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PASSING ON THE RIGHT

CONSERVATIVE STRATEGISTS GEAR UP FOR THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY.RIGHT ON! EMPOWERMENT TO THE PEOPLE: CONSERVATIVES TUNE IN AND TURN ON.

"People are being forced to work together because of the very strong attack on the family," he says. "It's not that conservative Catholics want to be working with evangelicals. But in a battle, that's what you do."
Weyrich didn't just jump on the family values bandwagon. More than a decade ago he predicted that "as pro-family groups become better educated in the political process, a lot of Congressmen who today thumb their noses at the whole notion of a pro-family coalition are going to be humbled."

He has always seen life as a battle between good and evil. "Paul has a very, very strong sense of morality," says longtime friend Reutz. And the weapons of war could be just about anything. "It may not be with bullets and it may not be with rockets and missiles, but it is a war nevertheless," Weyrich wrote over a decade ago. "It is a war of ideology, it's a war of ideas, it's a war about our way of life. And it has to be fought with the same intensity, I think, and dedication as you would fight a shooting war."

Perhaps it's that intensity that explains why Weyrich rubs a lot of people--including some of his fellow conservatives--raw. Maybe, though, it's just raw power.

"He's worn that ring of power," says a GOP insider who's very familiar with Weyrich's activities and for that reason requests anonymity. "And he is very powerful, because he's great press copy, and that is more fearsome than an army of hundreds of thousands. And he's mean, so people fear him. He's like a cornered rat, a scrapper, a street fighter."
Sometimes, the insider notes, Weyrich has turned on his fellow conservatives. When George Bush--the kind of patrician Republican with whom Weyrich, with his blue-collar origins, always has had problems--tried to name Texas senator John Tower as Secretary of Defense in 1989, Weyrich took the congressional witness stand to denounce Tower as a womanizer and drunkard. The widely publicized testimony helped sabotage the nomination.

"And this was after Weyrich had more access to Bush than to Reagan," says the GOP insider. "The Tower thing is the best public example of how he operates. At a lunch a year later, Weyrich and one of his sons were talking about it, and the son says, `You really did it, Pop.' And Weyrich was beaming. It was just a tremendous notch in his gun."
But Weyrich's vituperative attacks can't help but make some people respond in kind. "Physically," says the insider, "Weyrich still looks like the kid with the briefcase, the third-grader trying to get to school ten minutes early."

Weyrich, now 51 and sans the thick eyeglasses that once made him look like the class nerd, suggests that some people criticize him because they're jealous of his success. But he also acknowledges that his personality can get in his way. "If people say I'm abrasive, they're right," he says. "It's something I've had to work on my whole life. I don't suffer fools."

He finds it amusing that people fear him. "I've never bitten anybody's finger off," he says. "I don't have any guns. Why would you want to be afraid of me? I don't have any weapon but the truth. Often the image I have with people is so different from reality. Now, with the daily TV show, which can be seen across the country, I think that's going to change."

And in the process, NET could change the country. "If it was anybody doing a network other than Weyrich," the insider says, "it would be all show."

Years ago, however, Weyrich recognized the political potential of technology. "The New Right," he wrote, "recognizes that technology, like the media, is morally neutral and exists to be taken advantage of by anybody."

Even Weyrich, however, has his troubles mastering the new technology. Judging from the rocky start of C-NET, now down to a once-a-month "action" show, and the numbing spectacle of Weyrich's own patter (Rush Limbaugh he ain't), it could be tough to keep an audience--any audience.

Last Tuesday in Windsor, a snowy, cold night held the crowd down to zero. Jim Frazier mans the fort; his partner is in California on business. It's a lonely job: Not a single person other than a reporter and photographer shows up to see the last episode of Empowerment Outreach Live. No one--in Windsor, at least--chuckles when Weyrich jokes about second banana Grover Norquist's legendary cheapness. No one nods affirmatively when Representative John Kasich of Ohio blasts Clinton's budget. No one gasps when a prank caller tries to sneak an obscenity past a good-natured Weyrich.

Frazier, who is as calm as his friend Hergert is intense, is philosophical about the no-shows. While expressing admiration for the ideas he hears on NET and C-NET, he says the new technology demands new ways of communicating. "These shows are too slow and too boring," Frazier says, while Weyrich drones on in the background. "It's guys in suits talking." It may be different once the information superhighway really is in place, linking millions of people via computers, fiber-optic phone lines and interactive video. But in the meantime, Frazier has his own ideas about how to step up the action.

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