"We've been hearing for years that conservatives don't have any fun," said Richard Viguerie as he greeted 160 guests seated under a heated tent in his back yard last night. "Now it's the conservatives who are having all the fun and the liberals who have their chins down to . . ." His last word was drowned out by appreciative laughter. The conservatives were indeed having fun.
Viguerie, who is known for his success at direct mail fund-raising for conservative causes, sponsored the party to honor Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman and a newly formed group called the Council for National Policy. The group aims to coordinate the efforts of the numerous "New Right" organizations, many of which were represented at the party. Members who attended ranged from Texas oil millionaire T. Cullen Davis with his wife Karen and Anti-ERA crusader Phyllis Schlafly to industrialist Nelson Bunker Hunt.
The aura of victory clearly enhanced the mood of the evening, but the underlying purpose of the gathering was also clear: to harness the disparate members of the so-called New Right, who often disagree among themselves, in order to make their shared "values" more dominant in foreign and domestic policy. And the vehicle for organization was the council.
"We share a basic commitment to moral values," said council president Tim La Haye, a minister from San Diego who is head of the Moral Majority in California and who runs, with his wife Beverly, "American Family Seminars" that teach "bibilical principles for family living."
"Liberals are rather open-minded," he explained. "They don't believe in moral absolutes. Conservatives do. For example, we believe that adultery is adultery. Liberals believe adultery is just an affair."
La Haye initiated the founding of the council by calling his friend Davis, the Texan who has been acquitted of both the murder of his stepdaughter and charges that he masterminded a murder-for-hire scheme and who has since been born again. Davis, La Haye said, called Hunt, the industrialist who some say inflated the price of the world's silver by buying nearly all of it, and they both thought it was a great idea.
"It's nice for people to get to know each other," said Hunt. "I'm not that acquainted with Washington. . . but I know in life you can use all the help you can get."
Davis and his wife, whose blond hair was festooned with flowers, now work with evangelist James Robinson giving speeches all over the country. The rest of the time, "I just lie around making money." Davis joked.
The dinner was multinational if not multiphilosophical. There were Japanese drinks served in coconuts by ladies in kimonos, a sushi bar, Peking duck and "Oriental vegetables," cold lobster, strawberries pinned to a mold in the shape of an elephant, red carnations and green-lighted waterfalls on the buffet table. Several violinists playing popular tunes strolled among a crowd that included Secretary of the Interior James Watt, brewer Joseph Coors and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
"How's it going?" writer Tom Bethell asked Schlafly as she sipped one of the coconut drinks through a straw. "We've won," she said. "Are there any ERA votes coming up this year?" he asked. "Not that I know of," she answered. "Of course, in Illinois it's always hanging over our head like the sword of Damocles."
"Well, congratulations and thank you for all the great work you've done," Bethell said.
Doctor Edward Teller of the Hoover Institute, who is known as the father of the hydrogen bomb, was introduced to Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.). "Sen. Nickles has been telling me he knows a bomb even worse than the A bomb," the introducer said. "It's the Metzenbaum." Teller looked blank. "You know, Howard Metzenbaum, the senator from Ohio?"
"For that you deserve purgatory for a thousand years," Teller said to Nickles. ". . . it might be worth it."
Stockman was given the council's first Thomas Jefferson award. He was compared by council member Howard Phillips, who heads the Conservative Caucus, to the doctor telling the country strong medicine is required.
Stockman accepted his award -- which he held upside down -- and standing ovation graciously. "For nine weeks now I've been going up to the Hill to try to explain the budget program and the change in this country," Stockman told the crowd. "And not once has anyone stood up to clap."
One example of the differences among last night's guests was the presence of rival factions of the Right to Life movement: Paul and Judie Brown, of the Life Amendment PAC and the American Life Lobby respectively, and Dr. Mildred Jefferson of the Right to Life Crusade. The Browns oppose -- for tactical reasons -- legislation to be voted on this week that would declare that human life begins at the moment of conception, while Jefferson supports it.
"One of the frustrations that we've had with the Reagan administration is that appointments have been made on the basis of credentials rather than shared values," said Phillips. "The council hopes to identify people with these shared values and put them forward. In the normal course of events, for example, [television evangelist] Pat Robertson would not encounter a Joe Coors or a Jim Watt. By creating a national community for conservatives, we hope to accomplish that. Liberals have always had national networks, old-boy networks from Harvard or Yale or whatever. Conservatives tend to be more locally based."
Phillips said the group hopes to raise about $250,000 toward an annual budget and will have an office in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, "which is more the capital of our values."
"Morality is in," said La Haye. CAPTION:
Picture, Richard Viguerie and David Stockman; by Lucian Perkins