirmatively do not want Bob Dole to be president.”

Weyrich went on to criticize Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, Trent Lott, and Don
Nickles. But
the bulk of his ire was reserved for House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who,
Weyrich said,
“never was trustworthy.”

“I will tell you that this is a bitter turn for me,” he lamented. “I have

spent thirty
years of my life working in Washington, working on the premise that if we

simply got
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
Gingrich’s threatened
actions against Congressmen Bob Dornan of California and Chris Smith of
New Jersey.
These two signed a fundraising letter in support of an anti-abortion
Republican
primary challenger to incumbent Sue Kelly of New York’s 19th district.
Kelly, whom
Weyrich described as a “radical feminist extremist,” sits in the
Republicans’
pro-choice camp.

The Speaker, of course, is trying to hold on to the seats he gained in
the
Republican
revolution of 1994. According to Weyrich, Gingrich demanded that Smith
and Dornan
desist or face severe disciplinary action. Enraged by the Speaker’s
“arrogance,”
Weyrich then called upon his CNP conferees to defy Gingrich by throwing
their weight
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

Conscience”
now being circulated in the Republican Caucus that would prohibit such
punishment.
“Many of you have media outlets. Make this an issue. Many of you have
outreach. Make
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
wedge-issue
strategy for felling the enemies of the right which he termed
“constructive
polarization” — the putting forth of policy proposals “that build
conservative
constituencies and divide liberal ones.”

The divisions that now exist on the right all but beg for a liberal turn

on Weyrich’s
strategy. Ironically, the wedge was set by the candidacy of Pat Buchanan,

who divided
the right’s moral idealists from its political pragmatists, and called
for an economic
nationalism that is antithetical to the supply-side, trickle-down
economic theories
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

faithful,
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.”
But when
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
of the
hard-core United States Taxpayers Party, with which Buchanan enjoyed a
tortured
flirtation throughout the primary season and in the weeks leading up to
the convention.

It could be argued that
had Buchanan the candidate never existed as a point of comparison, the
current
Republican leadership wouldn’t look nearly so awful to Weyrich, who,
despite his
string of recent successes, has chosen to take on some of his most
powerful
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.