Sunday, October 10, 2004

The specter of Jesse Helms

Jesse Helms served in the U.S. Senate for thirty years and has long been the leading voice of conservatives throughout the country. During his tenure Helms was the most visible Senator in Washington and was a leading voice of states’ rights. Recently, Helms received an honor from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. One of the top Christian universities in the country, Liberty is now home to the Helms School of Government. Since Helms has now put his face, name, and faith to molding the minds of thousands of college students an examination of his record is now in order.

First, a few quotes straight from Helms’ mouth…

“I've been portrayed as a caveman by some. That's not true. I'm a conservative progressive, and that means I think all men are equal, be they slants, beaners or niggers.” February 6, 1985.

“The Negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that's thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men's rights.” 1963.

“There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy.” May 17, 1988

“Democracy used to be good thing, but it has gotten into the wrong hands.”

On Bill Clinton visiting North Carolina: “Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He'd better have a bodyguard.”

On AIDS: “We've got to have some common sense about a disease transmitted by people deliberately engaging in unnatural acts.”

As you can see Helms has been a colorful (pun intended) figure. Some have praised him for his unflinching support of states’ rights while others have contended he is the most racist Senator of the past thirty years. And that says a lot when you consider that guys like Strom Thurmond and former KKK member Robert Byrd served with Helms in the Senate.

Helms, the North Carolina Republican, began his career in 1960 as a pro-segregation radio host and once referred to the University of North Carolina as the “University of Negroes and Communists”. Helms was a stern opponent of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act and remains so to this day. He also fought against the creation of a national holiday honoring the birthday of Martin Luther King.

As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Helms supported the white governed regime in Zimbabwe Rhodesia and the tyrannical South African government. Helms repeatedly turned a blind eye to S. Africa’s racist policy of Apartheid and even turned his back on Nelson Mandela and walked out of a reception honoring the former political prisoner who spent 27 years in prison. Helms also helped to kill or delay international treaties such as: United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Chemical Weapons Convention which was negotiated under Reagan, signed by Bush, and debated under Clinton and would ban the creation of Chemical weapons in war (only Iraq and N. Korea opposed this treaty), and the nuclear test ban treaty.

Helms also has his fair share of scandals as skeletons in his closet. In 1985, Helms attempted an unlikely takeover of CBS wherein he sent fliers out to over one million conservatives asking them to purchase stock and cede control to himself so he could change the editorial direction of the network. This incident sparked an SEC probe for alleged securities violations. In 1990, in Helms’ senatorial campaign 125,000 fliers were sent mostly to black voters saying that they would not be able to vote. The U.S. Justice Department investigated this episode and charged the Helms’ Campaign, the N. Carolina Republican Party, and four campaign-consulting firms with violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Helms’ Campaign eventually signed an agreement of guilt, was admonished, and told to never engage in such tactics again.

Helms has also engaged in a thirty year jihad against ANYTHING that would forward the cause of homosexuals. Helms opposed the renewal of the Ryan White Care Act , which provides care and treatment for AIDS patients, on the grounds that homosexuals would benefit from the bill. Helms has stated on several occasions and remains unapologetic for suggesting that homosexuals who die of AIDS deserve their fate. In a particularly vile instant Helms wrote back to mother who’s gay son died of AIDS that he was only sorry that her son played “Russian roulette with his sexuality”.

In 2000, Jesse Helms retired from the Senate. I, for one, say, “Good riddance!”. The fact that this man now has his name on a school of government scares me to no end. The political version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Helms, Strom Thurmond, Dick Armey, and Trent Lott are fading into the distance and hopefully their warped agenda will follow.