Leaders of the New Right lashed out at Secretary of State George P. Shultz yesterday, accusing him of undermining President Reagan's anticommunist principles.
Many of the leaders, along with some former ambassadors, called for Shultz's resignation at a gathering called "The State Department Held Hostage." Among its organizers were direct-mail specialist Richard A. Viguerie, Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus, Paul Weyrich of the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, and John T. (Terry) Dolan of the National Conservative Political Action Committee.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes issued a strong statement defending Shultz. He said Reagan viewed Shultz as an "outstanding secretary of state. He enjoys the president's full, wholehearted support.[Shultz] will remain as long as he wishes to remain secretary of state."
Organizers denied suggestions that the gathering was designed to revive flagging fund-raising by conservative organizations. "My intention isn't fund-raising," Weyrich said.
"We are not going to raise any money by attacking George Shultz," Phillips said.
Viguerie said, however, that the gathering was the start of a new conservative mobilization similar to the massive outpouring of letters and cash for the battle over the Panama Canal treaties during the administration of Democrat Jimmy Carter.
"Not since the Panama Canal treaties," Viguerie said, "have so many elements of the Reagan coalition come together." The drive against Shultz will produce the same level of direct-mail activity, "truth squads," rallies and media campaigns as the treaties did, he said.
Although Shultz reports directly to Reagan, there was almost no criticism of the president. Phillips and Viguerie justified this posture on the grounds that the president "delegates" major decisions to subordinates, although privately conservatives agree that direct criticism of the president provokes angry reactions from supporters.
Some conference participants were unwilling to join in the ouster call. Ron Godwin, executive vice president of the Moral Majority, pointedly noted: "I don't call for the removal of any one individual." Godwin's boss, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, has endorsed Vice President Bush for president in 1988, and a full-scale attack on Shultz might thus be difficult to explain.
Most of the leading groups that organized the conference are not required to disclose their finances. Phillips and Weyrich said their organizations are receiving adequate support. Dolan's NCPAC, according to officials at the Federal Election Commission, has reported that it owes $3.9 million.