Longtime conservative leader Paul Weyrich died early this morning. Weyrich was the founder of the Free Congress Foundation, and was well-known as the host of a weekly meeting where leaders of conservative organizations hashed out strategies for implementing conservative ideas. In spite of declining health, Weyrich continued to host those meetings right up until last week. Paul Weyrich was also the first President of The Heritage Foundation and a friend to many in the conservative movement. He will be missed.
Throughout the day, we’ll collect comments from around the conservative movement as people reflect on Paul Weyrich’s life.
Here is a sampling of comments on Paul Weyrich’s life:
Weyrich, along with Barry Goldwater, Bill Buckley, and Ronald Reagan, were the four people most responsible for the launching and the success of the conservative movement.
Without Paul’s strategic brilliance, his determination, his character, and his leadership, many conservatives’ political, legislation, and public policy victories would have been lost.
Through Paul’s mentoring and encouragement, thousands of conservatives became active in politics.
Before Paul, there was no one who played his role and there is no one who can replace Paul.
Years ago I was attending a weekend conference of the Conspiracy in a swank getaway resort. During one session an elected official spoke up, telling us how she’d been targeted for defeat by the Left and explaining in great detail how she was now fighting for her life. It was a troubling report. She was a strong supporter of the movement and a friend of many in the room. Her defeat would be devastating. When she finished others spoke up, one by one giving her words of encouragement, offering their support, etc. Then Paul Weyrich stood up. He would have none of it. “If things are that bad, what in the world are you doing here? Why aren’t you in your district working?” The lips were pursed, the eyes were piercing, the voice boomed., and the elected official quickly sat down, thoroughly chastised.
That will be the Paul Weyrich I will always remember: principled, committed, courageous and honest to a fault.
Conservatives still have a lot to learn from Paul’s action-oriented grassroots organizing. Some people accused him of being too rigid and demanding too much ideological purity. In fact, Paul was tactically flexible, but he understood that the tendency of Republicans in office to capitulate pre-emptively could not be a winning strategy.
Paul was a patriot. He believed in our founding principles of liberty and limited government embodied in the Constitution. And he was fearless in standing up for those principles and in speaking truth to power, especially when it was the powerful people on his side who were the ones cutting corners. The fact that his dedication to principle often came at significant personal disadvantage didn’t bother him.
He was never patient with fools or garrulous politicians. Many’s the time when he cut off a pompous pol in mid-speech to demand, “What can we do to stop this bill?”
Paul may have had the fastest wit in
. Right after the operation to remove his two legs, he was visited by a delegation of young men from his church where he served as deacon. Looking at their long faces, he looked up from his bed and said, “Well, I’ve been trying to think of something cheerful to say, but frankly I’m stumped.” Washington
Inventor of the phrase “moral majority,” Paul’s focus on principle and his insistence on the centrality of family helped bring millions of Christians into the political process and broadened the mainstream conservatism to include a vibrant wing dedicated to resolving social issues.
As a public figure, Paul was one of the great architects of the modern conservative movement. At a personal level, he was a good friend, a visionary leader, a man of unbending principle and unfailing courage. Rest in peace, old friend.
Paul Weyrich made the conservative pro-family movement into a fighting brigade instead of just a collection of naysayers. We are grateful to him for his extraordinary vision and leadership, and he never disappointed us. Paul was a man of integrity, courage, perseverance and political smarts. We are proud to have stood by his side for so many years.
Paul’s real genius was organization: He could see a better way to do politics, keeping faith with his ideals, but also with the practical realities of getting things done. Back in the 70s, Paul was present at the creation of the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, which was one of the first ideologically minded political action committees. And he was also a driving force in the creation of the National Conservative Political Action Committee, and the Moral Majority, followed by, in the 80s, the Christian Coalition. All of these groups were controversial in their time, and some eventually went out of existence, but in each case, Paul’s emphasis was on creating nimble organizations that were faithful to conservative thinking.
Others will have great stories to tell about great political victories that changed the world in which Paul Weyrich was a central figure. So, I will add a personal note that this man, this principled conservative leader who lived the last years of his life in enormous physical pain, was to the end, still a leader who took time to continue mentoring and counseling on matters of importance to the conservative community. We talked of vision, and strategy and discipline and integrity and courage in recent weeks. His wisdom and guidance will continue to guide conservative action for years to come because he invested so much of himself into so many leaders in the cause of freedom. He has now been called home by His Heavenly Father who has undoubtedly greeted him with the words, “Well done, thou Good and Faithful Servant…enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” We will miss you but we will not forget the lessons you taught us. May God bless Paul’s family and give them a peace that passes all understanding.