BRIAN LAMB, HOST, Q&A: Paul Weyrich, when they write your history, what’s the number one thing you want people to remember about yourself?
PAUL WEYRICH, CHAIRMAN & CEO, FREE CONGRESS FOUNDATION: That I did the best I could with what the Lord gave me.
LAMB: Of all your accomplishments, what’s number one?
WEYRICH: Well, they’re really not my accomplishments. I mean, I work with so many good people, that I can’t take credit.
But I suppose the more important thing that I did was to try to bring together the, what is now known as the religious right. Those people were not active in politics, and I served as sort of a coach to get them active in the political process.
And today, as you know, they’re an important element in electing even the president of the United States.
LAMB: Why was that important to you?
WEYRICH: Well, because, when I came here, the values considerations were nonexistent in the political process. You had two political parties that stood for different economic views, but they didn’t have a distinguishing factor when it came to what we now know are the values issues.
LAMB: You started with others – the Heritage Foundation. What does it do?
WEYRICH: Now, Heritage really supplies to members of Congress particularly, information on a whole variety of subjects, information which is not available from their own staffs.
People think that with such a huge congressional bureaucracy, that members of Congress have all the information available to them that they need, but they don’t. And Heritage was founded specifically to supply the members of the Senate and House with information relating to public policy issues.
Now, it’s gone beyond that. And, of course, it now does a lot of stuff with the media and so on. But that was what it was founded to do, and it still does.
LAMB: What year did you found it?
LAMB: What was the atmosphere in Washington that year?
WEYRICH: Well, that was the year that the Watergate hearings were going on. There was a great anti-Nixon fervor. Although he and Vice President Agnew had just been re-elected, the Democrats were on the warpath.
And Nixon had tried to eliminate what was known on the War on Poverty, and the Democrats showed him that he wasn’t going to be able to do that. He was going to try to trim federal spending, and he had his own people in each of the departments.
They legislated against that. It was really the zenith of anti-conservative views, which culminated in the ’74 elections and the huge Democratic majority that came in after that.
LAMB: In 1973, who controlled the House and Senate?
WEYRICH: Oh, the Democrats had two-thirds control of the House. And they had, as I recall, I think 60 senators, or maybe 58 – I forget now, but …
LAMB: So the Democrats had more power than the Republicans have today in the House and Senate.
WEYRICH: Oh, absolutely, yes.
LAMB: And when did you first come to Washington?
WEYRICH: I came to Washington right after the 1966 elections. I had produced a documentary on six different candidates – a radio documentary – that campaigned for office in Colorado. And Gordon Allott, who was then senior senator from Colorado, was one of them. And I campaigned with him.
And after the election, he called up and said, I want to see you in my office. And I honestly thought that he was going to complain about the documentary. Instead, he offered me a job as his press secretary.
And so, I came back here at that time.
LAMB: And you’d been to Washington before that?
WEYRICH: I had been to Washington a couple of times. I came first with my father in 1953, right after Eisenhower took office.
My mother was ill and she wasn’t able to travel, and so, my father and I came here on the train. And we saw the Congress and we saw all the different things around Washington.
She correctly predicted that one day I was going to be here. And she wanted me to become acquainted with that as soon as possible. It’s very funny.
Then in 1960, I came back here for the Young Republican training conference. It was a weeklong training conference that was held at the old Raleigh Hotel, which has now been torn down for a number of years.
But it was a great, eye-opening experience. And I got to meet Vice President Nixon and Senator Barry Goldwater, who was my hero, and all kinds of other people. And it opened my eyes on a lot of things.
And the thing is, I took it seriously. Most of the people who came, came for a good time. And they liked the cocktail parties and things. But I was only a 17-year-old senior in high school.
So I went to the seminars on how you get elected. I figured everybody would be going to that. And there were less than a dozen people that showed up.
But the technology that was taught me there was technology that I put into use in helping people get elected down through the years.
LAMB: When you say technology, what do you mean?
WEYRICH: Well, you know, how to divide the electorate, and where to concentrate your effort, and how to reach the people who are undecided.
There was a state senator by the name of Becker, from North Dakota, of all places. And he had this figured out. And he was brilliant, and really got my attention. And I paid very close attention to what he taught.
And I came back to Racine, Wisconsin, and said to my political mentor, Fritz Rench, I said, we’ve got to do something about this. And, indeed, we implemented what was taught in the 1960 congressional election, and we upset the incumbent Democrat that was in office that year.
LAMB: Who won?
WEYRICH: Henry Schadeberg. He was a Congregationalist Minister, never run for office before. He had won a three-way Republican primary. And the incumbent was Gerald Flynn, a labor union Democrat. And Schadeberg beat him. It was close, but he still beat him.
LAMB: What year were you born, and in what city?
WEYRICH: I was born in 1942, in Racine, Wisconsin. My father was a German immigrant who came here in 1923. My mother was a nurse’s aide.
He fired the boiler at St. Mary’s Hospital in Racine, Wisconsin. And they met there, and married in 1939, and I came along in 1942.
LAMB: How many brothers and sisters?
LAMB: You’re an only child.
WEYRICH: That’s right.
LAMB: Are your parents still alive?
WEYRICH: No. Both of them are gone now. My father died in 1987, and my mother died in 2001.
LAMB: When you were growing up in that family, what did the two of them teach you about what was important in life?
WEYRICH: Well, my father was intensely interested in politics. I mean, that’s all he talked about. I knew members of the cabinet when I was five years old.
My mother wasn’t as interested, although she allowed as how these things were important.
But I’ll tell you a funny story. You know, kids don’t do slumber parties – boys, I mean. But when I was in the eighth grade, there was a kid that lived on a farm that went to my grade school. And he invited me to spend the Memorial Day weekend with his folks on this farm.
And after I had been there, his mother called up my mother in a state of great agitation, saying that I had violated their household, because I insisted on talking politics at the dinner table, and they never talked politics in their household.
I didn’t know anything else. I mean, my father used to say, in America they say that you shouldn’t talk religion and politics. But one determines your temporal life, and the other determines your eternal life. What else is there to talk about?
And so, indeed, that’s what he talked about, politics and religion.
LAMB: When did you begin to feel strongly about things like values and other things?
WEYRICH: Well, he was a very religious man. Went to church every day, despite working two jobs.
LAMB: What church?
WEYRICH: Well, the Holy Name Roman Catholic Church.
He even got the hospital to rearrange its schedule, so that he could get to church every day. And, you know, it was very evident in talking with him that he really believed what he was preaching. And I also saw him put it into practice.
So, it made an enormous impression on me. And I began to think that, well, these things are really important, and somebody ought to do something about it.
I remember calling the Republican Party chairman, a fellow by the name of Claude Jasper, in Wisconsin, in 1962 when the ruling came down against prayer in the schools. And I said, you know, the party ought to come out really against that.
And he said, oh, why would we want to mix up, you know, the party in that kind of an issue?
And I said, well, because it’s wrong. And we just argued back and forth. And, you know, he didn’t end up doing a thing about it.
And I thought that was a dreadful mistake.
LAMB: Today, though, you practice your religion in the Greek Catholic …
LAMB: … Orthodox?
LAMB: When did you make that shift?
WEYRICH: 1968. The Roman Catholics had become very liberal around this town. They were really revolutionary. You know, you’d go to church and they’d be preaching things like Martin Luther should be canonized, and that many of the things that I had been taught were out the window, and so on.
And they created what I call the Church of the Loose Leaf Notebook. I mean, you know, every Sunday you’d come and there’d be some new innovation. And I found that very difficult to take.
I stumbled across a Greek Catholic Church, quite by accident. And I went in to the church, and the housekeeper was there. And she said, have you ever been to a church like this? And I said, no.
And she said, well, you should come three times before you make up your mind. I said, fine.
Next morning – it was a Saturday – the next morning I packed up my kids. The service was at 7:45 a.m. I lived a good hour away from that church.
And so, we went there. I was there for an hour, and I said, this is where I belong. And I never, never left.
I left – joined a different parish, but I – the Eastern Church has not lost the sense of the sacred, as they have in the Roman Church, in my opinion.
LAMB: Did you invent the phrase, “moral majority"?
WEYRICH: I did. It was an odd situation.
We had a meeting with Jerry Falwell, that the late Ed McAteer had arranged. And Howard Phillips was to be at this meeting, but he was late.
And Falwell doesn’t waste time, you know. You have a meeting at 3:30, and he comes at 3:30. And he wants to begin the meeting, and he allocates 40 minutes for the meeting, and at 40 minutes he’s out the door.
So, McAteer was very nervous, because Falwell came in, Phillips wasn’t there. So he turned to me and said, would you give a briefing to Jerry Falwell here on the political situation?
So, I didn’t know what to say. So I said, well, out there you might say there is a moral majority. But it has been separated by historical and denominational difficulties, and if one could get those people together, you could constitute a majority in the country.
And he said, stop. You said something, out there there are something. And I didn’t even remember what I had said, and I started to say something else.
He said, no, no, no. You said, out there there is some kind of a majority. And I said, oh – moral majority.
He turned to his guys and said, that’s the name of the organization.
So, it was quite by accident.
LAMB: Define what moral means.
WEYRICH: Well, from my standpoint, it means following the Decalogue, following the Ten Commandments, doing what is correct, what is – what we used to call right and wrong. Doing the right thing.
LAMB: What’s the most important value in your life?
WEYRICH: My family, without any question. I have been so blessed with five wonderful children. We have our 12th grandchild on the way.
I have been married now for 42 years. It’ll be 42 years this coming July.
And was very fortunate to marry above my station. And my good wife has been so good. You know, I’ve had a lot of health problems, and she has helped care for me. I don’t deserve as good as I’ve gotten.
LAMB: Where do you meet – I think, if I’m pronouncing it right – is it Joyce Smigun?
LAMB: Got that wrong.
LAMB: 1993. Where did you meet her? 1963, where did you meet her?
WEYRICH: I met her in high school. We were in the same homeroom. She was “S" and I was “W." So, she barely made it on the cutoff on that end. But we were in the same homeroom. And then we were also in a couple of classes together, but I didn’t date her until after high school.
There was a character by the name of George Wydoczek. And George wanted to date Joyce’s best friend. And he pestered her and pestered her and pestered her. And she finally said, all right. I’ll date you, if you can get Paul Weyrich to ask Joyce.
So, he comes – my case, you know. Oh, you’ve just got to ask her. I said, I don’t want to ask her out. You’ve just got to do this for me. Well, he was a pretty good friend. So I said, all right.
So, I asked her. We went on this double date. He never, ever dated this young lady again, and I ended up marrying Joyce. So, it was God’s providence that this happened.
LAMB: You know, before the current Republicans took over the House and Senate, you were often cited as either the most, or one of the most, powerful conservatives in the country.
And it all comes out of your beginning of the Heritage Foundation and then forming your Free Congress Foundation, and on and on.
What was the – how many conservative foundations – I mean, conservative think tanks – were there in this town when the Heritage Foundation was started?
WEYRICH: Well, there was the American Enterprise Institute, which was a sort of conservative think tank. There really wasn’t anything else.
And I tried to work with AEI, but they had been so scared by Lyndon Johnson’s effort to get their tax exempt status after the 1964 elections, that they ended up not producing any timely material.
And, you know, the light bulb finally went on when I got this beautiful book that had all the arguments in favor of the SST and supersonic transport. And it answered all of the environmentalists’ arguments, and in great detail, but in, you know, very well done, and so on.
There was only one problem with it. It arrived two days after the vote against the SST.
And I went to Bill Baroody, Sr., who was head of AEI at the time, and I said, you know, this is useless. And he said, oh, we don’t ever produce anything that can influence legislation. You know, we’re very fearful of our tax exempt status.
Well, I thought, you know, that’s silly. And so, I got together with Ed Feulner, and we started the Heritage Foundation with the help of Joe Coors, and the objective was to produce timely material like that, but material that would be in the hands of the legislators when they could use it.
LAMB: You were with Gordon Allott for how many years?
WEYRICH: Well, four years full-time and two years part-time. When I left him to start the predecessor to the Heritage Foundation, he didn’t have anybody to do transportation appropriations work. And he asked me to stay on to do that for him. And so, I did do that work.
LAMB: And you worked for how long for Carl Curtis from Nebraska?
WEYRICH: I was part-time with Curtis for five years. As you know, Allott was chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. Curtis was chairman of the Republican Conference.
So, I got to work for two members of the leadership, and got a good insight into how things operated, because things they told me about their meetings with the president and, you know, and also their dealings with their colleagues was very insightful in the work that I chose to do.
LAMB: Now, can you remember the first time you said to yourself, we need to start our own think tank?
LAMB: When was it?
WEYRICH: Well, Senator Allott was invited to a meeting run by the Civil Rights Coalition. And he couldn’t go, and I asked him if I could go in his place. And he said, sure, if they’ll let you in.
So, I went and I sat in the back row hoping nobody would ever see me. Allott had been one of the senators that had helped break the southern filibuster in 1957, and again in 1964 and ’65. And so, he was regarded as pro civil rights. But he thought the pendulum had swung too much in that direction, but they didn’t know that.
So, before my eyes, they rolled out a plan. First they had a defector from the Nixon administration that had just taken office. They had been in office, I’d say, six months. And …
LAMB: Taken what office?
WEYRICH: Nixon had just become president. And they had a defector who came – I mean, he still worked there – but he came and he said, these are Nixon’s plans with respect to housing. He wants to roll back the Civil Rights Bill on housing and make it possible for somebody who has, say, a 10-room rooming house or apartment building to discriminate, if he wishes.
Before my eyes, they rolled out a plan to stop this. And every liberal group imaginable was there at that meeting. And I watched this interplay. I mean, first they got Birch Bayh to co-sponsor this, a brand new Republican Mac Mathias – he was a liberal Republican – to co-sponsor it so it would be bipartisan.
And then the ACLU said they would file a lawsuit not because of any aggrieved party, but in order to control the polemics of the issue. This was something I had never heard before.
The National Committee for an Effective Congress was there. It was a liberal political action committee. And they said they would write every senator and say that this would be double rated, that the vote on this amendment would be double rated. So, you know, you’d really get a bad score if you voted against it.
Carl Rowan was there. He had just left the Johnson administration, and was writing a column for the “Post." And he allowed as how, if they would tell me the timing of this thing, he’d get together the editorial board of the “Washington Post," and then they could talk to them and get a favorable editorial on it, of course he said he’d write a column.
They had the Methodist Church there.
LAMB: This was a private meeting?
WEYRICH: It was a private meeting, yes.
And it was the Civil Rights Coalition that operates to this day. They were very powerful at the time. And, you know, whatever they did pretty much would be done, you know.
And anyway, the question from the Methodist Church was, how much lobbying should be done? There were black groups there. They wanted to have demonstrations.
And finally it was agreed that they should have demonstrations in Washington, but not in the rest of the country, because there might be backlash if they had them in the rest of the country, and so on.
And I sat there, and I watched all these people interact with each other. The Brookings Institute guy was there, and he said, well, we’ve got a study coming up on housing, and it won’t be ready for about six months. But I’ll get a sort of preprint out in time, you know, to help you with the issue, and so on.
And I’m looking at this. And I said, that’s how they do it. I mean, I had watched conservatives getting killed on the floor of the United States Senate. And I didn’t know how it was done. I mean, I saw it happening, but I didn’t know the mechanics.
All of a sudden, I was granted the opportunity to see the mechanics. And from that day …
LAMB: What year?
WEYRICH: That was 1969. And from that day forward, I was insufferable. Wherever I went I said, we’ve got to do something about this. We’ve got to have our own organizations. We’ve got to have our own meeting, and you know, so on.
And nobody wanted to hear it. We spent a couple years, what I now realize was talking to all the wrong people in the business community.
And finally, one day, in the Allott office, we had a lady by the name of Barbara Hughes. And she opened the mail. And she was ill. And when she wasn’t there, she had a little chart that said, you know, anything pertaining to the media goes to Weyrich. Anything pertaining to legislation goes to Chuck Cook, and so on.
Well, the kid who opened the mail sees a letter that says, dear Senator Allott, you may remember me. I was news director at KBTR in Denver.
He sees the call letters. He says, well, it goes to Weyrich. The letter went on to say, I’ve been hired by Joe Coors to find out where his money should be put to effectively aid the conservative cause.
I began to shake. I called up this fellow, Jack Wilson. And I said, Jack, you’ve got to come out here.
So he did. And we explained everything to him. And the way the other side operated, and all of this. And he said, Joe Coors has got to hear this.
And so, we arranged for Joe to come out. I got a congressman friend of mine, this Henry Schadeberg, to see him, and to say that we were the people that he ought to trust. Victor Fediay from the Library of Congress, had a good friend, Congressman Foreman from New Mexico. He has been a congressman from Texas. He moved to New Mexico. Each time he served one term. But anyway, he was in there.
And so, we had a meeting with him. We had a meeting with Strom Thurmond, because Jim Lucier was part of our group, and he worked for Thurmond.
I went to see Cliff Hansen, a senator from Wyoming. And I explained everything to him. And I said, would you see Joe Coors on this? And he said, sure.
And so, Coors came and we had all these meetings. And, in fact, it was very funny, because Hansen said everything I wanted him to say, and then he got up and left the room. And we were sitting there and I said, well, I guess the meeting’s over.
And afterwards I said to him, senator, why did you do that? And he said, well, I had said everything that you told me to say, and I was afraid that I was going to screw it up. So I left the room.
But, anyway, it turned out the decisive meeting was one with Lyn Nofziger who was, if you remember, Ronald Reagan’s guy in the Nixon White House.
And in the middle of the meeting, Joe Coors said, well, what about AEI? Now, he had never said anything to us about AEI. It turned out that then Defense Secretary Mel Laird had been romancing him, and I didn’t know this.
And Nofziger said, AEI? AEI – I’ll tell you about AEI. And he got up, walked over to a bookcase, took a study off the shelf and literally blew the dust – I mean, you saw this cloud of dust. And he said, that’s what they’re good for. They’re good for libraries.
He said, they don’t produce anything worthwhile.
And Joe told me later that that was the decisive moment in his decision to support my little ragtag group in forming what became the Heritage Foundation.
So, you know, I’ve often said that the new right, or whatever you want to call it, can be traced back to Barbara Hughes’ illness. I mean, you know, and God’s providence, if you look at things.
If she had not been ill that day, she would not have sent that letter to me. She would have sent it to Jack Ware, our chief of staff. And I doubt that Jack would have even let me know that the letter was there.
LAMB: I don’t want to go too far with this, but I remember a number of years later, you and Jack Wilson were involved in something called TVN, which Joe Coors also got involved in. And then the name Roger Ailes might sound familiar to people.
What year was TVN? And was that the precursor to Fox News?
WEYRICH: Well, I’d like to think that the network that I founded, NET, was the precursor to Fox News. But TVN was an attempt, in 1973 – from ’73 to ’75 – to do a daily newscast that could be picked up by independent stations, which did not have the political slant that the major networks had.
Jack Wilson was the president of TVN. I was involved in helping to recruit people, recruit reporters and so on.
It did not succeed, because the expenses connected with it were horrendous. AT&T had a monopoly on land lines. And this was an era before satellites. Satellites actually came in just a couple of years later.
But nevertheless, they had to buy land lines. And we had a station in Seattle. We had one in Los Angeles. We had one in Denver, one in Chicago, and so on.
And so, it was New York-Chicago, New York-Seattle, New York-Los Angeles, and so on.
And they made us buy 24 hours a day, even though only a half-hour was broadcast every day. I mean, it was highway robbery.
And the expenses of that were simply too great to sustain.
LAMB: What role did Roger Ailes play in that then?
WEYRICH: Well, he was involved in the creation of the effort. He was sort of the godfather behind the scenes. Just, I mean, you know, he, of course, is the major-domo at Fox News.
I don’t think that that particular experience was in any way instrumental. But it may be that what we tried to do at NET demonstrated …
LAMB: That’s National Empowerment Television.
WEYRICH: That’s right. That we put on the air in 1993, and which, unfortunately, went bankrupt in the year 2000.
That operation demonstrated that there was a market for right-of-center programming, if you will. And I am told that a lot of the people who were involved with Fox were watching that network when it was on.
LAMB: Go back to the Heritage Foundation again, because that’s where you started. How much money did Joe Coors – or, and your – the other little think tank before Heritage name?
WEYRICH: It was called ARA, Analysis and Research Associates. We were so dumb, we didn’t even know about 501c3s. And so Coors did a joint venture. We founded a little corporation to produce research materials. And he did a joint venture between the Adolph Coors Company and ARA, and funded that.
then an attorney that we both know came along and said, well, you don’t have to do that. You know, why don’t you form a foundation? And so, we did.
LAMB: Tax-exempt, 501c3.
WEYRICH: A 501c3 tax-exempt foundation.
LAMB: What was Joe Coors’ first check? Do you remember that number?
WEYRICH: Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
LAMB: How long did that last you?
WEYRICH: Well, that was for a year. And he contributed $250,000 for a long time.
LAMB: And what year was that?
WEYRICH: Well, that first check was in 1971. We had made the joint agreement with him in 1970. And it began operationally January 1st of 1971.
And then Heritage came along in May of 1973.
LAMB: I haven’t seen the current figures. I know you’re no longer – haven’t been with them for years. But they’re over $40 million operation and over 200 employees and, I mean, most people cite them as the preeminent conservative think tank in this town.
Why did you leave there in ’74?
WEYRICH: I left there mainly because the board of directors had told me that I could not be involved in social issues. They wanted Heritage to be strictly an economic think tank. And social issues were where my heart was.
In addition to that, I saw conservatives in Congress going down the drain in the ’74 election. So I wanted to get up a political action committee that would help any of them that I could.
And that’s what we did. We weren’t able to save many. We did help some people like Henry Hyde and Bob Kasten, and so on, that year.
But we then, later, formed a Free Congress Foundation to do some of the work that we were doing under the PAC.
LAMB: What did you learn from being in Gordon Allott’s office and Carl Curtis and forming your own think tank about what is needed in the town to have an impact on issues?
WEYRICH: Well, the first thing I learned was that timing is everything. You either arrive with your material at the right moment, or you may as well throw it in the garbage can, because members of Congress only read things when they have to. And it’s got to be in short enough form that they will read it. And you’ve got to really watch the timing.
Secondly, I learned that it is critical that you have an integrity about what you do. If the information isn’t totally favorable, you’ve got to say that there are these drawbacks.
You can’t present a one-sided view to the point where you don’t acknowledge that there are problems. And that has been the downfall of some folks that tried to present a one-sided point of view.
I learned that, if you can become acquainted with the key members of Congress or committee chairmen, people in the leadership, and so on, that you have the ability to get your material in the right hands at the right time.
LAMB: In 30 years, name the issues where you’ve had an impact on that meant the most to you.
WEYRICH: Oh, I suppose some of the right-to-life issues. You know …
LAMB: What about your relationship with Newt Gingrich?
WEYRICH: Well, we helped Newt when he first got in office. I was very intrigued with his dynamism, his making us think outside the box.
And so, we put him on the cover of every magazine that we had influence over. We got him to speak before every critical convention that was going at the time, and so on.
We helped make him Mr. Conservative.
My relationship with him was great until he got in office.
LAMB: And then what happened?
WEYRICH: And when he became speaker, well, the first thing he did in office was shut down the Republican Study Committee that Feulner and I had formed in 1973. And I was outraged at this.
By the way, it’s back in operation and it’s stronger than every. They have over 100 members now.
But he did that. And he became – he handled things in such a way as to outrage a lot of the conservatives. In fact, it was conservatives that did him in, because there were a dozen that said that they would not vote to re-elect him speaker. And they had only a five vote majority at the time. And so, that was his downfall.
LAMB: You’d think in an hour we had plenty of time to get over – and we haven’t even touched the surface here. But before time runs out, I want to ask you about your health, because anybody that’s watched you over the years knows that you’ve slowed down some and that you’ve had some major operations.
When did it all start, and what is it?
WEYRICH: Well, I don’t think I’ve slowed down much. I would dispute that, because …
LAMB: I only meant that – to have your operations.
WEYRICH: Well, I’ve had a lot of those. One time I had 10 operations in 11 months.
But I fell in January of 1996, fell on black ice, and broke my spine in three different places. I had a major operation – it was a 9.5-hour operation. And they put in 16 metal parts.
And I seemed to recover well. And then a couple of years later, I began to lose balance and everything, and I went to Johns Hopkins. And they did tests and they said, well, you’ve got a blockage in the middle of your back. We can correct that. You’ll be as good as new.
But when the doctor went in – a five-hour operation – to correct that, they found something called arachnoiditis. It is a rare disease, a calcification of the lower part of the spine, that really is the result of failed surgery.
And so few people have it, that I had to learn what I know about it from a Web site done by a woman in England who has the problem and who compiled all known information about it. No money spent for research or anything on it, because there’s so few of us that have it.
It is a disease which caused me not to be able to walk. That’s what it – as soon as I heard about it, it said, you know, the disease would see to it that, you know, the person who had it no longer walked. And sure enough, by the year 2000 – 2001, actually – right before Bush’s first inauguration, I fell and I couldn’t get up, and I couldn’t walk after that.
And so, I’ve been confined to a wheelchair. And the other thing is, you’re in pain 24/7. I take just enough medication so that I can function. But if I took enough so that I were not in pain, you wouldn’t find this conversation very useful.
LAMB: When was your last operation?
LAMB: When was your last operation?
WEYRICH: The last operation was about three weeks ago. I had a series of three, back-to-back surgeries. They found that I had bones in my feet that were infected, and so they had to go in and take out part of the bone.
And I’m doing well. You’ll get a kick out of this. They had never seen a patient be discharged with a suit and tie. I was discharged at 10:30 in the morning.
I went directly to the office and chaired my Wednesday coalition meeting with Karl Rove as the guest. I didn’t want to miss that one. So, you know, I got right back after eight days in the hospital.
LAMB: Let me talk about the Wednesday Coalition meeting in a moment. But first, what have you done since ’74? What organizations have you run?
WEYRICH: Well, I’ve only run Free Congress. But …
LAMB: Free Congress Foundation.
WEYRICH: Free Congress Foundation and Free Congress PAC, and our c4 called Coalitions for America.
I helped found the ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council – and helped organize the Republican Study Committee, which is the caucus of conservative House members, and the Senate Steering Committee, the caucus of conservative senators.
Those needed to be part of the panoply that I saw. See, the Democrats had something called the DSG, the Democratic Study Group, in the House. And they were there at that meeting.
And they indicated that, you know, they would get a House sponsor for that Bayh-Mathias Civil Rights Bill.
So, you know, I’ve also been a founder of the Council for National Policy, which is an organization that, in the words of Rich DeVos, brings together the doers with the donors.
LAMB: Who have been the biggest sponsors of what you’ve done over the years, besides Joe Coors?
WEYRICH: Dick Scaife of Pittsburgh. I could not have done what I’ve done without him.
All the Bradley Foundation that’s been very, very helpful. You know, there have a number of smaller organizations.
I’m not one that has huge contributors. I have a lot of smaller contributors.
LAMB: How many people work in your foundation now?
WEYRICH: Oh, I guess about 20. It’s, you know, it’s not a large group. We like to think that we – our productivity is very high for a group like that.
LAMB: Go back to what you – you talked about the Wednesday Coalition meetings, because those have become well known in town.
What time of day do you have them and where?
WEYRICH: Well, they’re a noon lunch at the Free Congress Foundation in the Krieble Center, named after the late Robert Krieble, with whom I had worked on the Soviet Union for many years.
This is a lunch which brings together about 65, 75 outside groups with the leadership in the Congress. Roy Blunt comes from the House. Congressman Pence, the head of the Republican Study Committee comes.
Senator Inhofe has been designated by the steering committee to be the liaison with outside conservative groups, so he is there faithfully.
The White House usually has a representative there. And, you know, other members of Congress and other people put things on the agenda.
But the main objective of the meeting is to see to it that the inside and the outside sing from the same sheet of music.
LAMB: Is it off the record?
WEYRICH: Yes. It is not secret, because you can’t have that many people and have a secret meeting. But it is off the record.
LAMB: What impact do you think that coalition meeting has had over the years, and how long have you done it?
WEYRICH: We have done a coalition meeting of one type or another beginning in 1973. So, for over 30 years, we’ve been doing coalition meetings.
This particular lunch began in 1983. Actually, it was the suggestion of Newt Gingrich, who came to it when he was out of power.
But it – I think it’s had some success over the years, because it has gotten people to focus and to work together on the same project.
LAMB: Only 2.5 minutes left, and not enough time to go back to your February 1999 letter where you were quoted widely as being very unhappy with the state of this country.
As we shut this down, and in the last couple of minutes, what do you think the state of this country is for conservatives, or anybody for that matter, from what you’ve worked on all these years?
WEYRICH: Well, what I said was that I didn’t think we had a moral majority, because if we did, Clinton would have been impeached.
And what I also said was – and this was widely misinterpreted – that we needed a different strategy, that we were losing. And that, you know, just electing more Republicans wasn’t sufficient. I still believe that.
We are continuing to decline as a nation. Our culture is continuing to decline.
Here we are working on a marriage amendment, you know, something that I thought was self-evident, that marriage was between a man and a woman. But, no. We’re having difficulty trying to get this passed.
We are not succeeding in changing the culture to return to a time when values mattered. They’re becoming less and less important in the society.
And, you know, when all is said and done, it doesn’t matter whether you have a minimum wage or not, and it doesn’t matter what kind of trade policy you have, if, in fact, the moral fabric of the society has disintegrated.
LAMB: Just very quickly, because we only have less than a minute. A grade you would give President Bush, from your perspective at this point?
WEYRICH: Well, B plus.
LAMB: A grade you would give the Senate of the United States, Bill Frist and that group?
WEYRICH: A “B."
LAMB: A grade you would give the House of Representatives with Mr. Hastert, Mr. DeLay?
WEYRICH: A minus.
LAMB: How much longer do you intend to do this, what you do?
WEYRICH: As long as God gives me the strength to continue. I think it’s what I was born to do. And so, I will continue. And thank God, I’ve been able to do it.
LAMB: Thank you, Paul Weyrich.
WEYRICH: Thank you, Brian.