Monday, November 19, 2012

Interview with the SPLC: Round Four

*Do you ever attend JBS functions? You resigned from the magazine, but are you still a member of JBS? If so, why?

I remain on very cordial terms with members of the JBS here in Idaho and elsewhere, and I'm often invited to attend local functions. Owing to my family's circumstances I rarely do.

I must point out that I was fired by the JBS; I didn't resign. Prior to October 2006 I was a life member of the JBS. By early 2007, Appleton stopped sending me the monthly JBS Bulletin, which suggests to me that I've been formally purged from membership in the Society.

*You mention attending protests against the Patriot Act and the Iraq War sponsored by left-leaning organizations. How did your bosses at JBS feel about that?

I neither asked their permission nor made a point of letting them know about my involvement, but I have reason to believe that this (along with the fact that I was involved in a local rock band in my free time) left me in bad odor with JBS management. One candlelight vigil against the war we attended in Appleton was covered by several local TV stations, and my oldest daughter, Katrina, was shown on the evening news holding a candle, so I have little doubt that upper management was aware of our anti-war activism.

*When you attended, how did the left leaning folks receive you?

There was some initial suspicion -- right-wingers are hardly the only people inclined to demonize their political opponents, after all -- which would usually dissipate pretty quickly.
During one Labor Day event sponsored in Milwaukee by an anti-war veterans' group, I explained to the organizers that we were "right-wing Christians who oppose the war."
"Oh -- you mean that you voted for Bush?" one of them inquired.
"Oh, heavens no; I actually work for the John Birch Society."
As I recall, this piqued a great deal of friendly curiosity. Several of the organizers went out of their way to treat our children (who were very young at the time) with special kindness. It made a lasting impression on them. For all of my abundant shortcomings as a parent, I am gratified to know that our children all understand that war is an unalloyed evil, and aren't afraid to say as much when the subject comes up.

*You also mentioned a former Coordinator who had a lot of success doing the same thing. Can you introduce us?

I would love to arrange an introduction, but he's now working overseas and I've lost track of him.

*Are there any upcoming large JBS events that would be good for me to attend to get a feel for JBS?

I can't be of any help in this respect. Have you tried to contact Bill Hahn, who is in charge of public relations for the JBS?

*JBS has been accused of being racist. Is it? I know there are black members, such as Rev. Jesse L. Peterson in LA, but how many more African Americans belong?

Robert Welch was not a racist in any sense. Nor was John Birch, for that matter. In my experience it was practically impossible to find a volunteer member or staffer who could honestly be described as a "racist" (I say this as someone who doesn't presume to have a window into the souls of others, of course).
At one speech I gave in San Diego back in 1997, the chapter leader who acted as MC was a black female ex-Marine, the invocation was given by a local African-American pastor, and the Mexican/Irish speaker was introduced by another chapter leader of "Native American" ancestry. Granted, this wasn't a typical meeting of its kind, but I had more than a few experiences that were quite similar.

It wasn't difficult to find other Latinos in the JBS, and it wasn't all that uncommon to find African-Americans as well. I rarely encountered Birchers who were obsessed about melanin content.

The JBS has an official policy forbidding members to be involved in racist or anti-Semitic groups or activism, and it takes this policy VERY seriously. This is why Jack McManus's extra-curricular activities prior to 2000 became such a scandal: A JBS member or a chapter leader who did what Jack had been doing would have been expelled immediately.

I should point out that my initial interest in the JBS was prompted by the organization's opposition to the first Gulf War back in 1991. I was also impressed with a TNA cover story from that era that examined the abominable treatment of the American Indians; in fact,it was that cover story that inspired me to contact Appleton and inquire about submitting some freelance work.

*How was life in the JBS for a half Irish, half Mexican writer?

Until the very unpleasant events that occurred between September 2005 and October 2006, my time in the JBS was very rewarding. The rank and file membership consists of some of the most decent and generous people I've ever met. The same is true of the people who are employed in the field staff. It remains an enduring source of perplexity to me that an organization with so many capable and principled people consistently generates "leadership" of the kind that presently afflicts it.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

More Q&A with the SPLC

 This is another installment in my e-mail interview with a reporter for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

*Are the Council Dinners a kind of JBS recruiting tool? How often are they held?

Like most organizations of its kind, the JBS uses all of its public functions for outreach and recruitment. This includes Council Dinners, which include private business sessions for members of the Council and the Executive Committee. Council Dinners are generally held twice a year.

*You said your older brother was briefly a member of JBS. Why did he quit?

My brother didn't formally quit the JBS. He joined as a teenager and eventually got involved in other activities.

*Where did you grow up?

Some people contend I managed to pass from adolescence to middle age without actually growing up. I was born in Burley, Idaho, spent part of my childhood in Vale, Oregon (which is near the border with Idaho), and went to High School in Rexburg, Idaho.

*Why didn't your parents ever join JBS? After all they voted for Schmitz. Wasn't he a JBS heavyweight?

My parents, who have always been very immersed in church activities, generally didn't have time for political activism. They've also been commendably suspicious of political organizations of any kind. Their vote for Schmitz was an act of protest: They were mortally disgusted with Nixon (what decent person wouldn't be?), but couldn't support McGovern.

*What did the leadership struggle in 2005 do to JBS in terms of morale of the staff and membership?

Any time there's a schism of this kind in any organization, morale is going to suffer. During the two weeks in which the conflict came to a head, the atmosphere at the home office was positively Gothic. After the leadership change, I left Appleton for Idaho, as I had planned to do, and I was fired before I ever returned, so I didn't directly experience the atmosphere under the new regime.

*Did other people quit JBS, as you did, because of the tactics used?

I'm not aware of anybody who did so.

I'll take the next four questions in a group:

*Wasn't there a power struggle over control of Robert Welch University going on at the same time? Vance Smith and Tom Gow won control of RWU, right? I think I found RWU in Colorado Springs. Is it still operating? When Smith and Gow left JBS they eventually started Freedom First Society. Does Freedom First have any influence at all?

Vance Smith and Tow Gow, along with two members of the Executive Committee, took control of RWU. Thompson and McManus filed suit to take back the institution, and lost. RWU, as far as I know, was dissolved after it had served as a temporary institutional refuge for Smith and Gow until the Freedom First Society (FFS) was started. I don't think the instrument has been invented that can measure the influence of the FFS.

*You say that there are "younger, more perceptive, and more capable people who could and should be at the head of JBS.'' Who are those people?

The corporate culture of the JBS is one in which upper management takes careful note of young, capable people -- and identifies them as potential threats to be neutralized. In that respect I suppose it's indistinguishable from most corporations. I wouldn't be helping the people to whom I'm alluding by identifying them.

*Speaking of younger people, what is JBS doing to recruit them? What was JBS doing when you were there to recruit younger people?

The answer to the first question is, "Nothing -- or at least, nothing that will work." While I was on staff the JBS ran a summer youth camp program that did have some benefits for recruitment, but that was discontinued shortly after I was fired. There is an educational affiliate called the Freedom Project that focuses on homeschoolers. I don't know what success they've had, if any. Until recently there was a college affiliate called the Campus Liberty Alliance, but it appears to have been shut down.

Right now, the JBS is ruled by an authoritarian gerontocracy who seem to believe that they can repeal the Rock Era by decree. Interestingly, they are the same age as Ron Paul, who has tremendous appeal to youth precisely because he is a principled and consistent defender of individual liberty, and can make common cause with left-leaning people of good will without acting as if such contact will contaminate him.

The Society remains a monolithic, top-down organization in an age of social media. At a time when most politically aware students and young adults are worried about the economy and the accelerating erosion of civil liberties, the JBS management remains obsessed with the supposed strategic threat posed by Russia.

During my last year on staff, I repeatedly urged Appleton to reach out to other organizations -- of whatever ideological provenance -- who were fighting on behalf of the Bill of Rights. In fact, before I left Appleton I took part, along with my family, in protests against the PATRIOT Act and the Iraq War that were sponsored by left-leaning organizations. At least one former Coordinator had a lot of success doing the same thing in the mid-south region. Both of us left the staff under less-than-favorable conditions.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Can They Handle the Truth? (Update, November 13)

We must not only know the truth, but face the truth, if it is to set us free or to keep us so.

Robert Welch, The Blue Book of the John Birch Society 

If all men (and women too, of course) … would simply resolve tomorrow always to be truthful, about everything – to the best of their knowledge and understanding – and would then abide by that resolution, I believe that fully half of all the troubles and grief of the human race would disappear within six months.

Robert Welch, The John Birch Resolutions (1970), No. 2.

On more than a few occasions, Mr. Welch urged members of the JBS to study the behavior of conspiratorial collectivists – and then do exactly the opposite. Where our enemies engage in subterfuge and concealment, for example, we were to be ethical in our means and open about our objectives. After all, he would say, “Education is our total strategy – and truth is our only weapon.”

One luxury of telling the truth – as one is given the wisdom to understand it, and the means to express it – is that you only have to tell one story, and you can share it with everyone. As a gentleman, Mr. Welch sometimes found himself in predicaments in which tact and truthfulness were at cross-purposes. One oft-repeated story described how Mr. Welch once spent the better part of a day avoiding a direct answer after his secretary asked him if he liked her new hairdo. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings by offering an honest opinion of the atrocious coiffure, but he wasn’t going to lie. So he simply remained silent until somebody explained to the puzzled assistant why her boss was making himself scarce.

Robert Welch understood that if we’re willing to lie about little, insignificant things, we’ll be much likelier to lie about the big, important things. The people who presume to act as his successors have been doing both, and it’s about to cost the organization a great deal.
For decades – probably since the early 1970s – Jack McManus peddled anti-Semitic nonsense on company time. This was known to Art Thompson no later than 1999 or 2000. This is a violation of JBS institutional policy laid down, in unambiguous terms, by Mr. Welch in the mid-1960s.
By the late 1990s, McManus had become a huge liability to the organization. At Vance Smith’s request, Art Thompson compiled a dossier on McManus’s activities and used this as leverage to remove McManus as JBS President in 2000.

Five years later, Thompson -- whose calculus of self-interest had changed – allied with McManus to remove Vance Smith. Seeking to save his job, Smith used the same dossier in an effort to blackmail McManus. I was one of several people who were shown video clips of anti-Semitic speeches by McManus and told that the material could end up in the hands of the media (e.g. Larry King) and Morris Dees, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). This caused me to resign from the JBS in disgust – only to be begged back on staff, two days later, by McManus, who wanted me to sit alongside him and Thompson at the first staff meeting following Smith’s ouster.

It wasn’t until Vance Smith’s allies made some elements of Thompson’s dossier public that I understood the depth and extent of the Jack McManus scandal – and the cynicism displayed by both Thompson and Smith in dealing with it. This is precisely the kind of thing that thrives in an atmosphere of institutionalized truth-shading. And it is exactly what Robert Welch didn’t intend for the organization he created.

All of this has been sitting in plain view for years, and – predictably – it has finally caught the attention of the SPLC, just as Thompson predicted in 2000 and Smith threatened in 2005. 

As I recently disclosed, the SPLC approached me for an interview about my experiences in the JBS. My response was: I will talk about this subject anywhere, with anyone, at any time, and the SPLC is no exception. Yes, they are an enemy. I recognize that fact and told the organization’s reporter as much in my initial reply. 

In telling the truth to an enemy I am not acting out of an obligation to him, but rather to the truth. I believe that Robert Welch would do likewise. Much more importantly, I am convinced that the Lord I worship would do so.

Over the space of a week or so, I will serialize the e-mail interview I had with the SPLC’s reporter. This is done, among other reasons, as a way of holding that organization accountable for the accuracy of its report about an organization for which I still have great respect.

*When did you join JBS? Hold old were you?

*I joined the Society at a Council Dinner in Salt Lake City in the spring of 1993. I was 30 years old at the time, and had been contributing articles to The New American for about two and a half years.

*Did you grow up knowing about JBS? Did you know about William Buckley's campaign to banish JBS from the conservative movement? Did that give you pause or was it ancient history?

My older brother had briefly been a member of the Society in the early 1970s. A few years later, as a high school student, I read several of the JBS-published books and magazines he had purchased. By that time I was regularly reading National Review and was vaguely aware of the fact that Buckley and his followers had a very negative view of the JBS, but I wasn't conversant with the details.

*Were your parents involved? What were their politics - liberal, conservative, something in between?

Although my parents were and remain politically conservative, they have never been members of the JBS. In 1972, they cast a protest vote for John Schmitz.

*What were yours growing up?

My earliest political concerns focused on the prospect of nuclear war (owing to an off-hand comment by my sixth grade teacher) and "life issues," such as abortion. I was nine when the Roe decision was announced. I asked my mother to explain what was meant by the term "abortion," and my reaction was one of unalloyed horror. It still is. In seventh grade I went through a phase of reading dystopian literature (Brave New World, 1984) and several books about totalitarianism, including Robert Payne's biography "The Life and Death of Adolph Hitler" and Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago." As a result I was left with an incurable distrust of government power, which is a condition I'm trying to make contagious.

*You first resigned from your editorship of the New American, why? Why did you return?

I should clarify that I was one of two senior editors; I was never the editor-in-chief.

During the exceptionally ugly leadership struggle of October 2005, I was dismayed to learn that Vance Smith was seeking to blackmail Jack McManus -- who sought to remove Smith -- by threatening to go to the media with a "sizzle reel" of video excerpts from anti-Semitic speeches McManus had made. My resignation was necessary because I didn't want to be employed by an organization in which disputes of that kind are resolved through blackmail. After Smith was removed and replaced by the current CEO, Art Thompson, Jack McManus called me and urged me to return to the organization. I didn't find out until much later that Thompson had been the source of the compromising material about McManus: Acting at Smith's behest in 2000, Thompson had assembled the dossier as part of an effort to remove McManus as JBS President.

*How influential is JBS in today's conservative movement?

The Society's influence is difficult to measure. It has been the focal point of anti-UN activism for several decades, and for most of its existence has been diligent in exposing the corrupt origins and the continuing depredations of the Federal Reserve System.

*How large is JBS?

I don't know how many people belong to the JBS, or how many active chapters exist. It's fair to conclude that the group does punch far above its weight class, however.

*Agenda 21 seems like a harmless, tree-huger program with no teeth, yet JBS seems obsessed with it. Why? Was Agenda 21 an important issue when you were on the magazine?

I see nothing innocuous about a document purporting to be a global blueprint for redefining human behavior and property rights to engineer what an unaccountable elite would regard as a "sustainable" society. If this document were hortatory in nature, we could safely dismiss it as an exercise in ideological self-delusion. But there are efforts underway to incorporate its tenets in local land-use policies, which is a HUGE issue here in the mountain West.

The JBS has been very concerned about Agenda 21 since the 1992 Earth Summit, and I think those concerns are entirely valid. As far as it being "toothless" -- the tangible threat posed by Agenda 21 to property rights is much greater than the threat embodied by many of the obscure, minuscule hate groups covered by the SPLC.

*When did you start having questions about JBS' support your police and immigration positions?

My views of immigration and the SYLP campaign began to change at about the same time -- mid-2006. I tardily began to examine immigration from an economic perspective, and concluded that the supposedly overwhelming flood from the South was actually a product of the housing bubble, and would subside when the bubble burst. At the same time, I found myself immersed in horrifying accounts of undisguised criminal abuse by local police, and started to report on that issue in the Birch Blog (which was published between October 2005 and August 2006).

*On your blog you call for Art Thompson to resign, why?

Some people whose views I respect and whose friendship I cherish consider Thompson to be an honest and decent man who is doing the best he can. On the basis of my experience I can't endorse that view. I consider him to be shamelessly dishonest and incurably inept. His on-line commentaries are the kind of thing that would dribble down the chin of an individual created in a recombinant DNA experiment involving Floyd R. Turbo and Joad Cressbeckler. He still refers to the "Soviets" and has actually endorsed the idea that we could win the"war on terror" by taking the fight to Moscow. There are younger, more perceptive, and more capable people who could and should be at the head of the JBS.

*How would you describe Thompson coming to power? Was it a palace coup as Fotheringham calls it or was it a necessary step to remove ineffective leadership?

Since there wasn't a clearly established process for replacing a CEO, it's difficult to say that what happened in October 2005 was a "coup."

During the October 2005 leadership stuggle, Vance Smith's detractors protested that he had become a petty control freak; Smith described Art Thompson and Jack McManus as incompetent, dishonest opportunists. This is one of those rare conflicts in which each side told the unvarnished truth about the other. Between 2000 and 2005, Thompson displayed an instinctive gift for subtle intrigue worthy of Talleyrand: He first allied with Vance Smith to remove Jack McManus as JBS President, and then five years later teamed up with McManus to remove Smith as CEO (with McManus reinstated in his old position).

*As I mentioned, Buckley tried to banish JBS from the conservative movement, but he's gone and JBS is still here. How has it survived?

Whatever one thinks of his message, Robert Welch was very persuasive to many people, and he did have a certain gift for organization. The resilience of the JBS has a lot to do with the model of education and activism Welch promoted. Buckley was a professional celebrity, not an organizer.

*Can you introduce me to current JBS members?

I would be willing to try.

*Do you still believe in the message of Robert Welch?

Anybody who has spent any time in the JBS will recite Mr. Welch's credo: "Less government, more responsibility, and --with God's help -- a better world." Although I have come to disagree with some elements of Welch's analysis -- and am disgusted by the behavior of the people presently running the JBS -- I remain passionately devoted to that vision.

Unlike the reflexively bellicose people who call themselves Conservatives today, Mr. Welch was never a militarist; in one commencement address he gave in the mid-1950s he pointed out that there was no reason why the American people and the people of the USSR would consider themselves enemies if it weren't for the behavior of the governments presuming to rule them. In matters of social policy, Welch opposed abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide, like most conservatives, but also opposed the death penalty (as do I) and condemned torture. In the speech he gave at the founding of the JBS, Welch described pious Muslims as allies in the struggle against the lawless state. He was not preoccupied by the supposed threat of immigration, and didn't believe in enlisting the government in crusades to purify people's moral behavior through the righteous application of coercion. In a remarkable speech he gave in 1979 -- when most conservatives were worried about the Soviets -- Welch predicted that the U.S. would become universally hated for the government's practice of "imperialism by the dollar, as a substitute for the sword."

If Robert Welch were around today, the Fox-aligned Right would consider him a liberal.
To be continued….

UPDATE, November 13:

Just after the election -- and just in time for the holidays -- the JBS has laid off several field coordinators. As is always the case, the austerity axe spared the richly compensated gerontocrats in Appleton (but not, in all probability, some of the people on the home office staff who do actual work).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Speak the Truth and Shame the Devil: Appleton's Overdue Accountability Moment

Last week I was approached by a contributor to the Intelligence Report, which is published by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This gentleman explained that he is working on a profile of the John Birch Society and would like to interview me about my life "in and out of the JBS."
"I would certainly be interested in speaking with you about my experiences with the JBS," I replied. "The treatment I received from the organization's upper management has become a matter of public record, and since my position is that I will talk with anyone, anytime about practically anything, I would be willing to discuss this matter with you, just as I would with anybody else. (I'm of the opinion that we spend too much time talking about each other, and far too little trying to talk with each other.)"
Before answering any of this gentleman's questions, I wanted him to understand my opinion of the SPLC:

Since you've read my material ... you've probably noticed that I'm not exactly bent beneath the weight of my admiration for the SPLC, or for Mr. Dees. My view is that the organization is mining a profitable alarmist niche in a process I've called "police state profiteering." If the organization were genuinely concerned about defending the civil liberties of poor minorities, its silence regarding the unalloyed evil of Drug Prohibition -- which has effectively criminalized generations of young African-American men -- would be inexplicable. Rather than compiling the nasty things that are said (and occasionally done) by isolated and nearly powerless cliques of white supremacists, the SPLC -- if it takes its mandate seriously -- should be focusing on the hideous injustices being done to the rights of minorities through the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. That being said, I should also note that I appreciate the fact that the SPLC has filed suits on behalf of children being channeled into the "school-to-prison pipeline," and the abuses routinely inflicted on immigrants.

In recent weeks I've been covering an incident in a small farming community near my home in which a perfectly innocent and harmless couple was assaulted by sheriff's deputies who mounted a paramilitary raid on their home -- guns drawn, fingers tickling the triggers of AR-15s. The wife was brutally dragged out of the house, the husband was forced to his knees with the muzzle of an assault rifle jammed to the back of his skull. After being cuffed he was yanked to his feet and then dropped on his tailbone, which resulted in severe -- and possibly irreversible -- injury. Their home was searched illegally on the pretext of a "domestic violence" call. The deputies eventually wrote the husband a ticket for possession of "paraphernalia," and then dismissed the matter without so much as an apology.

All of this happened because the Gem County Sheriff's Office, acting on material provided by the SPLC, have profiled the husband, Michael "Bear" Gibbons, as a "constitutionalist."

Here's a link to the piece I wrote about the episode:

When Michael Gibbons was thrown to the ground and put in the
coup de grace position, he honestly thought he was going to be executed -- and that fear was justified. The police video of the incident captured the deputies gleefully snickering after one of them said, "Let's go hunt some Bear."

Mr. Dees and his associates often -- and properly -- condemn public figures who traffic in bigotry and engage in "eliminationist" rhetoric intended to incite violence against innocent people. Michael Gibbons and his wife Marcela were brutalized by law enforcement agents who have been exposed to rhetoric from the SPLC that does roughly the same thing to peaceful, law-abiding people who hold political opinions the group finds eccentric or "extreme."

A few weeks ago I wrote an essay that touched on the SPLC's treatment of the "sovereign citizens" movement --

That article concluded as follows:
“Sovereign citizens” supposedly believe that acts of force and fraud are transmuted into justice when accompanied with the proper conjurations. How would that differ, in principle, from the behavior of the governing “officials” on whose behalf the SPLC labors? If "officials" can commit acts of aggressive violence, on what moral basis do we condemn similar behavior on the part of private individuals who declare themselves "Sovereign" as well?

When a “Sovereign” kills a police officer, the SPLC – speaking on behalf of the entire police state apparatus – commands us to mourn and rend our garments. When Officer Erik Sammis guns down a 12-year-old African-American, or Barack Obama slaughters a Yemeni-American teenager with a drone-fired missile, the SPLC maintains a reverent silence in the face of what it must regard as the sacramental exercise of the government’s transcendent authority – while it quietly adds names to its ever-expanding roster of dissidents and heretics.

I agreed to participate in an interview via e-mail. I also let JBS management know about the SPLC interview request. Since Appleton now treats me as an unperson, this contact was made indirectly through mutual friends. Although nobody in JBS management acknowledged my note. I did get a cordial note from the Society's PR director thanking me for letting Appleton know about the forthcoming SPLC profile.

The interview has been lengthy, extensive, and detailed. I have told the truth as I experienced it and have sufficient wisdom to explain it. If my answers are reported accurately the article will not treat Thompson and McManus kindly. 

Some of my friends in the JBS have urged me not to speak with the SPLC out of understandable concern over the damage that could result. In answering the SPLC's questions, I've said exactly the same things about my experiences, and my opinion of the current JBS management, that I have shared here and in private correspondence. 

In brief, I've done exactly the opposite of what Art Thompson did twelve years ago when he collaborated with Vance Smith to remove Jack McManus as JBS President.

Amid growing concern over Jack's long-time hobby as an exponent of anti-Semitic nonsense, Art put together a detailed dossier, including the "sizzle reel" that would later be shown to me during the October 2005 leadership struggle. Both Vance and Art clearly saw Jack as a potentially lethal liability to the organization -- as demonstrated by Art's detailed memo describing some of the ways the SPLC could exploit the damage that Jack had done (see the excerpt below):


As I've pointed out before: In 2000, Art collaborated with Vance to remove Jack; five years later, Art and Jack teamed up to pitch Vance overboard. 

In 2000, Art depicted Jack as at best a huge liability for the JBS -- and, at worst, a potential collaborator with the enemy:

This is why Thompson insisted that McManus had to be removed. He was the one who put together the material that would eventually be used by Smith in 2005 in an attempt to blackmail McManus:

Is there any reason not rooted in Art Thompson's self-interested calculations why Jack McManus would be reinstated as JBS President in 2005?

For at least seven years, the people running things in Appleton have been playing the same kind of corrupt, cynical games that are commonplace in the political and financial institutions they despise -- concealment, dilatory tactics, artful non-disclosure. They have known since no later than 2000 that McManus was a liability -- that he was "SPLC bait," as it were. The truth is irrepressible. It's going to come out, and the results will be ugly.

My sentiments regarding the JBS -- as opposed to the craven people currently in charge of it -- are best captured in the answer I gave when asked if I still believed in Robert Welch's "vision":

Anybody who has spent any time in the JBS will recite Mr. Welch's credo: "Less government, more responsibility, and --with God's help -- a better world." Although I have come to disagree with some elements of Welch's analysis -- and am disgusted by the behavior of the people presently running the JBS -- I remain passionately devoted to that vision.

Unlike the reflexively bellicose people who call themselves Conservatives today, Mr. Welch was never a militarist; in one commencement address he gave in the mid-1950s he pointed out that there was no reason why the American people and the people of the USSR would consider themselves enemies if it weren't for the behavior of the governments presuming to rule them. 

In matters of social policy, Welch opposed abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide, like most conservatives, but also opposed the death penalty (as do I) and condemned torture. In the speech he gave at the founding of the JBS, Welch described pious Muslims as allies in the struggle against the lawless state. He was not preoccupied by the supposed threat of immigration, and didn't believe in enlisting the government in crusades to purify people's moral behavior through the righteous application of coercion. In a remarkable speech he gave in 1979 -- when most conservatives were worried about the Soviets -- Welch predicted that the U.S. would become universally hated for the government's practice of "imperialism by the dollar, as a substitute for the sword."