(Note: FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS INFORMATION IS ON THE FREE CONGRESS FOUNDATION...)
The modern-day Conservative Movement lost one of its most important founders today with the untimely passing of Paul Weyrich.
Paul was the consumate "organizational entrepreneur", to use a phrase coined by our own Virginia GOP National Committeeman -- and fellow Movement founding father -- Morton Blackwell.
Paul's efforts spawned a huge number of conservative and faith-based organizations. There are many people active in the movement - particularly younger people - who do not realize the extent and depth of his contribution.
Some know that Paul one of the founders -- and the first director -- of the Heritage Foundation -- the leading conservative "think tank" not only in the US but globally, which became the policy engine of the Reagan and Gingrich revolutions and continues to steer Conservative thought as we face the next era of challenges with an incoming Obama administration.
Many other do not know that before Paul and Ed Feulner put Heritage together, they founded the House Republican Study Committee -- the first of the issue-based caucuses in Congress and the founding point of the resurgence of Reagan-Goldwater conservatism within GOP Congressional ranks, which those days was pretty much a herd of RINOs. Quick history lesson -- this was back in the era when being a Reagan Republican got you branded as a dangerous radical and Tim Kaine's father in law Gov Linwood Holton (RINO-VA) was a leading light of the so-called GOP mainstream.
After co-founding the House GOP Study Committee and Heritage, Paul went on to found the Free Congress Foundation (originally the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress). Through this organization his efforts spawned a great many other groups -- and provided a powerhouse of ideas.
Paul was an early pioneer in networking the Movement. By hosting the Wednesday meeting at CSFC, he brought together conservative organizational leaders and leading thinkers into one strategy network. This focused not only on current legislative before Congress and foreign policy challenges such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the declaration of Martial Law in Poland, but also more subtle, far-reaching issues affecting the culture. As one of the senior lobbyists for the National Rifle Association and a YR national officer, I was part of this group. In hindsight, I realize I was a fly on the wall in the earliest, seminal days of what would come to be called the Reagan Revolution.
During this era Paul helped found the Christian Coalition and actualy coined the phrase "Moral Majority" and was one of the first Conservative leaders to "get' the importance of both the Internet and televisual media and the possibiilties of Conservative talk radio. Prior to coming to Washington, he had been a commentator / newsman on a local radio station in Colorado, until he was tapped to be press secretary to Colorado GOP Senator Gordon Allott.
Paul's organizational building efforts went international through the founding of the Kriebel Institute, bringing the tools and technology of representative govenment to the former Soviet bloc.
By founding and helping get funded a Conservative television network / production company, he launched the careers of many who are today well-known "talking heads" and blog-stars, including (alas) former conservative commentatrix and now leading left-wing blogger Arianna Huffington, who was given her start in this medium by Paul's organization.
An active Greek Catholic convert, Paul was equally adept at discussing theology as he was philosophy, practical politics and media.
In many ways, Paul was a stereotype breaker. While a strong faith-based Conservative, unlike many on the "Religious Right" (alas), he remained a staunch civil libertarian in the Goldwater tradition in many areas, including the Free Congress Foundation co-sponsoring with the ACLU "EPIC" - the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a group concerned about the potential impact of technology on invidual privacy rights.
The other area in which Paul strayed from the identikit definition of a classic right winger was his passion for mass transit -- particularly trains and rail travel -- although of course, heavily focused on private sector rather than public sector solutions.
Paul wasn't always the most tolerant guy on the block -- and if he thought you'd strayed off the ideological reservation, beware the wrath of Weyrich! We crossed swords on serveral occasions when I was working for GOP candidates whom I respected hugely but didn't quite pass Paul's litmus test. However, these periodic disagreements on tactics in no way diminished my respect or affection for the man and I was proud to call him friend.
In the past five years when I took a hiatus from politics after my mom's death, I'd lost touch and only recently found out about the horrible crosses he'd had to bear with his health, including losing his legs. Recent pictures show the toll that his health problems had taken as he looked much older than his 66 years.
Nonetheless, Paul kept fighting to the last. Still actively running the Free Congress Foundation, he got the wheels turning on an effort to rebuild the movement and continued to be an active columnist and commentator, his last article having been published only today, the date of his death. Ironically, it's a reflective piece on the state of the nation, the culture and the movement. And of course, well worth reading. Here's the link: There's Hope for the Future
For more information, read the Heritage Foundation's obituary