Friday, December 19, 2008

Paul Weyrich, 66

The Washington Post ran an interesting and surprisingly respectful obituary of Paul Weyrich on the front page this morning. He certainly deserved the coverage. Weyrich was a real Washington "character," like someone out of a fifties Otto Preminger film, the first actually pear-shaped person I'd ever met. He was an obvious train buff, and for a while had his own television network, on which I appeared a couple of times on TV shows hosted by him and Newt Gingrich to talk about the National Endowment for the Arts. This controversy was important enough to him to have been mentioned in his Post obituary:
"Look at the National Endowment for the Arts as a prototype," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Here's a piddling little organization -- about $100 million budget out of a $2 trillion budget -- and rather inconsequential in national significance. Republicans surely could have been able to shut that down given the fact that it had offended many, many people with the kind of art it had subsidized.

"But the culture overwhelmed the political process," he added. "Why? Because upper-crust, suburban Republican women in the districts of Republican congressmen defended the filth."
Actually, he was pretty successful by Washington standards. Congress voted to zero out the NEA...and even George Bush hasn't dared try to restore NEA appropriations to the high levels of the 1990s. That's thanks to Weyrich, I'm sure.

His TV network began on satellite, then some cable channels--until Republicans drove him out of business due to his on-air criticism of them. He kept going, regardless. Weyrich had an old-fashioned stick-to-his guns quality, and an obvious eccentricity, that was unusual in button-down, carefully worded, and too-often cowardly Washington, DC. As the obits mentioned, he was one of the founders of the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority. He set up the Free Congress Foundation as his own bailiwick. More recently, he helped nurture Jihad Watch, where Robert Spencer has posted a tribute:
Paul Weyrich's impact on the national stage is well known. In 2007 when I was doing research on the so-called "Christianists" for my book Religion of Peace?, I found paranoid Leftist writers referring to him as the "most powerful man in America." He wasn't, but his influence in advancing the wisdom of protecting individual freedom and limited government in an age of encroaching statism and collectivism cannot be calculated.

Paul Weyrich was also one of the first and foremost American public figures to see through the "Islam is a Religion of Peace" deception that spread through the nation from President Bush and others after 9/11. In 2002 he named me an Adjunct Fellow of the Free Congress Foundation and asked me to write a series of monographs on Islam: An Introduction to the Qur'an; Women and Islam; An Islamic Primer; Islam and the West; The Islamic Disinformation Lobby; Islam vs. Christianity; and Jihad in Context. The perspective I expounded in them was just as unpopular with the conservative (and of course liberal) mainstream then as it is now, but Paul was undeterred by that; he was determined to defend the West and present the truth. He even arranged for me to address the Council for National Policy in New York, where fantasies and deceptions arising from political correctness and realpolitik usually rule the day.

Paul Weyrich taught me a great deal, by word and by example -- about how to deal both personally and professionally with the slanders and smears that are a daily aspect of this work (although I've not always lived up to his example in this); about how to avoid discouragement and keep on fighting no matter what the odds are, and about much more. He was an extraordinarily kind and genial man, a stark contrast in person to the vicious caricatures of him purveyed by those who feared and hated him.
I think one reason the Post gave Weyrich good play was that he was what he was...he was also good copy. Washington will miss him.