The lady who beat the radical feminists
Geoff Metcalf interviews Phyllis Schlafly on Republican convention

By Geoff Metcalf
Recently named one of the 100 most important women of the 20th century by the Ladies' Home Journal, Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the national volunteer organization Eagle Forum, has been a national leader of the pro-family movement since the publication of her best-selling 1964 book, "A Choice not an Echo."

She has written or edited 16 books -- on subjects ranging from family to feminism, nuclear strategy to education, and childcare to phonics. Known for her 33-year running newsletter, The Phyllis Schlafly Report, her syndicated column is carried in 100 newspapers and her radio commentaries are heard daily on 460 stations. She even has her own talk-radio show on education, "Phyllis Schlafly Live," heard weekly on 40 stations.

Credited with having been a key leader in the 10-year battle against the Equal Rights Amendment, she is an articulate opponent of the radical feminist movement and has testified before more than 50 congressional and state legislative committees on constitutional, national defense and family issues.

In this in-depth interview with WorldNetDaily reporter Geoff Metcalf, Phyllis Schlafly describes the political aspirations and leftist activism of the National Education Association. Digging into GOP politics, Schlafly also addresses the upcoming Republican convention.

Question: I'd like to address a recent topic of yours, one of form over substance, perception versus reality -- campaign finance reform. Everybody talks about it, and they posture and dance; they even just passed a law, but what is the real net effect of that?

Answer: Well, I don't think it is going anywhere, because they don't get to the real problem. Are you talking about the National Education Association and all the money they are spending?

Q: Yes, and this Section 527 stuff, which is really just chump change.

A: You know as long as the left-wingers -- the Sierra Club and all the lefties -- were using 527 you didn't hear anything about it. You never heard it. And then when Tom DeLay started one, then all of sudden the roof fell in and we were told it was terrible. The big problem the Republicans face today is that the Democrats have the money from the unions, from the gamblers and from the trial lawyers and they have it from Hollywood. That's where the big money is coming from in politics today.

Q: Tell us what the NEA is doing these days.

A: Well, the political activity of the NEA is just massive. First of all, they have their national NEA Political Action Committee, which has probably got $6-$8 million -- plus all their state and local political action committees, and that goes directly into the report of the expenditures. But, the other way they do it is through the use of their organization, their staff, all their administrative staff; they are setting up the way they use partnerships with political parties, campaign committees, sending their members out to do so-called volunteer work for candidates, and it is all hidden in their budget.

Q: How do they hide it?

A: They have things like government relations programs, and things like candidate recruitment. It is all pretty clear: it's like 97 percent for the left-wing Democratic candidate. They spend their money for political data systems; you know how important that is these days. There are all sorts of ways they help and assist the campaigns of the congressional and state legislative candidates they want.

Q: Are the Dems just playing the system better than the Republicans do?

A: Well, the salary of all of their people comes from the taxpayers. Because they are all working for the school system, it's ultimately taxpayers' money. They also assess their members, and recently, at their convention, they voted to assess their members an additional five or six dollars a year, each, just to fight the school choice movement.

Q: Can people still use the Beck Act and opt out of the political contributions to their union dues if they want?

A: Yes, but it is very hard to use. They put all kinds of social pressures against you; so members think it isn't worth the effort and that it will be frowned upon. And a lot of members don't know it exists.

Q: I met a young man at an event who was a Teamster. He told me he is required to take one day a month, I think, without pay, and participate in whatever political action the union is involved in, regardless of whether he personally supports that effort or not. If he disagrees with the union on a political issue, he is flat out of luck. He has to do what his master tells him to do.

A: That's right. That is the way the unions are. The way this is concealed in the NEA budget is they have $76 million in the current election cycle that is budgeted to select, train, and fund at least one employee of each NEA affiliate, called a UniServe director in every congressional district. Then he is linked to the local affiliates of the NEA. This UniServe director manages the NEA staff that they dispatch to assist (just like you said) with phone banks, door to door canvassing, absentee vote programs, media development, polling and consulting services -- all for the NEA-endorsed candidate.

Q: This has always bothered me. I know politicians who are so scrupulous and/or paranoid that if there is a campaign item that comes up, they will get up from their chair and leave their political office and walk across the street to their campaign office just to return a phone call and then return to their state office. These NEA types are working on taxpayer money and they are doing political stuff. Isn't there anything that can prohibit them from doing that?

A: Well, they have been doing it for so long they think they have the right to do it. Now Landmark Legal Foundation has just filed a complaint against them with both the IRS and the Federal Election Commission, and I don't know how that will go. It usually takes a couple of years, and the election will be over this year before we get any answers.

The NEA is very aggressive. At one point, before the Republicans took over Congress, they bragged that they had contributed to the elections of the majority of the members of the House. And that is likewise true in many state legislatures. They announced this year they are going to use most of their political money on (I think it is) 53 targeted races.

At their convention in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend, the NEA president bragged about their campaign to defeat D'Amato and Faircloth of North Carolina, and then he yelled out, "Jesse Helms, you're next!"

Q: Jesse didn't get the memo.

A: No, he didn't.

Q: The NEA actually puts out these "how to" handbooks to train their members in practical politics, and you have to ask yourself, "What does that have to do with education?"

A: It doesn't have anything to do with education. It has to do with using their political power and their organization in a very efficient way in order to elect their candidates and to lobby for their policies, which will put more money into the education system -- meaning more jobs for people who will pay more dues into the NEA.

Q: These are the same people who, at their convention, voted down their leadership when it came to the proposal of incentive bonuses for doing a good job.

A: That's right.

Q: They didn't want bonuses for doing a good job. Phyllis, is anybody ever going to really do anything about campaign finance reform from either side?

A: I don't know if they are. Because the corporations have learned they can give enormous sums of money, and I think the politicians like it. It used to be in the Reagan years that the Republican National Committee built up a tremendous grassroots mailing list of people who gave small contributions. And I think that was a big factor in Reagan's success. But now it is as though they really don't care what the little people think because they can get the hundred and five hundred thousand-dollar contributions from the corporations.

Q: You make the observation that the NEA army of paid political organizers and lobbyists exceed the combined staff of Republican and Democratic National Committees.

A: That's right. Isn't that awesome?

Q: If or when the Republicans were to attempt to counter with some sort of similar coalition, I'm certain they would be pilloried and just dragged through the streets.

A: Yes, and of course the media carry on about the religious right and these various right-wing organizations, but they are just really so small compared to the NEA. And if you ever go to a state capitol you will see the enormous power of the NEA there. I remember in the state of Florida you have to register to lobby, even if you aren't a paid lobbyist. I found there were over 250 people to lobby on the elementary and secondary education issue only. Of course they are not full-time lobbyists. They are members of the NEA who are paid by the taxpayers with various teaching, education and administrative jobs who are available at any time to go to the capitol and lobby to get the kind of laws that the NEA wants.

Q: On the other side of the coin, I have to share this with you: Several months ago I was walking the halls of the California State Capitol and I was literally grabbed by the arm by Karen England, who is your legislative director in California. They had a group of people in a meeting room, and she wouldn't let me leave the building until I spoke to the group.

A: Well, good.

Q: So at least the Eagle Forum is not only at work in the state of California, but Karen and company are aggressive about it.

But, on to the marriage-tax issue.

A: I think the Republicans score a lot of points on that. We ought to get rid of the marriage tax. And the bill the way Republicans designed it is a good bill. It has nothing to do with prescription drugs. And the Republicans ought to go ahead and pass it, and, if Clinton wants to veto it, it will be the first time he would be going in the face of what the polls say the people want.

Q: The gamesmanship going on right now is fascinating. This year we have the Republican convention coming up in Philadelphia, and the Democratic convention and riots in Los Angeles, and it seems as if a lot of the last-minute stuff going on in that 87-square miles surrounded by reality is really being structured to have an impact on how they get to play the game when they get to their respective conventions.

A: I think the conventions are very exciting. I am an alternate delegate this year and I have attended every Republican convention beginning in 1952. I know the media have been telling us it's really all a big bore, but they really are not. They are really important. Important things happen there. And I'm very sorry a lot of the media have decided they aren't going to cover it.

Q: I want to address an experience I had in San Diego at the last GOP convention. It was a real eye opener. The group that was putting together the party platform did a great job.

It was a document that virtually any constitutionally grounded American would embrace and say, "This is cool." However, I talked to Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole and others, and every single member of the party leadership told me the same thing. Either, No. 1, they hadn't read it or, No. 2, if they did read it, they didn't care. They were going to do what their consultants told them to do. Why even go through the exercise?

A: That was very insulting, and the result was Bob Dole lost. He paid no attention to what the people wanted.

Q: But he wasn't the Lone Ranger, Phyllis.

A: No. Unfortunately, that is the attitude of a lot of them. Let me tell you, it is very difficult to get elected to the platform committee. I have been on the platform committee, and it is absolutely democratic and grassroots. First, you have to get yourself elected a delegate, and that's pretty hard. There are only 2,000 delegates throughout the entire United States. Then you have to get elected as the one man and one woman to represent your state by a vote of your fellow delegates from your state. And the people who go through that take their responsibility very seriously. Last convention, they wrote a fine platform, and to have the powers-that-be in the party just insult them and say, "you're wasting your time, we're not going to read it" was just a big turn-off and was, I think, a factor in Dole's loss.

Q: I'll be curious to see what happens in Philadelphia and if the work of the platform committee is just an exercise in futility, or if G.W. and company are going to pay any attention.

A: It will be interesting to see. We don't know all those who will be elected yet. But the platform was a big issue in 1976 when Jesse Helms and others led a repudiation of the Kissinger/Ford foreign policy and it started the tide for Ronald Reagan. Reagan lost very narrowly at that 1976 convention, and of course he came on through in '80 and had a tremendous victory.

Q: About eight years ago I was a harsh critic of both NAFTA and GATT. Unlike most of the folks who voted for those agreements, I actually read all of NAFTA, and most of the stuff I said was bad about it has turned out bad. I know you were there with Pat Buchanan, Ralph Nader, Jesse Jackson and Pat Choate, and it was a strange political cross-section. But back in May, Congress rolled over on this China trade disaster; could you please comment?

A: I think it is the corporation influence. And you know it is very interesting that the day after the vote, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and Newsweek, all of which were pushing for Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China came out and gave the truth. It wasn't about exporting our products or our farm produce to China. It was about investment; it wasn't about export. And investment is a code word for the corporations building plants in China so they can hire the cheap labor and ship their goods back to the U.S. The jobs it is going to produce are jobs in China, not jobs in the U.S.

Q: What really frosted me was the only leverage we had -- in a playing field that is already skewed with campaign money and everything else -- was that once a year there would be a dog and pony show debate over Most Favored Nation status, and now we don't even have that.

A: That's right. You got it. And at the very least, why not postpone it for a year? Why give Clinton the credit for it? I think it's because the financial contributions by the corporations are more important than the public. Most of the polls showed that the majority of Americans were against this deal with China -- even most of the Republicans, and, yes, they went against the polls. It is not very often that the Congress or the Clintons will go against the polls. But they did, and there has to be an important reason. I think it has to be financial.

Q: But Americans have such a short memory. One of the reasons I got in trouble in the last election is that I have been saying for a long time that we have to hold politicians accountable for what they do and what they don't do. We have to make them pay a price when they do bad stuff. Well, I did an analysis of the things I had been talking about like NAFTA, GATT, the anti-terrorism legislation, the crime bill. And when I compared those things I had told my audience we have to hold them accountable for, Bob Dole was on the same side of all those issues as Clinton. And my point is, if we continue to reward Republicans for giving us bad candidates, there is no incentive for them not to keep giving us bad candidates.

A: Well, Geoff, you were and are right. I think Bob Dole shot himself in the foot on all those issues. One of the things that got me about his cooperation with the Democrats was that in one of the debates that took place with Clinton, he bragged about putting the Kennedy-Kassenbaum Health Care Bill through the Senate. How a Republican could brag about putting a Kennedy bill through is something that I can't understand.

Q: Please explain to those who may not know what the Eagle Forum is?

A: The Eagle Forum we built up during the years of fighting the Equal Rights Amendment, which took 10 years, and we won. And that's why the feminists have never forgiven me, because I beat them on their major legislative goal.

Q: You beat 'em like a drum.

A: And we now know that the Equal Rights Amendment would have been used by the courts to require taxpayer-funded abortion, same-sex marriages, and just a couple of weeks ago the Texas court threw out the Texas sodomy law based on the Texas ERA.. There are all kinds of bad stuff that would have happened, and we saved the country from that. Along the way, we built a wonderful organization of volunteers who want to be part of the policy-making process in this country. They are very capable, energetic, informed, successful women, and we work to elect candidates -- good candidates -- and pass good legislation. We keep battling because we know in self-government you have new challenges every year.

Q: I have always been most impressed with the quality of people you have working in the Eagle Forum. Sandee Beckers in Santa Barbara and Karen England in Sacramento are remarkable, hard-working and do a superb job.

A: The reason they are so remarkable is that we are all volunteers. I'm a volunteer, and so that's the kind of women I attract. I don't attract people who are just looking for a job. And I have trained them in how the process works and I have urged them to be leaders and to take real leadership roles and to be able to articulate the message. We have a wonderful team and I invite your readers to join us in the Eagle Forum.