The Death of Jesse Helms

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jesse helms twn.jpg
Former Senator Jesse Helms may have died today in a mortal sense — but the brand of pugnacious nationalism that he seeded in America’s contemporary politics lives on in his former legal adviser John Bolton, Dick Cheney and others.
We will be battling Helms as an ideological force for decades to come.
Helms was a cordial and polite man — even when he was doing much to harm American interests in a myriad of ways and harming women all over the world who would have otherwise benefited from birth control support that Helms regularly stripped out of foreign assistance bills.
Helms, who served as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, seemed to despise globalists in general, would have loved to wreck the United Nations and other international institutions, and reified an American nativist jingoism that he helped sell with beguiling Southern charm and linguistic twang.
I knew Helms when I worked in the U.S. Senate — not well, but well enough. I rode the elevator with him many times at his invitation. At some level, Jesse Helms knew that those of us in Washington all played the roles we had to play and thus a genteel veneer and sensibility made sense in a small political village comprised of people who had to do battle over and over again.
At some level, I’ll miss the politeness he exhibited in the worst of frays in D.C. I won’t miss his political views or outlook on any level. But despite his death, I know that Helms has morphed into something more — into a genuine ideology.
And that is something we can’t be seduced into tolerating.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

27 comments on “The Death of Jesse Helms

  1. john gallivan says:

    this mo fo haunted its descendants, to say crap like
    “his ole typewriter was clickin away . . . we heard it . . . ”
    this was the best of eulogies. not remembered was his sickness. of hate. frenching bono at the the age of 82 DO NOT COUNT. bohemian grove is for the living, dead guy, unless dead fucking is in vogue.
    fuck you all, anf please say hello. i like intruders.

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  2. john gallivan says:

    helms blew

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  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gads. I just had a look at your site, Boston Patriot.
    You even adore John Bolton, eh?
    I’m a little curious. I listen to Sean Hannity occassionally. Michael Savage. Laura Ingraham. Limbaugh. Levin. Pretty much all of them on my ccommute to and from job sites. I can’t help but wonder;
    Does sowing ignorance, division, and hatred pay well for you folks, or is a divided and bickering nation reward enough for you?

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  4. Boston Patriot says:

    God Bless Jesse Helms: his leadership on UN reform was spot on. The United Nations serves virtually no useful purpose to the American people or their interests. Helms properly understood this fact and appropriately undertook to withhold US “assessments” to the UN in return for UN reform. Unfortunately, the hoped for and needed reforms failed to materialize (as the UN Oil for Food scandal demonstrates). Let’s hope and pray that Helms’ spirit is embodied in more of America’s public policy officials.

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  5. edward says:

    The Irony Of Jesse Helms dieing on Independence Day.
    I would never in my life be happy for the death of someone but in this mans case i make an exception. Independence Day 2008 is truly Independance Day for all the people harmed by this mans disgusting brand of politics and hate. Independance Day for Gays and Lesbians from the biggest homophobe on the face of the earth. Independance Day for Women from the biggest Chauvanist on the face of the earth. Independance Day for Minorites from a true Southern Bigot.

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  6. Don Friedman says:

    The cordiality and politeness which Steve Clemons noted (and which, based on the anecdotal evidence, was not necessarily extended to African American colleagues) was undoubtedly more a matter of style that dated back several decades to the Senate during the ’50s and early ’60s. With Helms, it obviously masked a significantly less attractive racism and rabid and overly simplistic anti-Communism/isolationism.
    Personally courteous though he may have been, the guy exercised a very negative influence over the legislative process for years. Which is more important in the long run?
    As to Zathra’s comparison of Helms to Lugar, I don’t think his analysis is fair. If Lugar had the same ability to hold up the Senate that Helms had (and I don’t know if the Senate rules would still allow that sort of conduct), it is ultimately to his credit that he did not. Actions by a single Senator to bring to a halt policy initiatives, appointments, etc. just don’t seem like a positive thing, even if you agree with the outcome. No single Senator should be able to impose his or her will in the manner that Helms routinely did.

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  7. The Ghost of Jesse Helms says:

    So would have the NY governorship. You didn’t get that either, did you? Loser!

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  8. William Weld says:

    Burn in hell, Jesse. That ambassadorship in Mexico would have been nice.

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  9. Kathleen says:

    Zathras… thanks for your insights….in defense of Senator Lugar, 9/11 happened when he was Chairman of the SFRC so he did not have any real opposition party with which to challenge those within the GOP with whom he disagreed. 9/11 turned everyone into mush.
    One more thing in defense of Senator Lugar, when I helped Lt. Watada’s father with the Appeal to Congress for hearings on the Constitutional questions raised by the Watada case, unlike his liberal anti-war colleagues like Teddy and Kerry, he did not summarilly refer the matter to Senator Inuoye because Lt. Watada is Hawaiin. He asked Lt. Watada to sign authorization for him to pursue the matter.
    http:///www.ipetitions.com/petition/watada
    I have more respect for Republican Senator Richard Lugar for prioritizing our Constitution over party and politics than I do for limp noodle Demz who fold and won’t rock the boat.

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  10. Guy blaise says:

    I heard that senator Jesse helms spent the last five years suffering
    from dementia. In fact he didn’t remember that he was a senator.
    God is not stupid !

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  11. Linda says:

    As a northerner now living in South for the first time, I’ve come to understand that none of the issues of race in America is quite so simple as any of the stereotypes. I happen to have adored Sam Ervin since the Watergate hearings and had no idea of how he handled desegregation in Senate–stalled by being process-oriented, but was surely not a hero. I happened to hear the author of a very interesting (and not that new as it was published last fall)biography of Sam Ervin, “Senator Sam Ervin, Last of the Founding Fathers” (Caravan Book) (Hardcover)
    by Karl Campbell (Author) as BookTV re-ran a show by the author this week. I haven’t read it, but it sounds fascinating.
    None of this is as simple as being black and white. It’s really a lot of shades of gray. It’s easy to judge or pre-judge (prejudice). It’s a lot harder to try to understand. That’s the best I can do about Jessie Helms. I don’t think being born or dying on the 4th of July is anything more than chance and surely has nothing to do with patriotism.

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  12. Anon says:

    His teeth died decades before he did.
    His morals and sense of decency died in the womb.

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  13. David says:

    As a Southerner born and bred, I have to agree with DonS. And the connection to D’Aubisson is no different than previous decades’ connections for many polite Southerners to death-dealing white supremacists. Robert Byrd grew in both wisdom and stature. Jesse Helms did neither.

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  14. DonS says:

    I’ve been living in the South (SW virginia) for over 30 years now, nearly 50% of my life, although I am currently posting from Canada.
    Jesse Helms may well have exhibited a kind of politeness — it is the genteel mask that many Southerners were born and bred to, that conceals a most odious sort of disdain for “the other”. So while some may call him pugnacious, that really gilds the lily in his case, since he more accurately represented a brutal throwback to the worst of Southern tradition.
    If that’s nationalism, give me something else. I want no part of it.

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  15. Zathras says:

    This may not be the right forum for a discussion of Jesse Helms and his place in American government, but I have to say I don’t track what Steve Clemons says about Helms’ thinking morphing into a genuine ideology.
    Helms was a conservative in the literal sense of the world, an advocate for the values of the rural North Carolina he grew up in. As such, he was something of an anachronism in the Senate even at the height of his power — the great debates on civil rights, in particular, were already years in the past when he got there. This is why he got the nickname “Senator No” in the first place.
    In the field of foreign policy, Helms was often a nuisance to Republican administration he never ceased to suspect of not being anti-Communist enough. A campaign promise made in 1984 placed him in the Chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee instead of Foreign Relations during the pivotal 1985-86 period, which must have been a relief to the Reagan administration as it began its interaction with Gorbachev. The more accomodating and constructive Richard Lugar ran Foreign Relations instead.
    Like Steve Clemons, I served a number of years on Senate staff while Helms was there. It was no secret to anyone, then or later, that he and Lugar didn’t care for one another. Lugar was cerebral, personally fastidious, collegial, and in his own way something of an ideologue, albeit a much more sophisticated one than Helms. He believed in counseling the executive branch, not in hectoring it; he thought holding up nominations for months or years and attaching all manner of conditions on grants of foreign assistance, both of which Helms did frequently, were abuses of the Foreign Relations committee’s authority. Politically invulnerable in Indiana, Lugar never had any reason to pioneer advances in direct-mail fundraising or to adopt the symbolism-drenched causes Helms did, and thus had no opportunity to serve as a mentor or role model for the rising powers in Republican politics, people associated with the permanent campaign industry and the politicians dependent on them. Helms needed enemies, and the passions only enemies could provoke, just to stay in office. Over time this made him more influential, and Lugar less, in Republican politics. This is a melancholy statement, given that Lugar was, in almost every way that mattered a far more constructive presence in the American government and a far better Senator than Jesse Helms.
    And yet…
    The hard truth is that Lugar, having finally regained the chairmanship of Foreign Relations from which Helms with his greater seniority had blocked him for so long, got walked over by the Bush administration right from the beginning. All his experience, mastery of substance, and respect for executive branch prerogatives did not keep an administration bent on a radical change in foreign policy from treating Lugar as someone to be ignored. Lugar barely protested; neither Bush nor anyone who worked for him ever paid any price for treating Lugar, his committee or the Senate with such disrespect.
    Jesse Helms in his prime would never have let that happen. He might for all I know have supported most of what Bush wanted to do with respect to terrorism or Iraq, but Helms took the Senate as an institution very seriously. It is very hard to imagine him allowing it or his committee to be treated so as an afterthought.
    Tom Ricks’s book on the Iraq war has a chapter on Congress and the role it played as the invasion was being prepared, which Ricks entitled “The Silence of the Lambs.” Helms, old and infirm, was still in the Senate until the end of 2002, but in his earlier years there was nothing lamb-like and little of silence about him. There were occasions in earlier years when I thought the Senate and the country would be a lot better off without Jesse Helms. I had a somewhat lengthy list of reasons for that belief, most of which still seem sound to me. But now that the Senate has been without him for several years I am bound to confess the evidence is not all on one side.

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  16. charles Molesworth says:

    Any obituary of Senator Helms that omits his ties to Roberto
    D’Aubisson is seriously incomplete. Of all the miscreant events for
    which the Senator was and is responsible, none outstrips for
    brutality and vicious wrong-headedness his invitation to Roberto
    D’Aubisson – a mastermind of the death squads in Nicaragua that
    attacked and executed the supporters of the Sandanistas – to come
    to Washington to receive thanks for his counter-revolutionary
    purity.
    Yours,
    Charles Molesworth
    109-23 71st Road
    Forest Hills, NY
    718-268-8024

    Reply

  17. FaceOnMars says:

    “a close familiarity of what that discovery cost the indigenous people of North America…”
    While I don’t have such a familiarity Kathleen, I was contemplating this very issue yesterday as I sat on a bench on main street people watching in Telluride, CO for about an hour. There were plenty of Ute’s who made the journey up to the mountains for the 4th of July celebration. Long ago, their ancestors made the journey to the same location, but there weren’t artificial boundaries, structures, street signs, etc. In fact, I believe it was frowned upon to leave any trace of having been here. I couldn’t help but wonder how they now look at things? I’m sure the young kids who get ice cream and watch fireworks are happy and caught up in the moment. Even their parents were probably in the same boat; however, some of the older folks probably remember stories being passed along.
    Then I wondered if Spanish rule would have been any better for them? If a shrinking world was inevitable, then maybe our system of government may have been (and still might be) the best available … warts and all. Even in light of this (and the excellent festivities), it hurts to see their sacred ground “possessed”.

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  18. blogenfreude says:

    He was a national disgrace. Someone must tell the truth about him. Remember this little nugget?
    Soon after the Senate vote on the Confederate flag insignia, Sen. Jesse Helms (R.-N.C.) ran into Mosely-Braun in a Capitol elevator. Helms turned to his friend, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah), and said, “Watch me make her cry. I’m going to make her cry. I’m going to sing ‘Dixie’ until she cries.” He then proceeded to sing the song about “the good life” during slavery to Mosely-Braun. (Gannett News Service, 9/2/93; Time, 8/16/93)

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  19. Kathleen says:

    JohnH… heavy-duty

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  20. JohnH says:

    Steve pretty well sums up all that is wrong with Washington: “those of us in Washington all played the roles we had to play.” Saying what they had to say, not saying what was true but inconvenient, seemingly oblivious to the consequences of their silence. The question is: who assigns the roles? And why are there almost no men of character and integrity who will stand up and say what needs to be said, even if it means declaring that the emperor has no clothes?
    And was the polite Jesse Helms really just playing the role of a mean spirited little bigot, or does a pervasive sickness in the body politic reward such people by allowing them to be among the few able to have their perverse beliefs put into law?

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  21. Kathleen says:

    bangzoom..love that name and agree on the Helmester….Mr.Murder… exactly right on Cuba and tobacco, probably the same reason for criminalizing wacky tabacky, too…Amir… thank you for those links and that reminder…ouch. I’m going to save them and pass them on… Robert Morrow… I agree with you on Ron Paul.. while I’m neither a nationalist or a globalist, I do think we should keep our hands off the globe and mind our own business, except for humanitarian aid. LionHearted… thanks for the show of support to those of us who don’t mince our words… and welcome aboard… you should join us more often. and yes, Steve does have a knack for stimulating lively discussions…ruthiegix… I didn’t know John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the 4th of July…my Mom did too, in 1992… it was significant for me that she died on the 4th of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America because I had spent the previous decade+ working on Native American Rights and had a close familiarity of what that discovery cost the indigenous people of North America… while I’m proud of our Revolution and the Spirit of ’76, it’s always overshadowed by what we did to those who helped our county;’s forefathers survive. .. yesterday it was foggy and overcast where I am… foghorn going all day,,, mournful sound….I live within walking distance from the oldest(arguably) Lighthouse in the country, Pequot Light….ironically, our town celebrates the 4th the following weekend, more like Bastille Day, because the Mashentucket Pequot Tribe sponsors our Fireworks by the Grucci brothers who do the fireworks for Washington, D.C. on the 4th. Mashentucket-Pequots now have the largest casino in the world, Foxwoods. My father’s cousin, the late Governor Ella Grasso was in favor of the Tribe’s recognition, but died in office, before they won their right to open a casino….

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  22. ruthiegix says:

    God took John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on July 4th. I think it
    was their reward for being great patriots. God took Jesse Helms on
    this July 4th because He was showing his sense of humor.

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  23. Amir says:

    Before 4th of the July you should remember 3th of July ;In 1988 the U.S. Navy cruiser Vincennes shoots down an Iranian passenger jet and KILL all 290 passengers U.S. officials defended the action, claiming that the aircraft was outside the commercial jet flight corridor, flying at only 7,800 feet, and was on a descent toward the Vincennes. However, one month later, U.S. authorities acknowledged that the airbus was in the commercial flight corridor, flying at 12,000 feet, and not descending. The U.S. Navy report blamed crew error caused by psychological stress on men in combat for the first time
    http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/site/this_day_in_history/this_day_July_3.php
    Interesting?haaah? If Iran did such a mistake
    What did happen? I think USA NUKE Iran but you
    know what did happen for USA?
    Noting ,Bush(the first) even didn’t give an apology for that crime. and give the Captain medal of honor ….
    In 1983 USSR drop a Koren air plane in similar way. Here is the speech by Reagan at that time:
    “My fellow Americans:
    I’m coming before you tonight about the Korean airline massacre, the attack by the Soviet Union against 269 innocent men, women, and children aboard an unarmed Korean passenger plane. This crime against humanity must never be forgotten, here or throughout the world……

    http://reagan2020.us/speeches/soviet_attack_on_korean_airliner.asp
    Do u see any similarity between these events?
    Unfortunately Iranian blood was not red enough and so it was not a crime against humanity and could forgiven .
    So you should not be surprise for events like
    11 September 2001. Untie u act as savages u should respect reactions like yours. I don’t support 11 September or action like that but
    YOU(American) and your leaders are the main guilty
    for that actions.
    I’m really sorry for u

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  24. LionHearted says:

    I have been reading TWN now almost since from the beginning, and I have not posted before now. I can’t get enough of the WAY that Steve Clemons frames things. Whethere it is foreign policy, defense issues, the economy, or American politics, or even Japan and Asia, and now Jesse Helms’ death, Clemons just sees things in ways that most don’t. He’s reasonable, fair, but he’s not missing in action and he’s provocative.
    I love reading Kathleen and Poa and Norheim and arthurdecco, Linda, and so many others here. I even like Tahoe Editor because he’s gonna get the last word, no matter what.
    But this blog is a combination of great analysis and thinking but also a lot of upfront humanity from our host and from many of the commenters.
    So, there is a lot of good here — let’s all keep it going and not get overly nasty as Steve has asked.
    And it’s good that Steve laid out something about a Jesse Helms ideology that I haven’t seen before. And while Robert Morrow may like that ideology, and others may not — the framing is always fresh and makes those of us on the passive side of absorbing this and other blogs much more informed than we would otherwise be.
    Sorry for the rambling.
    Big bottom line is thank you Steve and thanks to your best commenters also.

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  25. Mr.Murder says:

    He hated internationalism because he was from the tobacco lobby.
    They had a reason to keep Cuba out of their market, etc.
    Follow the Money.

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  26. Robert Morrow says:

    One can be a nationalist or a nativist and not be “pugnacious” or “jingoistic” or “warmongering” or even “isolationist.”
    Ron Paul for example. Now that is a grade A premium nationalist, but there is not a whole of of jingoism in Ron Paul or his ideology.
    I am an American nationalist because I don’t trust unelected global burueacrats to do things in the best interest of Americans or to protect and preserve our freedoms and rights. 2 good examples would be freedom of speech issues and gun rights. Not to mention taxation.
    Just because someone is a globalist does not mean that they are some sort of a peacemaker. In fact, SOME of these types would love to use the US military to run their own wars.

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  27. bangzoom14 says:

    Do we miss Jesse Helms? Yeah, like we miss a toothache. For whatever reason, the man was full of anger, bitterness, distrust and hatefulness. And that’s the censored version. How many people in his career did he upset with his brand of hatred? Probably millions. I really don’t know how he lived with himself all those years knowing all the hate that lived inside of him all that time. Unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

    Reply

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