After writing the piece on Paul Weyrich for Friday’s online TAS, I found out a friend had a connection to Richard Viguerie, one of the pioneers of the modern conservative movement. He recalled a decade beginning in the in mid-seventies of breakfasts with Weyrich and other conservatives, including Newt Gingrich at one point, in his home.
Viguerie, like everyone I’ve spoken to so far, had a high opinion of Weyrich and his value to the movement. “Paul was a master strategist. He saw around corners. There were many occasions when he alerted our group to issues well ahead of time.” When I pressed him to explain Weyrich’s virtue as a strategist, he said, “Many people have mentioned that Paul coined the term ‘moral majority.’ That’s not so much. His influence was bigger than that. It was Paul’s idea to bring the religious right on board.”
One of the things that stood out most as I listened to Viguerie was his recollection of Weyrich’s force within the context of a meeting. “When Paul had something to say, he spoke with confidence and authority. You had to be awfully sure of yourself to contradict Paul. I know I rarely did. The man was clearly a political genius.”
Viguerie also reinforced the positive things I’ve heard about Weyrich’s character. “Paul had one face for the world. One face. Period. Once he made a commitment, that was it.” He echoed others, too, in emphasizing that Weyrich was not a self-promoter. He was committed to the movement and not to building up his own reputation.
His estimate of Weyrich’s contribution to the movement? “He ranked with Goldwater, Buckley, and Reagan. He was a major contributor.” It sounds grandiose. I don’t claim to be in a position to evaluate the statement. But one thing is certain. Viguerie is not the only person I’ve heard put Weyrich in that class.