Matt Lewis
Conservative leader Morton Blackwell recently penned a moving tribute to Paul Weyrich, detailing the enormous impact he made on the modern-day conservative movement. 

I have excerpted key sections below:

Next to Ronald Reagan, no single person has
achieved more to advance the cause of American
conservatism than Paul Weyrich.
 
     Paul came to Washington 42 years ago to work as
press secretary for conservative U.S. Senator Gordon
Allott of Colorado.  At the time, liberalism was riding
high.  
 
     There were very few conservative op-ed writers. 
There was no talk radio as we know it today.  Fox News
and conservative blogs like Townhall and RedState did
not exist. 
        
 Lionel Trilling wrote at the time that "liberalism
is not only the dominant ideology; it's the only
ideology in America." 
        
 Some of the few conservatives who worked in the
D.C. area didn't dare call themselves conservatives.
        
     After Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, the
Nixon/Agnew ticket resulted in another disappointing
setback for conservatism.  But beginning in the early
1970s, conservatism was on the march.  The election of
Ronald Reagan in 1980 constituted a major triumph for
conservative principles.   [# More #]
        
 ... And none of it would have happened without
Paul Weyrich.  Now it's time to honor him.
 
 As a congressional staffer, Paul watched the
powerful liberal coalition of academics, think tank
analysts, members of Congress, White House aides,
interest-group officials, and journalists running
America and wondered: "Why can't we put together an
operation like that?" 
   
     There was, for example, no comparable conservative
alternative to the Brookings Institution, the catalyst
for many of the legislative successes of the liberals
during the 1960s and early 1970s.
        
 Paul Weyrich had been inspired by Barry
Goldwater's principled run for the presidency in 1964. 
Paul called himself a movement conservative. 
     
     You see, Barry Goldwater's landslide loss in 1964
taught many of us young conservatives a valuable lesson
that I still focus on at my Leadership Institute: 
"Being right, in the sense of being philosophically
correct, is not sufficient to win."  
        
 Paul keenly understood this.
        
 When he and I first met in 1968, I saw immediately
that Paul was very special:  principled, articulate,
creative, tenacious, fearless, and wise -- in a unique
combination.  
 
 Over the years I have had the good fortune to know
almost all of the most effective conservatives in
America.  No one else has come close to being as
effective as Paul in building the conservative
movement.  In an astonishing range of activities,
Paul's achievements are spectacular.
 
 Let me start by sharing with you the little-known
story of one of Paul's most important institution-
building successes.
 
 Paul and I had been friends for about three years. 
I was on the senior staff of the American Enterprise
Institute (AEI), then the D.C. area's largest
conservative think tank.   
 
 When I learned that AEI had deliberately withheld
the publication of a powerful study regarding a bill
under consideration by the Congress, I privately
discussed the matter with Paul.  It seemed AEI policy
at the time was not to publish studies which might be
seen as attempts to affect the outcome in Congress.
 
 After the Senate narrowly defeated the
conservatives' bill, AEI published the study.
 
 When the tardy AEI study arrived at Sen. Allott's
office, Paul himself called AEI president William J.
Baroody, Sr., and said, "This is a great study.  Why
didn't you publish it when it could do some good?"

Bill Baroody replied that publishing studies which
appeared to be attempts to affect pending legislation
might endanger AEI's tax-exempt status.
     
 At that moment, Paul decided that conservatives
needed an independent research institute to influence
the policy debate as it occurred in Congress -- before
decisions were made.  He envisioned an activist think
tank, separate from Congress and not officially tied to
any political party.
        
 You'll be highly interested in what happened next.
        
 Paul contacted Joseph Coors, whom Paul had known
when he was a TV newsman in Denver.  Joe was president
of the Adolph Coors Company in Colorado and one of the
best known conservative business leaders in America.
    
 Paul told Joe Coors about AEI's policy of delaying
the publishing of policy studies which might affect
pending legislation.
        
     Joe said, "I think I can handle that."  But he got
the same story when he phoned AEI's president.
        
     Joe Coors then called Paul back in Sen. Allott's
office and said, "I want to spend money on the
conservative movement.  I want to do something."
        
 Not missing a beat, Paul essentially said, "Have I
got an idea for you!"
        
     Later, Joe visited Washington and met with Paul. 
Casting about for help, Paul arranged for Coors to talk
with fellow conservative Lyn Nofziger, who was then
President Nixon's deputy assistant for congressional
relations.  
        
     Along with Coors and Paul, in Nofziger's large
pastel-blue office in the Old Executive Office Building
next to the White House, was Paul's friend Edwin J.
Feulner, Jr.  
 
 Ed Feulner was then administrative assistant to
Congressman Phil Crane, a staunch conservative from
Illinois.  Paul and Ed frequently breakfasted together
in the basement cafeteria of the U.S. Capitol.
        
     Paul was then age 28, and Feulner was 30.
        
     "So what about AEI?" Joe Coors asked Nofziger.  
 
 "AEI?" repeated the curmudgeonly White House aide. 

 Lyn Nofziger then strolled over to a bookshelf and
blew some dust off an AEI study. "That's what they're
good for -- collecting dust.  They do great work, but
they're not timely.  What we need are studies for
Congress while legislation is being considered." 
 
 Coors later told Paul that two things made him
decide to go with Paul's idea, despite the obvious
youth of its principals:  Lyn Nofziger's dismissal of
AEI as too academic and Paul's "tremendous business
plan." 
 
 And that was the beginning of something big.  Paul
became the first president of a new conservative think
tank, the Heritage Foundation.  Ed Feulner later
succeeded Paul as president and built Heritage into the
conservative powerhouse we know today.
     
 If there had been no Paul Weyrich, there would, in
all likelihood, have been no Heritage Foundation.  And
had there been no Heritage Foundation -- and the many
other new and improved conservative organizations Paul
created or made possible -- Ronald Reagan would not
have been elected in 1980.  
 
 Keep in mind that Goldwater's humiliating defeat
occurred just 16 years prior.  
 
 And while Reagan clearly appealed to a wider
audience than Goldwater, the rise of conservative
organizations allowed Reagan to win by a landslide
while Goldwater had lost by a even greater margin in
the popular vote.  That's just the start of my story of
Paul's impact.
 
 Paul, Ed, and I were among an informal group
brought together by conservative fundraiser Richard
Viguerie in 1972.  We were determined conservatives who
began to discuss how to build a powerful base of
conservative activists and leaders who could eventually
win in American politics.
        
 Central to our plan was to create new, effective,
conservative groups.  Paul Weyrich turned out to be, by
far, the most successful creator of new groups.  Below
is only a partial list of the conservative
organizations he engendered or was one of the key
people in starting:
        
     Heritage Foundation
 Free Congress Foundation
     Free Congress PAC
     
 Coalitions for America
     House Republican Study Committee
     Senate Steering Committee
         
     Council for National Policy
     International Policy Forum
     American Legislative Exchange Council
 
     American Association of State and Local Officials
     Conservative Leadership PAC
        
     Paul sparked many people to create and lead a wide
variety of other effective, new conservative groups.
        
     Our informal group met frequently throughout the
1970s to brainstorm new ideas and put them into effect.
        
     In one of our discussions, I described
theologically conservative Americans as "the largest
tract of virgin timber on the political landscape." 
All the liberal pastors were already up to their necks
in politics, but conservative religious leaders thought
any such participation was no part of their calling.
        
 At the time, conservative pastors sat back and
allowed the leftists to remove prayer from school,
legalize abortion-on-demand and, in general, make
government the active enemy of traditional values.  
 
 Conservative evangelicals were non-combatants in
the political aspects of the culture war.  Yet
government was successfully assaulting almost
everything they held dear.
        
     Paul took the initiative to organize a group of
conservative leaders to visit a successful religious
broadcaster in Lynchburg, Virginia -- to recruit him to
lead conservative Christians into political
participation.  
        
     During their discussion, Paul told the Rev. Jerry
Falwell, "Out there is what one might call a moral
majority."
        
 Jerry Falwell suddenly exclaimed, "That's the name
of the organization!"
     
 Many people know what happened from there.  (And
now you know what Paul Harvey would call "the rest of
the story.")  Not long after that, Ronald Reagan became
the first presidential candidate to benefit from the
support of millions of newly activated, theologically
conservative Americans.
 
 Here's another thing most people don't know about: 
 
Paul's central role in overturning the defeatist
Republican leadership in the Congress.  
        
 For decades the House and Senate Republican
leadership contentedly accepted their government
limousines and gave little thought or effort to
overturning the Democrats' congressional majorities.
        
     Paul saw that only a new generation of
conservative Republican congressional leadership could
wrest control from the leftist Democrats in charge of
both Houses.  
 
 Key to that achievement was creation of the House
Republican Study Committee and the Senate Steering
Committee.  Paul and Ed Feulner persuaded some solidly
conservative U.S. Representatives and Senators to do
that.  But that was only the important first step.
        
     Paul then led the bigger and more complex task.  
It required many steps:
        
     1. To recruit and train a new generation of
conservative candidates all across America.
        
     2. To generate political and financial support
for those candidates so they could win
nomination and election.
        
     3. To identify, recruit, and train conservative
Members of both Houses who could eventually
become the congressional Republican leaders.
        
     4. To work quietly and systematically to line up
support in the House and Senate Republican
conferences for action-oriented challengers
against the content-free incumbent party
leaders.
        
     5. To build up an efficient network of
trustworthy conservative congressional staff
who would have to do much of the work of
advancing conservative principles in
congressional activities.
     
 Paul did all of that and more.  It was an
incredibly complex, massive task.
 
 Paul began a weekly strategy luncheon which he
hosted in his office.  He recruited as a luncheon
regular a very bright new congressman named Newt
Gingrich.  I was there as Paul first explained to Newt
what a "wedge issue" is.

 Paul took the lead in an astonishing variety of
tasks:
 
 o training a new generation of grassroots
conservative activists and leaders 
 
 o recruiting solidly conservative candidates
 
 o generating support for conservative
candidates in nomination and general-election
contests by introducing them to conservative
donors and to the leaders of new conservative
organizations
 
 o helping newly elected conservatives hire
solidly conservative staff
 
 o lining up support for activist conservatives
in party leadership contests in both Houses
of Congress.
 
 Of course, most of these activities necessarily
take place behind the scenes, so people not directly
involved never have learned of Paul's leadership role
in them.  Now you know.
 
 Most effective conservatives do know that Paul is
the "go to" guy when you want to make something happen. 
Paul's effectiveness is famous.
 
 Over the last 40 years, I've been in uncounted
thousands of conservative meetings, large and small,
where everyone looked to Paul to put the heat on
specific people to do the right thing.
 
 You probably remember the children's story where
some mice were troubled by a cat who was catching and
eating many of them.  One mouse came up with the great
idea of tying a bell around the cat's neck so they
could hear him coming.  Another mouse raised the
question, "Who shall bell the cat?"
 
 Belling the cat is dangerous business.
 
 Fortunately for all of us, Paul Weyrich is
fearless and ready to do whatever must be done to
advance conservative principles.  He has never aspired
to win a popularity contest.  Regardless of the
consequences to himself, Paul keeps his commitments,
and woe unto anyone who breaks his word to Paul.
 
 The truth is that many people are (wisely) afraid
of him.  Many a waverer has been brought back to the
straight and narrow for fear of angering Paul.

Serious conservatives treasure Paul's judgment and
the smartest ones often follow his advice.  If one
wants support from conservatives, earning Paul's
respect is very, very valuable.
 
 Next, let me tell you one of the best things Paul
ever did for us.  Having once been invited by mistake
to a left-wing coalition meeting, Paul studied how the
left operated.  Then he adapted for conservatives the
techniques for building powerful coalitions.  
 
 Paul organized the first successful conservative
coalition meetings.  Soon Paul's model began to produce
major results in a wide variety of policy areas. 

...
 
 Paul created a number of different coalitions and
still personally chairs his famous Wednesday luncheons
when Congress is in session.  About sixty people
regularly attend.
 
 Other conservatives have replicated Paul's model
effectively for national coalition meetings.  Now such
coalitions operate locally and do important work in
many states.
 
 A little-known aspect of Paul's career is his huge
effort to identify and train pro-freedom activists and
leaders in the former Soviet empire.  
 
 He understood that the fall of Communist regimes
would amount to nothing unless anti-communists there
learned how to operate successfully in the democratic
process.  From the Iron Curtain to far Siberia, Paul
brought expert American conservative faculty to teach
practical political skills to grassroots activists.
 
 Over several years, Paul personally made more than
40 trips over there.
 
 He identified good people and brought first-class
training to them.  Conditions were often primitive, and
there was more than a little personal danger.  But as
usual, Paul poured his talent and resources into doing
the right thing.
 
 We should thank God that Paul remains active in
politics.  Today, through his principal organization,
the Free Congress Foundation, he continues to do
tremendous work on behalf of our country and our
conservative principles.
 
 He is writing and publishing more now than ever. 
Hardly a day passes without powerful, interesting,
current quotes from Paul in the print and broadcast
media on the hot issues before our country.
 
 Several years ago, Paul had a nasty accident when
he slipped on the ice.  This left him crippled and in
constant pain.  Ultimately, doctors removed his legs. 
In spite of the resultant disability, Paul labors on,
always courageous and highly effective.

 Still an inspiring movement conservative, Paul is
an outspoken critic of Republicans and Democrats who
don't advance our economic and social values.
 
 ...

 Without Paul Weyrich, there would likely have been
no conservative movement worthy of the name -- and no
Ronald Reagan presidency.
 
 If there were a Mount Rushmore for conservative
leaders, Paul's face would have to be on it.
 
 I appreciate your support in honoring this great
man.
 
     Cordially,
 
 
     
Morton C. Blackwell
 
 


Matt Lewis

Matt Lewis is conservative writer and blogger based in Alexandria, VA.

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