Paul Weyrich, one of the nation’s most influential conservative leaders, says he is out to prevent Rudy Giuliani from winning the Republican nomination for president — and predicts the religious right will unite behind any GOP candidate except Rudy.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.com, Weyrich also predicts Republicans face a “disaster” in the Senate in next year’s elections, says Hillary Clinton would be the easiest Democratic candidate to defeat, and charges that the Bush administration’s Iraq policy has been a “mistake” from the beginning.
Weyrich is no stranger to speaking his mind. As Chairman and CEO of the Washington-based Free Congress Foundation, he has long been recognized as one of America’s most thoughtful and principled conservatives.
He was founding president of the Heritage Foundation, one of the largest and most respected public policy research institutes and a major force in advancing conservative policies.
He was also instrumental in the formation of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority.
Weyrich is a regular guest on radio and television talk shows, a frequent contributor to major U.S. publications, including Newsmax.
Newsmax: Can the Republicans hang on to the White House?
Weyrich: It’s very doubtful. The American people think that Republicans run Washington and so when they are very upset about what’s going on here – they hate the Congress and everything else – they’re going to blame the Republicans and will end up voting against us.
Newsmax: Do you agree with [Focus on the Family founder Dr. James] Dobson — will he bolt the GOP if Giuliani wins the nomination?
Weyrich: I think we have to examine that very carefully. It seems to me that we would want to make sure that we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. I think it’s too early to make that judgment. I’m not for Giuliani. I want to try to stop him from getting the nomination.
If he does get it, and I’m not sure that he will, it seems to me that we need to negotiate with him and determine whether or not we can pin down a whole series of promises that he would make [and then make] a judgment as to whether those promises are any good.
We need to make that judgment if the opportunity presents itself.
Newsmax: Is there any way the party can support a candidate who supports abortion and gay rights like Giuliani?
Weyrich: If he simply opposes a constitutional amendment but supports the Hyde Amendment [banning use of federal funds for abortion], supports parental notification, parental consent, and a whole number of other things, we can probably live with that.
The gay rights issue is much more complicated. He would have to renounce outright his current position. Unless we could get that from him I don't know that we can support him.
Newsmax: What do you think of Mitt Romney?
Weyrich: I think he is somebody who is rushing toward the movement trying to present himself as a conservative and in some ways it's more useful to have somebody like that. I think he could be supported.
Newsmax: What about Mike Huckabee?
Weyrich: I like him and he certainly is somebody who can give a stemwinder but I have learned so many things about his waffling positions, and conservatives in Arkansas don't like him at all. They say he left the conservative movement in Arkansas in shambles when he left the governorship early this year. There are a whole lot of things – he came out for civil unions, he came out for D.C. statehood - that cause me not to be able to support him.
Newsmax: Who would you consider of all these candidates in the Republican primary race to be the best?
Weyrich: If you mean by that who’s the best campaigner, I think Romney is if you look at his lead in the early states as a result of arduous campaigning. I'd be more comfortable if Fred Thompson were, but he’s a poor campaigner.
Newsmax: According to the New York Times, the religious right is in disarray. Do you agree with that?
Weyrich: No, I don't agree with that. It's not in disarray. The problem is this: I tried for over a year to get people - values voters if you will - to support a single candidate because I thought if we can support a single candidate we would have real clout. I failed in that respect. People went 14 different ways. If you look at every campaign you will find religious right figures involved with it. As a result we are a small fish in a large pond, instead of being a large fish in a smaller pond. It's really unfortunate, but are we in disarray? No.
When a candidate emerges with the nomination, unless it's Giuliani, I think we will end up in pretty good shape in supporting that candidate. With Giuliani we probably will have a problem because some people will want to go the Dobson [third party] route but if it's not Giuliani and it’s one of the other candidates I think you'll see people coalescing behind that candidate.
Newsmax: Who do you think would be the easiest Democratic candidate to beat next year, Obama or Hillary?
Weyrich: Hillary I think would be the easiest because she has a record, number one. Number two she is a polarizing figure - a lot of people don't like her and if you start out with that, that's good. On the other hand, the Clintons will stop at nothing to elect her. They are the most arduous and vicious campaigners on the face of the earth. I think she probably would win but nevertheless the margin would be very, very close. I think that there's a chance at least to defeat her.
Newsmax: What do you think will happen in the elections for the House of Representatives next year? What are the chances of Republicans retaking control of the House?
Weyrich. Fairly poor. The NRCC [National Republican Congressional Committee] chairman points to the fact that there are 61 districts in which Democrats hold seats that were carried by George Bush. (There are only eight districts that Republicans hold that were carried by John Kerry.) So they are targeting 18 or 20 of those districts very heavily and they're going to point out that the promises that were made by the candidates in those districts simply were not fulfilled. Do the voters care about that? I'm not sure.
We'll see. That's going to be a very tight situation in my opinion. My former colleague Stu Rothenberg feels that there could be a swing of five to 10 seats either way. That still wouldn’t be enough if the swing were towards the Republicans – it would not be enough to carry the House. On the other hand if you get that close you might be able to have party switchers - that's a possibility.
Newsmax: What about the Senate?
Weyrich: The Senate is going to be a disaster. I think we could lose six seats. Right now with 49 seats they can stop virtually anything. For example, I think they'll be able to defeat the Law of the Sea Treaty. If they lose six seats they’d be down to 43. With that number, considering that some of those would be liberals, you’re not going to be able to stop much.
The chairman of the Senatorial Committee was at my recent lunch and he was very candid. He didn't say anything about every seat being won. He basically [predicted] a net [loss] of two seats — he thinks they're going to lose three but pick up Louisiana. If they only lost two seats and they have 47 that would be good.
Newsmax: Given the situation with Bush, his low popularity, how can the Republican Party differentiate itself from his policies?
Weyrich: The only way they can do it is by voting no on various programs and propositions. That’s the only way possible.
Newsmax: Do you still support the President on Iraq?
Weyrich: No, I don't. I never have. I felt that it was a mistake to go in there in the first place. We should not be taking initiatives like that with NATO. We're only supposed to defend if attacked. We should not be making initiatives when not attacked. Yes, you can say that on the periphery we were attacked, but we weren’t attacked in the way that is traditionally understood.
One thing for sure, if we were going to go we should have very carefully examined the Baath party people to determine which ones were there because they were really Saddam's Murder Inc., and which ones were there because they were competent people who knew how to run a country. We made the mistake of throwing them all out. As a result there has been utter chaos there for a long period of time — lots of unnecessary deaths, going on 100,000. It's been very chaotic for the people. I just felt that it was a mistake from the beginning.
Newsmax: Would you favor bombing Iran?
Weyrich: I hope we don't have to. My feeling is that we ought to be working more assiduously with the young people there. In the countryside there is no support for the current regime. The only people that support that regime are the ayatollahs. The young people who are a majority of the country absolutely do not support Ahmadinejad so we ought to be finding ways to funnel funds and faxes and computers and every means of communication even to the point of arming some of them, which would be much preferable to our bombing them. Bombing would turn the population against us whereas now in Iran they are probably more pro-American than any other place on earth.
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