Last Friday, on the Fourth of July, the great American patriot Jesse Helms passed away. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson also went to their great reward on Independence Day, so this is further proof of God.
Helms is now the second great American patriot I've always wanted to meet and never will, at least in this lifetime. The only other one is the magnificent Reagan aide Lyn Nofziger. (Wikipedia quote: "I sometimes lie awake at night trying to think of something funny that Richard Nixon said.")
After a week of hundreds of Helms obituaries -- one or two of which were not completely dishonest -- I will mention just a few items that were not addressed or given sufficient attention.
The two most obsessively discussed topics among Senate staffers are: (1) Who is the stupidest senator? (Sen. Barbara Boxer pulled into the lead when Sen. Lincoln Chafee retired), and (2) which senators are beastly and which are wonderful to their staff?
When I worked in the Senate in the '90s, the two senators famous for being absolute princes to work for were Sen. Helms and -- it pains me to tell you this, so you know it has to be true -- Sen. Teddy Kennedy. (He was so nice to his staffers, he frequently offered them rides home in his car after parties.)
I never knew -- and you never knew, unless you read one of the two honest obituaries this past week -- that in 1962 Helms and his wife "Dot" adopted a 9-year-old orphan with cerebral palsy. They already had two daughters and Helms was 41 years old at the time. But it was Christmastime and they read about Charlie in a newspaper. He said all he wanted for Christmas was a mother and father.
In the 1976 North Carolina Republican primary, Helms engineered Ronald Reagan's upset victory over Gerald Ford, the sitting president. That victory carried Reagan to the convention and made him the front-runner in 1980. The night Reagan won the 1980 presidential election, Helms famously uttered the beautiful words: "God has given America one more chance."
In 1984, Helms' re-election campaign was the then-most expensive Senate race in history. His Democratic opponent, Gov. Jim Hunt, received campaign contributions from the usual dotty liberals: Barbra Streisand, Phil Donahue, Marlo Thomas, Paul Newman, Woody Allen -- all, no doubt, steeped in North Carolina politics.
Shockingly, Hunt also received a donation from Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of the nonpartisan, totally objective, straight-down-the-middle New York Times. Which I guess explains the nasty obituary last week.