- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2005

“He was my favorite senator,” syndicated columnist Robert Novak said Tuesday night at a reception attended by several hundred leading conservatives. “I love him. He made the liberals squeal.”

The event was a salute to 83-year-old former Sen. Jesse Helms, and guests came to honor both the man and his newly published memoir, “Here’s Where I Stand.” Sighted at the dinner at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Arlington were various stars of the right, including former United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly and the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Moral Majority founder and president of Liberty University.

“I consider Sen. Helms a national treasure,” Mr. Falwell said, his Southern pulpit voice booming over the cocktail chatter.

“I have great respect for Jesse Helms,” added Sen. Elizabeth Dole, looking chic in a red tattersall dinner suit. “I can still remember my dad saying he was a ‘relentless watchdog for North Carolina’ and a ‘watchdog for America.’” The young 49 — and handsome junior senator from North Carolina, —Richard Burr, also took the podium to praise Mr. Helms as the man who made the election of President Reagan possible.

Mr. Helms retired in 2003, and it was clear that his presence in Washington is sorely missed. He did not speak at the event. (His wife, Dorothy “Dot” Helms, recently told a North Carolina newspaper that her husband who has been treated for prostate cancer and had open heart surgery in 2002 — has some “memory problems and is no longer giving interviews or speaking publicly.”

—There were plenty of others to speak in his place. American Conservative Union President David A. Keene recalled Mr. Helms’ compassion and kindness. National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre presented him with a replica of a Civil War-era .44-caliber Remington revolver.

“I seek forgiveness,” said American Spectator Editor R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. “I used to make fun of Jesse Helms from time to time. I took potshots at him. But I’m here to say, ‘Jesse, every little discourtesy was unwarranted.’” Later, Mr. Tyrrell said that after reading Mr. Helms’ memoir, he gained new respect for the former legislator and his many battles.

“Taking the sum total of his life, he was a very great senator and leader of the conservative movement.”

Afterward, many in the audience noted that former Helms aide Claude Allen, now President Bush’s chief domestic policy adviser, was the only speaker who had uttered Mr. Bush’s name — in introducing a video of the president praising Mr. Helms’ lifetime achievements.

The evening was underwritten by $25,000 donations from South Carolina businessman Roger Milliken and Jim and Deborah Hock. Proceeds benefited the Jesse Helms Center, a think tank in Monroe, N.C.

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