Saturday, July 05, 2008
guardian.co.uk, Friday July 4, 2008
Senator Jesse Helms, member of the US Senate's foreign relations committee for two decades and its chairman from 1995 to 2001, has died at the age of 86. To echo this newspaper's memorable comment on the death of William Randolph Hearst, it is hard even now to think of him with charity. From his earliest years, Helms's attitudes recalled those of an earlier southern bigot, Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, who so outraged his Senate colleagues, that they eventually refused even to let him take his seat.
There was never a comparable risk for Helms, who maintained an old-world courtesy in his personal contacts. But that was only on the surface. He became one of the most powerful and baleful influences on American foreign policy, repeatedly preventing his country paying its UN contributions, voting against virtually all arms control measures, opposing international aid programmes as "pouring money down foreign rat holes", and avidly supporting military juntas in Latin America and minority white regimes in Southern Africa.
In domestic politics he denounced the 1964 Civil Rights Act as "the single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress", voted against a supreme court justice because she was "likely to uphold the homosexual agenda", acted for years as spokesman for the large tobacco companies, was reprimanded by the justice department and the federal election commission for electoral malpractice, and compiled a dismal personal record as a slum landlord....(Click here for remainder of article).