Weyrich’s Speech

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[The following is the text of a speech entitled, “Party Loyalty Must Not Demand Too Much,” attributed to Paul Weyrich, founder of the Heritage and Free Congress Foundations, and advisor to the Christian Coalition. The text was obtained by Mother Jones contributing writer Adele Stan while on assignment for Ms. magazine, covering the August meeting of the secretive Council for National Policy (CNP), an umbrella group for the leaders and funders of the far right that is headed by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III. The Council for National Policy convened the weekend prior to the Republican National Convention at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Hotel in San Diego County, California. According to the official CNP agenda, the speech was delivered at 10:00 a.m. on August 10. If used as a source by news media, please credit the MoJo Wire, Mother Jones magazine’s online sister.]

Before I discuss the topic of the morning, I want to make a comment or two about Jack Kemp. I have been asked about fifty times this morning what I think. So for the benefit of those of you who haven't asked, I decided I would save myself some trouble and give you my opinion.

Does Kemp help Dole? Yes, he helps him marginally. He helps him with some conservative voters, with some minority voters, probably with some support in the Jewish community. Does he contribute to a Dole victory? I doubt it. I think that the only person who can beat Bill Clinton is Bill Clinton. And that’s only going to happen if, God forbid, we have some disaster in Bosnia or if Hillary gets indicted. Otherwise, it is unlikely that simply the addition of Jack Kemp is going to make any difference. Although, the vice presidency is importance [sic] in this case, given Dole’s age.

What about Kemp? In comparison to whom? In comparison to Tom Ridge, one of the people who was floated by Bob Dole? Well, of course he’s much better.

But, understand that Jack Kemp is a big-government conservative. In fact, I don’t know of any government programs that he has advocated cutting. He is pro-life — and sincerely so — but it’s not an important issue for him. He has said repeatedly, “This is not my priority. Yes, I take that position, but this is not my priority.”

His priority is tax cuts and a return to the gold standard. Those are important issues, don’t get me wrong. But he is somebody who does not feel comfortable with the platform that Phyllis [Schlafly] and Kay [James] described last night. He’s on the other side of affirmative action. He’s on the other side of “English only.” He’s on the other side of immigration and curtailing illegal immigrants. He’s on the other side of right to work. I could go down the list.

What you have now is two candidates who are not going to run on the platform passed by the Republican National Convention. 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. And you can bet that’s probably what’s going to happen.

So if you are looking for this to be the “silver bullet” that is magically going to transform Bob Dole into a winning candidate, I wouldn’t count on it.

There is always some possibility that something will happen, that Clinton will defeat himself. When you build your whole career on lies, things can collapse. And they can collapse in a hurry. But it’s going to take that because it’s very clear at this point that the majority of the people in this country affirmatively do not want Bob Dole to be president.

Now, on the topic of the morning.

It’ll be thirty years this coming January 11th that I came to Washington. And in that period of time I have had the chance to observe many disturbing things, as you might well imagine. But none is more disturbing than what I am about to report on to you.

The circumstances are these: There is a freshman Congresswoman from New York by the name of Sue Kelly who won her primary two years ago with 23% of the vote in a seven-way contest. She was running against six males, five of whom were pro-life and one of whom was neutral on the subject. And she was a radical pro-abortionist.

She won the primary and went on to win the election because it’s a Republican district.

She is no ordinary pro-abortionist. When Ham Fish, who was a sort of moderate Republican, her predecessor, was in office, she picketed his office, dressed in medieval clothes, with a big sign reading, “Ham Fish wants to take women back to the Middle Ages.”

I just wanted to give you a flavor of who this person is. She is listed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a homosexual group of Republicans, as one of their top people in Congress. And, of course, she votes that way.

She was one of handful of Republicans to vote with Bill Clinton on the partial-birth abortion ban. She brags about the fact that, of all the freshmen, she has voted with the Republican leadership the least. And, indeed, she voted against half of the “Contract with America.” This is one very liberal Republican.

She is being challenged in a one-on-one Republican primary this time by former Congressman Joe DioGuardi. DioGuardi is the fellow who beat Bela Abzug. After a couple of terms in Congress they redistricted him. Now he’s attempting a comeback in the adjoining district. He says the reason he got into the race is her vote on the partial-birth abortion question, although he had been making noises about getting into the race before that.

Well, two sitting members of the House, Bob Dornan [R-Calif.] and Chris Smith of New Jersey, signed a fundraising letter for Joe DioGuardi against Sue Kelly. This got the Republican leadership really cranked up. They considered this an act of treason and demanded that both members withdraw their endorsement.

Dornan and Smith declined to do so. The net result was that at a meeting of the Republican caucus, which is a meeting of the House Republicans, the Speaker [Newt Gingrich, R-Georg.] announced that they were to be disciplined. They were going to be stripped of their right to attend conference committees.

Now, conference committees are the most important aspect of legislation. When you get all through with passing something through the House and through the Senate, you reconcile it at a conference committee so the conference committee really determines the final outcome of the legislation. Both of them are sub-committee chairmen. It’s unprecedented to do this.

They also were being deprived of funds for any international travel; both of them are subcommittee chairmen with international responsibilities which require them to oversee, for example, what’s going on in Bosnia, and so on.

What has happened since then is that the leadership has tried to go further. A statement was put out saying that neither member would be allowed to offer any amendments for the rest of the year, thus depriving their constituents of their rights. Their constituents presumably elected them to legislate and they would not be recognized for any amendments. Subsequently, that caused so much problem that the leadership withdrew this and blamed it on a staff member, claiming that a staff member had advanced this and that it really wasn’t the view of the Speaker. I know otherwise because the Speaker has, in fact, now threatened Chris Smith with loss of his subcommittee chairmanship in the next congress because of this position.

You should know that, subsequently, Bob Dornan came crawling back to the leadership on his hands and knees and signed a statement saying that he wouldn’t back DioGuardi. The leadership then lifted their ban. Chris Smith, however, refused to do that, and so the punishment against him remains.

Now, here is what is disturbing about all this. First of all, there is no rule in the Republican caucus against a member supporting someone in a primary against another member. So this was Soviet-style justice, imposed after the fact because the leadership didn’t like it. Secondly, Chris Smith told all members of the leadership, “For me, this is a matter of conscience.” The leadership’s position is, “That doesn’t matter. When you belong to the Republican caucus you leave your conscience behind because we will determine who you will support and who you will not.”

When the day comes that we have a situation where a member, in order to join the majority caucus, has to leave his conscience behind, then we have changed the form of government we have, without the consent of the governed.

Congressman Mark Neumann of Wisconsin said it exactly right: “It took the Democrats forty years to become as arrogant as we have become in a year and a half.” And that is exactly what this is about.

Congressman Smith has put forth a Resolution of Conscience. It will take fifty signatures in order for this to be debated by the entire Republican conference. The first thing the Resolution of Conscience says is that any member is free to follow his or her conscience in supporting any candidate at any level. Number two, if a punishment is to be exacted on any member of Congress for doing so, the entire Republican conference is to vote on it, not for it to be imposed unilaterally by the Speaker of the House.

This is all the more egregious because we saw in the 104th Congress no punishment of liberals who had deviated from the party line. In fact, they were permitted to go against the leadership repeatedly and not a word was said to them. All the more egregious because their position, that we cannot possibly support anyone against an incumbent, is hypocritical.

When, for example, Helen Chenowith had her big primary, they cancelled a big fundraiser for her because she dared vote against them on the budget. And it caused her primary opponent to get a much larger percentage of the vote than he should have because they got all the headlines, in effect, punishing her for that. Where is their effort to protect incumbents when it comes to somebody who dissents from their point of view?

Look at Cliff Sterns, a very innocuous member of Congress, created by God to disappear into crowds — believe me, this guy is no threat to anybody — but Cliff Sterns dared vote against the Mexican bailout. Cliff Sterns has not been permitted to preside over the House of Representatives one time in the 104th Congress, but the openly homosexual Steve Gundersen who, after saying that he would not run for reelection then mounted a write-in campaign against the Republican nominee out there, has been allowed to preside day after day in an effort by his friend, Speaker Newt Gingrich, to assist him in the write in effort, which he now has dropped.

Or how about Wes Cooley? I have no use for Wes Cooley. I called on him to resign. I think he has lied. But nevertheless, he won his party’s primary. If we’re to be consistent about supporting all incumbents, which is what they claim, then they should have been supporting Wes Cooley. But instead, they were supporting another candidate, and [sic] independent candidate, against him. They finally pressured Cooley out of the race.

So it’s convenience. We can be for all incumbents when it’s convenient for us. But when it’s not convenient for us we can deviate form [sic] that policy.

Well, let me tell you something. It is an act of extraordinary arrogance to tell people of conscience that they cannot support who they wish in a free country.

The Resolution of Conscience must be voted on by the Republican conference. Unfortunately, it takes fifty signatures on that Resolution. As of the recess of Congress, that resolution had only forty signatures. So the first thing that you can do is see to it, if you have a Republican member, that that member signs that Resolution of Conscience. If your member hasn’t signed it, you need to ask him to explain why he isn’t for permitting people of conscience to do what they believe is best or what God is telling them to do.

The argument that the leadership makes, and it’s unanimous by the way, is “look, we can’t have members turning against members because it takes all members to elect us to these leadership positions.”

Well, I would find their argument a bit more palatable — I would still be opposed to it because a matter of conscience is a matter of conscience — but I would find that argument a bit more palatable if this were a Congress that had abolished the Legal Services Corporation or had done away with the National Endowment for the Arts or had curtailed the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and I could go on and on.

But this is not a Congress that has done any of those things. In fact, on the bottom line issues that are really important to this country, with the exception of welfare reform, which is a significant victory, all of the issues this group cares about were either completely defeated or watered down virtually to the point of no existence by this Congress.

So how, under these circumstances, when there is a clear-cut contest between a guy who is going to vote the way we would have him vote and this radical feminist extremist, how can anyone force a member of Congress to say, “I am not going to participate in this contest even though my conscience is telling me to” is beyond comprehension.

The second thing we need to do is to teach that membership a lesson. We need to get in there and help Joe DioGuardi beat Sue Kelly in the primary on September 10.

I will tell you that this is a bitter turn for me. 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.

We can’t argue that Tom Delay and Dick Armey and Trent Lott and Don Nickles are not our people. If they’re not our people, then who are our people? And yet we are getting the same policies from them that we got from their Republican predecessors.

Now, I feel as if I have wasted thirty years of my life — I really feel that way. I feel such an utter sense of betrayal that I would have to stand before you and talk about that kind of leadership — never mind Gingrich, he never was trustworthy, I never considered him trustworthy — but the rest of them…such a sense of betrayal that I would have to stand before you and mention as Woody Jenkins did last night, that Trent Lott, in three weeks time, confirmed ten times the number of federal judges that Bob Dole permitted to be confirmed in the first six months of this year. And this is a guy that everybody prayed for to get in to the Republican leadership. I could go on and on.

The fact of the matter is that this matter of conscience is so fundamental to what we believe in as a people, that if we permit this thing to stand, I think we have changed our form of government and need to fundamentally examine who it is we are helping in the political process.

It is essential that this matter be debated and voted on by the entire Republican caucus.

I hope and pray that the standing ovation that they gave Gingrich when he announced his punishment for Smith and Dornan will be retracted. I hope and pray that when a good man of conscience like Chris Smith, a humble man, a man so sincere that he makes a mockery of the rest of the politicians in this Republican caucus, I hope that when he appears before them, that there is enough of a conscience left in some of these people, particularly the newer ones, that maybe they will reconsider their position.

This is a very serious matter. In my opinion, the most serious matter that I have seen among lots of serious matters in the past three decades.

I remember well when Phil Gramm was punished by the Democrats stripping his seniority from him when he voted with President Reagan on the major tax bill of the early part of the Reagan administration. He resigned from the Democratic Party, ran as a Republican and got elected. That ended their effort to ever punish anybody again in the Democratic caucus.

In my opinion, if Joe DioGuardi wins that primary, it will also end this kind of nonsense. But it is a tragedy that we should ever be faced with this sort of question.

And while we’re at it, I want to pay tribute to Steve Stockman. Steve Stockman is in a marginal district. There were lots of threats floating around that, if he didn’t cooperate, he might get a district that he couldn’t win. And yet he signed the Resolution of Conscience where lots of people who have the safest districts in America, where if you imported Margaret Thatcher to run against them you couldn’t beat them, they have refused to sign. We need more people like Steve Stockman in the Congress of the United States.

I beg of you, help us get those other ten signatures. 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.

This is a deciding issue. It will decide whether the Republicans in the House of Representatives have the moral authority to continue operating for the common good for this country or not. In my opinion, it is that important. Thank you.


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