Hot Air e-mailers wonder why we haven’t written about the death of Jesse Helms, yesterday at 86. I can’t speak for Allahpundit, but I haven’t written anything because I’ve never been a big fan of Senator Helms. I’ve never been a big detractor of his, for that matter. His support for conservative causes helped Ronald Reagan expand the political universe for the Right in the 1980s, but his excesses helped limit it in other ways as well.
Here’s the Washington Post’s obit:
Helms’s opposition to social change and what he viewed as legislative overreaching led to his nickname of “Senator No,” a title he came to relish. He blocked nominations for federal office, withheld funding for the United Nations, opposed gun control and threatened to cancel federal support for arts groups and school busing. A staunch opponent of communism, he sought to isolate Cuban leader Fidel Castro and refused to relent on strict U.S. trade embargoes of Cuba.
In 1977, Helms angrily denounced a treaty advanced by President Jimmy Carter to turn over the Panama Canal to Panama. From 1979 to 1986, over the objections of Republican leaders, Helms used parliamentary ploys to scuttle the SALT II arms limitation treaty, which he said made unwarranted concessions to the Soviet Union. …
Throughout his career, Helms often took stands that isolated him from the left and the right. In 1990, he refused to attend South African leader Nelson Mandela‘s speech to a joint session of Congress. He railed against research on AIDS, calling it a disease of homosexuals, but late in his career he co-sponsored a bill to provide $500 million to AIDS sufferers in Africa.
He opposed a 1987 United Nations treaty banning torture and in 1997 blocked President Bill Clinton‘s nomination of former Massachusetts governor William F. Weld, a liberal Republican, to be ambassador to Mexico.
It’s not because he was a racist bigot in his years as a Southern Democrat. Oh yes, you didn’t realize that from Ken’s diatribe did you? That when Senator Helms was saying those hateful things, he was a Democrat, as were nearly all of the racist segregationist [D]ixiecrats of the era.
In fact, the person who led the filibuster against the civil rights bill of 1964 and was a full member of the KKK is still a Democrat and a lionized member of the Democratic party. I haven’t seen Ken Layne write any screeds against Senator Roberty Byrd or threaten to kick him out of the party lately. So the problem with Jesse Helms can’t be his segregationist past, or else the Democrats would be craven hypocrites on this issue. …
No their real problem and the root of their disgust with Jesse Helms was his success at stopping liberal policies, and even worse, he might just be responsible for giving us the Reagan revolution[.]
I’ll say this: like many of his era, Jesse Helms was a complicated figure who got vilified, while others like Robert Byrd get an inexplicable pass. He did a lot of good, and did some damage along the way as well. If he didn’t end up winning popularity contests, Senator Helms at least warned us that he never intended to compete in them anyway.
The thread is open: how do Hot Air readers remember Senator Jesse Helms, and how do you think history should record his life?
Update: Fox News has a video retrospective on Senator Helms: