July 4, 2008


Jesse Helms, Conservative Force in the Senate, Dies at 86 (STEVEN A. HOLMES, 7/5/08, NY Times)

In a 52-year political career that ended with his retirement from the Senate in 2002, Mr. Helms became a beacon for the right wing of American politics, a lightning rod for the left, and, often, a mighty pain for Presidents whatever their political leaning.

Ronald Reagan, a friend who could thank Mr. Helms for critical campaign help, once described him as a “thorn in my side.” Mr. Helms was known for taking on anyone, even leaders of his own party, who strayed from his idea of ideological purity.

“I didn’t come to Washington to be a yes man for any President, Democrat or Republican,” he said in an interview in 1989. “I didn’t come to Washington to get along and win any popularity contests.”

Perhaps his most visible accomplishments in the Senate came two decades apart. One was a 1996 measure that tightened trade sanctions against the Marxist government of Fidel Castro in Cuba. The other, a 1973 amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, prevented American money from going to international family planning organizations that, in his words, “provide or promote” abortion. He also introduced amendments to reduce or eliminate funds for foreign aid, welfare programs and the arts.

David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said recently that Mr. Helms’s contribution to the conservative movement was “incredibly important.”

For one thing, he said, Mr. Helms was alert to technological change, especially the importance of direct mail, and readily signed fund-raising letters that helped conservative organizations get started.

Mr. Helms was also instrumental in keeping Mr. Reagan’s presidential campaign alive in 1976 when it was broke and limping after a series of defeats in the Republican primaries.

And in the Senate, Mr. Keene said, Mr. Helms was a rallying point for conservatives. As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he supported Mr. Reagan on issues like aid to the Nicaraguan Contras. “Without Jesse, it would have been hard for Reagan to hold the line,” he said. [...]

He was also well known for holding up votes on treaties and appointments to win a point. His willingness to block the business of the Senate or the will of Presidents earned him the sobriquet “Senator No” — a label he relished.

We were humbled when we got permission to use one of his speeches in our book.

-OBIT: Former Senator Jesse Helms Dies (DAVID ESPO AND WHITNEY WOODWARD , 7/04/08, AP)

"Compromise, hell! ... If freedom is right and tyranny is wrong, why should those who believe in freedom treat it as if it were a roll of bologna to be bartered a slice at a time?" Helms wrote in a 1959 editorial that foretold his political style.

-OBIT: Jesse Helms, right wing US senator, dies aged 86 (Nico Hines, 7/04/08, Times of London)
-OBIT: Former U.S. senator Jesse Helms dies ( Johanna Neuman, 7/04/08, Los Angeles Times)
The key to Helms' longevity was a political strategy that allowed him to win election without appealing to the mainstream. The use of direct mail to solicit campaign funds nationally was pioneered in the 1960s, but Helms perfected the approach. He sought campaign contributions from conservatives nationally, then used their money to air inflammatory advertisements that energized the passions of his conservative base at home.

"He needed the white vote to win," said Merle Black, a professor of political science at Emory University. "To get that, he had to use explicit racial themes. His was a kind of primitive conservatism."

Helms never won with more than 56% of the vote but he maintained a devoted core constituency.

"He was a loud and clear voice for muscular, principled conservatism," said Whit Ayres, a pollster for many Southern candidates. "He was ideologically consistent, and he didn't bend with the wind.

Because, as we all know, the 40% are the mainstream....
-OBIT: Ex-Senator Jesse Helms dies at 86 (BBC, 7/04/08)
He became known for his refusal to ratify international treaties and obstinate blocking of other executive actions, the BBC's Jonny Dymond says.

It was Mr Helms who stopped the US paying its dues to the UN; Mr Helms who blocked ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the Kyoto Protocol on global warming; and Mr Helms who opposed the use of US troops in Bosnia.

"I will not support sending American soldiers to fight and to die for the sake of an agreement not yet reached which may offer no more than the promise of a brief pause while all sides prepare for the next round of Balkan wars," Mr Helms said.

Before he became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he attacked accords such as the Panama Canal Treaty and the Salt II arms reduction pact.

As committee chairman he clashed with the Clinton administration. Its multilateral approach to foreign relations did not fit in with his view of how America should operate.

He also helped sink the administration's attempts to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999, and in 2000 made it clear that a modified 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty would not pass the Senate.

Mr Helms never cared very much what his critics thought, our correspondent says - and if he had, he certainly would not have been so outspoken about what he perceived to be the ills of modern life.

-OBIT: Senator Jesse Helms (Daily Telegraph, 04/07/2008)
A fervent anti-Communist, his closest known foreign associate was Roberto d'Aubuisson, the leader of the El Salvadorean Right and the man identified by the State Department as responsible for the assassination of archbishop Oscar Romero while he was saying Mass.

Helms had also supported Pinochet in Chile and had been the only senator to back the Argentine junta against Britain during the Falklands war. He once advocated the invasion of Cuba and was one of the few American conservatives to back the white apartheid regimes in Southern Africa. [...]

In contrast to his public reputation, in private Helms as known as a courtly southern gentleman with impeccable manners, unswervingly loyal to family, friends and employees. Yet he also had a quick temper which could flare up when things were not going his way, or when people disagreed with him, a temper which he sometime employed to good effect.

In 1997, Helms had an ugly spat with the British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, at a meeting at which Cook insisted that America should pay its debt to the UN "in full and on time".

"We saved your bacon two times this century," Helms retorted furiously "and when we need something, you don't give us a thing".
Article continues

Helms went on to equate New Labour with Neville Chamberlain finishing with a lyrical peroration on the wonders of Margaret Thatcher.

The meeting ended after 20 minutes when Helms stood up abruptly: "Nice of you to come," he drawled acidly, having made his point.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at July 4, 2008 11:22 AM

The other end of dandy.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 4, 2008 12:16 PM

Helms and his counterpart (Paul Wellstone) were from another era. They could disagree about everything politically and yet still go to lunch and go to each other's family picnics.

Posted by: Gideon7 at July 4, 2008 1:40 PM
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