WASHINGTON -- I have been reading an advance copy of memoirs written by Jesse Helms, the retired North Carolina senator who braved the liberals' indignation to create the politics that now prevail on Capitol Hill and in the White House, namely, modern American conservatism. Helms did not do this alone, and arguably, he was only a member of the first-string team whose quarterback was Ronald Reagan. Yet Helms was very important, particularly on the social values issues that average Americans now deem so compelling. His memoir, "Here's Where I Stand," is a very good refresher course on how America moved from the dreary, futile governance of Jimmy Carter to the present vigor of a proud, can-do America.
Helms writes in straightforward prose from a foundation of beliefs that are solidly conservative. He tells a good story. In reading "Here's Where I Stand," I have not been able to slay the fear that when this book comes out on Aug. 30, the dominant liberal culture, the Kultursmog, is going to rain down on him. It will malign his motives and values and belittle his achievements. What will be left is another grotesque image of the conservative public figure: a bigoted, small-minded, not very intelligent, provincial. And so, Helms will be interred in the liberals' burial ground along with Reagan, Richard Nixon, and all the other political leaders they have opposed. Across the street is the liberal museum of leadership. Franklin Roosevelt is there with all his famous successors, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and various of Helms' colleagues from the Senate: Teddy Kennedy or his sidekick Christopher Dodd -- the blood runs thin. Strangely, Lyndon Johnson is hardly visible.
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