I know you're not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but there are some dead about whom you can't tell the truth without speaking anything but ill.
Jesse Helms is now one of those dead.
I didn't expect any of his obituaries in venues like the New York Times or AP to include the words "racist son of a bitch" but I did think the Times at least could have found more than a single phrase, "against civil rights" to deal with the truth that drove and sustained that bastard's political career---he hated black people.
The Times does make it clear that he hated gay people too.
And Liberals, whom he equated with all of the above.
If you were to go by the AP's obit, you'd think that the worst that could be said of the man's penchant for hating was that he didn't like Bill Clinton much.
No mention in either obit that Helms' crankiness about Bill Clinton gave us Kenneth Starr and the whole Impeachment Charade. Helms' greatest political contribution to the country in the 1990s was to help get the attempted Right Wing coup underway. And he had his sights set on Al Gore. If the Republicans had gotten Clinton, Helms would have led the next assault, against Gore, to finish the job of taking over the White House.
Helms was a racist Right Wing Reactionary, a purely destructive force in American politics, who did nothing good for the country while he was in Congress and the least ill that can be said of him as a public figure---and it's only as a public figure that he's earned an obit in the Times, so what a good friend, father, husband, or neighbor he might have been is irrelevant to the nation's interest in the news of his death---is that he appears to have liked it when high school classes visited his office.
I'd like to say may he rest in peace anyway, but he's not about to. I'm sure the fact the country's poised to elect a black man President will keep him spinning in his grave for a long time to come.
Hat tip to Scott Lemieux, who notes, "In fairness, [Helms] was consistent: he supported apartheid in South Africa almost as strongly as he supported it at home."
Updated later to say this is what I get for not posting earlier: AP has revised its obit. Helms' contempt for Bill Clinton has been downplayed in order to play up his "friendship" with Bono and the news that he went to a U2 concert and had to turn off his hearing aid, how cute. And the point of this is...what? See, in the end Helms wasn't so bad after all, just a loveable if cranky old coot who tried to understand the kids and their crazy music?