by Drew J Jones
Sat Jul 19th, 2008 at 10:45:08 PM EST
In honor of Jesse Helms passing away, my father published the following letter in the local paper down south, The Palm Beach Post. I loved it, and apparently he's been asked to speak at some convention after a liberal group came upon it, so I thought I'd toss it up for your enjoyment:
Helms' disservices to U.S. outnumber his services
Palm Beach Post Letters to the Editor
Friday, July 18, 2008
The column by Republican operative Marc Thiessen ("The Jesse Helms to remember," July 9, Opinion), extolling the virtues of former Sen. Jesse Helms, should not go without comment.
Sen. Helms was, after all, the archetypal Republican politician of his era. And few, if any, politicians did more than Sen. Helms to obstruct America's progress on a host of important issues ranging from race relations to national security.
Jesse Helms was, first and foremost, a vicious race-baiter who used hateful speech to demonize black Americans in order to further his political career. His television ad showing the hand of a white man crumpling a job rejection letter while an announcer intoned, "You needed that job but they had to give it to a minority," was a masterpiece of racist propaganda.
Sen. Helms also was an enthusiastic supporter of the apartheid government of South Africa, and he opposed every significant civil rights bill that passed through the Senate during his tenure. He went so far as to denounce the 1964 Civil Rights Act as "the single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress." And his bigotry was not limited to race alone. Sen. Helms referred to homosexuals as "weak, morally sick wretches" and opposed all early efforts to address the AIDS epidemic, claiming that "There is not one case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy."
Despite being fined and reprimanded by the Federal Election Commission for illegal campaign contributions, Sen. Helms' fund-raising efforts helped bankroll the rise of religious fundamentalism in American politics and facilitated its takeover of the modern Republican Party. Sen. Helms consistently opposed foreign aid except when it came to financing right-wing death squads in Latin America, whom he supported unequivocally. He once referred to Salvadoran terrorist Roberto D'Aubuisson as "a free-enterprise man and deeply religious."
Sen. Helms was also an infamous slumlord whom Raleigh building inspectors repeatedly summoned to remedy the deplorable conditions in his rental units. No man is wholly good or wholly bad. But when legitimate historians (rather than partisan hacks like Marc Thiessen) evaluate the effects of Jesse Helms on America and the American political landscape, they undoubtedly will conclude that the negative far outweighs the positive. Goodbye, Jesse Helms. And good riddance.
JOHN ANDREW JONES
Palm Beach Gardens