From the mouth of Senator No

Words of wisdom from a Southern relic

Last week, Jesse Helms announced he would step down when his fifth term in the U.S. Senate expires in January 2003. At 79, Helms has been the South's bulwark of conservatism, and for years headed up the powerful Senate Foreign Relations committee.

But, as he told residents of North Carolina last Wednesday, "Time takes a terrific toll." He was apparently making reference to his health. According to The New York Times, Helms suffers from peripheral neuropathy, a nerve condition that leaves his lower extremities numb and has forced him to travel the halls of Washington in a motorized scooter.

Such a malady may seem quite fitting for Helms, whose upper extremities — his brain, anyway — have already been numb for decades. In what read like an early obituary last week, the NYT warned that, "It is always tempting, when old warriors retire, to lament their passing from the political stage. In the case of Sen. Jesse Helms, that is a temptation to be resisted."

That said, we at CL believe that the most fitting memorial to Senator No comes best from the man himself.

Herewith some of his utterances:

"No, I do not. And neither do the people in the armed forces. Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He'd better have a bodyguard."

-- Asked on CNN in 1994 if he thought President Clinton was "up to the job" of serving as commander-in-chief

"Let me adjust my hearing aid. It could not accommodate the decibels of the Senator from Massachusetts. I can't match him in decibels or Jezebels."

-- After Ted Kennedy made an impassioned speech to let foreigners with AIDS become U.S. citizens, 1993

"Your tax dollars are being used to pay for grade-school classes that teach our children that CANNIBALISM, WIFE-SWAPPING and the MURDER of infants and the elderly are acceptable behavior."

-- From a fund-raising mailer sent out by the Helms campaign in 1996

"All Latins are volatile people. Hence, I was not surprised at the volatile reaction."

-- After Mexicans protested his visit to their country in 1986

"It's their deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct" that is responsible for the disease.

-- Justifying his refusal to give financial support to families of AIDS victims

"The New York Times and Washington Post are both infested with homosexuals themselves." The Post, Helms charged, "caters to homosexual groups. Just about every person down there is homosexual or lesbian."

"Homosexuals are weak, morally sick wretches."

-- 1995 radio broadcast

"She's a damn lesbian. I am not going to put a lesbian in a position like that. If you want to call me a bigot, fine."

-- Explaining why he was opposing the appointment of a woman to a cabinet post

The "University of Negroes and Communists."

-- Reference to the university of North Carolina. devised by Helms when he worked as a campaign operative for Willis Smith's 1950 U.S. Senate campaign

"We have an obligation to give Chile equal treatment. The Chilean system is not much different from what we have here."

-- After meeting with Chile's Foreign Minister while Gen. Pinochet was still in power

"All I know is that D'Aubuisson is a free enterprise man and deeply religious."

-- responding to evidence that roberto d'aubuisson directed salvadoran death squads that murdered thousands of civilians

"This campaign against the American people — against traditional American culture and values — is systematic psychological warfare. It is orchestrated by a vast array of interests comprising not only the Eastern establishment but also the radical left. Among this group we find the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, the money center banks and multinational coporations, the media, the educational establishment, the entertainment industry, and the large tax-exempt foundations. Mr. President, a careful examination of what is happening behind the scenes reveals that all of these interests are working in concert with the masters of the Kremlin in order to create what some refer to as a New World Order."

-- U.S. Senate, Dec. 15, 1987

When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, about 2,000 Duke University students held a vigil on the quad for several days. Helms used his time on a local tv station to tell the students in the vigil they should ask their parents if it would be "all right for their son or daughter to marry a Negro." Unless the student's parents approved of that idea, they should go home. u

Compiled by Creative Loafing staff??