R.I.H., Jesse Helms (1921-2008)

A malevolent presence on the U.S. political scene for more than three decades has gone to his final resting place, which is surely in the deepest reaches of Hades.  The Guardian (UK) has a fitting obituary for the late Jesse Helms, the former U.S. Senator from North Carolina.  The U.S. media are glossing over his heinous career and simply describing Helms as a “conservative icon.”  Because it is important to remember the evil that lurked behind the courtly facade I will simply reproduce key parts of the Guardian obituary below and let them speak more eloquently than I can about the real Jesse Helms. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/04/usa

Senator Jesse Helms, member of the US Senate’s foreign relations committee for two decades and its chairman from 1995 to 2001, has died at the age of 86. To echo this newspaper’s memorable comment on the death of William Randolph Hearst, it is hard even now to think of him with charity. From his earliest years, Helms’s attitudes recalled those of an earlier southern bigot, Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, who so outraged his Senate colleagues, that they eventually refused even to let him take his seat.

There was never a comparable risk for Helms, who maintained an old-world courtesy in his personal contacts. But that was only on the surface. He became one of the most powerful and baleful influences on American foreign policy, repeatedly preventing his country paying its UN contributions, voting against virtually all arms control measures, opposing international aid programmes as “pouring money down foreign rat holes”, and avidly supporting military juntas in Latin America and minority white regimes in Southern Africa.

In domestic politics he denounced the 1964 Civil Rights Act as “the single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress”, voted against a supreme court justice because she was “likely to uphold the homosexual agenda”, acted for years as spokesman for the large tobacco companies, was reprimanded by the justice department and the federal election commission for electoral malpractice, and compiled a dismal personal record as a slum landlord.

There is much detail about his rise to power and his retrograde obstructionist record in the Senate that can be read in the original obituary.  However the concluding paragraph about his retirement is worth including here:

The New York Times observed: “Few senators in the modern era have done more to resist the tide of progress,” and Robert Pastor, whose ambassadorship to Panama was scuppered by Helms in 1995, commented that, “nothing Jesse Helms did in his entire career will enhance America’s national security more than his retirement.”

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3 Comments on “R.I.H., Jesse Helms (1921-2008)”

  1. Mike Licht Says:

    The late senator deserves a fitting memorial.

  2. mary b Says:

    You got it right! the media are trying to whitewash this man in their tributes but he was nothing more than a state embarassment and an inveterate racist!

  3. Betsy Says:

    Helms was on the wrong side of every issue. While campaigning against a political opponent, he helped create an ad that read, “White people, wake up before it is too late. Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife and your daughters, in your mills and factories? Frank Graham favors mingling of the races.”

    He was against Martin Luther King Day and opposed AIDS funding and research.


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