Sunday, August 29, 2004
Because we spent most of Saturday loafing (in wholly uncharacteristic fashion, we assure you), this NYT profile of a right-wing secret society slipped right past us. Luckily our venerated colleague Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla was on the case:
Three times a year for 23 years, a little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country have met behind closed doors at undisclosed locations for a confidential conference, the Council for National Policy, to strategize about how to turn the country to the right . . . .Regarding the award presented to Mr. Frist by this gang of furtive schemers: we have spent some time in the shadow of Monticello mountain, and we can therefore state with some conviction that, wherever he may be at the moment, the shade of Thomas Jefferson is puking on his ectoplasmic shoes.
The membership list is "strictly confidential." Guests may attend "only with the unanimous approval of the executive committee." In e-mail messages to one another, members are instructed not to refer to the organization by name, to protect against leaks.
Mr. Bush addressed the group in fall 1999 to solicit support for his campaign, stirring a dispute when news of his speech leaked and Democrats demanded he release a tape recording. He did not.
Not long after the Iraq invasion, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld attended a council meeting.
This week, as the Bush campaign seeks to rally Christian conservative leaders to send Republican voters to the polls, several Bush administration and campaign officials were on hand, according to an agenda obtained by The New York Times.
"The destiny of our nation is on the shoulders of the conservative movement," the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, told the gathering as he accepted its Thomas Jefferson award on Thursday, according to an attendee's notes.
The secrecy that surrounds the meeting and attendees like the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Phyllis Schlafly and the head of the National Rifle Association, among others, makes it a subject of suspicion, at least in the minds of the few liberals aware of it.
"The real crux of this is that these are the genuine leaders of the Republican Party, but they certainly aren't going to be visible on television next week," Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said . . . .
The council was founded in 1981, just as the modern conservative movement began its ascendance. The Rev. Tim LaHaye, an early Christian conservative organizer and the best-selling author of the "Left Behind" novels about an apocalyptic Second Coming, was a founder. His partners included Paul Weyrich, another Christian conservative political organizer who also helped found the Heritage Foundation . . . .
The membership list this year was a who's who of evangelical Protestant conservatives and their allies, including Dr. Dobson, Mr. Weyrich, Holland H. Coors of the beer dynasty; Wayne LaPierre of the National Riffle Association, Richard A. Viguerie of American Target Advertising, Mark Mix of the National Right to Work Committee and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.