Jesse Helms was a racist, a gay-basher, an enemy of women's rights, an enemy of public broadcasting and the arts, and one of the most reactionary politicians America ever produced. But that won't stop many pundits and politicians from finding a good word to say about him--just watch.
Fortunately, not only is Helms dead, but his extreme brand of racist conservatism is no longer part of the political mainstream, as it was not so long ago. Perhaps it is fitting that Helms has disappeared from the national stage just as a Black man is about to be elected president. Could someone like him be elected to the Senate today? I doubt it, and that is a sure sign America has changed.
Addendum: Christopher Hitchens gets a lot of things wrong these days, but he gets it right about Helms in a piece in Slate.
Backdate: The other day the Boston Globe's excellent and eloquent columnist, James Carroll, talked about soldier suicides and how both the American military and Americans have failed our troops. I have posted the full text on my Web site here. Please read it and think about it.