Monday, July 14, 2008

Feeling Obligated to Say Nice Things About Helms

1st\NW Quadrant: The Approval Matrix

By STEVEN A. HOLMES\New York Times

Jesse Helms, the former North Carolina senator with the courtly manner and mossy drawl who turned his hard-edged conservatism against civil rights, gay rights, foreign aid and modern art, died early Friday [July 4, 2008]. He was 86.

Perhaps his most visible accomplishments in the Senate came two decades apart. One was a 1996 measure that tightened trade sanctions against the Marxist government of Fidel Castro in Cuba. The other, a 1973 amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, prevented American money from going to international family planning organizations that, in his words, “provide or promote” abortion. He also introduced amendments to reduce or eliminate money for foreign aid, welfare programs and the arts.

In the 1980s, he took on the National Endowment for the Arts for subsidizing art that he found offensive, chiefly that of the gay photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and of the artist Andres Serrano over his depiction of a crucifix submerged in urine. He later led an ill-fated attempt to take over CBS, exhorting conservatives to buy up stock in order to stop what he saw as a liberal bias in its news reporting.

He fought bitterly against federal financing for AIDS research and treatment, saying the disease resulted from “unnatural” and “disgusting” homosexual behavior.

In 1994, angered at President Bill Clinton, Mr. Helms suggested in print that if Mr. Clinton were to visit North Carolina, “He’d better bring a bodyguard.”

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