Helms was one of the last true conservatives in the Senate. Helms put anti-communism before ”democraticization” stood up for Southern Heritage, opposed bureaucratic "civil rights" agenda, and the cult of Martin Luther King. This makes him an easy target for liberals to smear, but most grassroots conservatives and the old guard of the “movement” see Helms as a hero. This puts the Beltway Right in a bit of dilemma.
Mindful of this fact, and that some of the editors are old enough to remember Helms in his prime, National Review penned a relatively kindobituary.
To be sure he’s not seen as a Helms supporter, Jonah Goldberg made two posts where he separated himself and the conservative movement from Helms. Goldberg makes clear that the only reason NR didn’t condemn Helms in the obituary was that ”we chose kindness over a more honest accounting” in death.
He insists that he was”never a huge fan of Helms.” He goes on,” Was he always a racist? I don't know. But my guess is, yeah. He was certainly insensitive, and I don't just mean politically incorrect. Calling all black people “fred” strikes me as more than one bridge too far.”
Rather than defend Helms from the Left, he tries to defend the Conservative movement and the GOP from any association with Helms. The extent of his defense of Helms is that he received “ praise he received from so many decent and un-racist conservatives” who deserve credit for ”constraining” him.
National Review’s editorial defends Helms’ famous ”hands“ ad which attacked racial preferences as discriminatory against whites. However they had to qualify, "Given his past, Helms may not have been the best advocate for a message of colorblind equal opportunity. . ."
Ramesh Ponnuru adds, ”I think the ad was defensible, and the argument it makes correct. But it's too bad that the person making it was a former segregationist.”
I can’t remember the last time a Republican had the guts to challenge a black Democrat on affirmative action—much less take it on as an anti-white policy rather than ”violating the vision of Martin Luther King” or enforcing ”the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
This election cycle, the heroic Ward Connerly is currently trying to get his Civil Rights Initiatives on state ballots. Will John McCain jump on the issue? Given that he tried to sabotage Connerly’s efforts in the past, I find this doubtful.
For some reason, I’ve yet to see Ponnuru or Goldberg criticize McCain for his support of race preferences. (To their credit, some atNational Review have criticized McCain on this front, before he got the nomination.)
Here’s a suggestion for Goldberg and Ponnuru: spend your time attacking pro-preference Republicans and cowardly ”conservatives” instead of bemoaning how dead conservatives heroes who had the courage to fight for their convictions had too much ”baggage” to fight for what you claim to believe in.