Thursday, July 10, 2008

A buncha dead people

Several prominent people died while I wasn't up to posting, so here's a run down on Tim Russert, Cyd Charisse, George Carlin, and Jesse Helms.

Jon Swift pretty much expressed my own opinion on Russert, "one of the most important people who ever lived on Earth, if not the most important person." His spot-on obituary is here.

Cyd Charisse was simply beautiful. This is from Singing in the Rain.

George Carlin was one of my all-time favorite comedians. His Take-Offs and Put-Ons was the first comedy album I ever bought. And in 10th grade, when I had to write a "compare and contrast" essay, I plagiarized his "Baseball vs. Football" bit. (Shhh, don't tell Ms. Owens.) I got an A.

Finally, Jesse Helms. I just don't get why so many conservatives spoke of this man as some sort of icon when he died. As far as I can tell, he remained an unrepentant racist, homophobe, and xenophobe until the end of his all too long political career, a caricature of every negative stereotype of the American rightwing.

That's not just some sort of wild-eyed lefty view. Here's David Broder in 2001, when Helms retired (h/t: Ezra Klein):

What is unique about Helms -- and from my viewpoint, unforgivable -- is his willingness to pick at the scab of the great wound of American history, the legacy of slavery and segregation, and to inflame racial resentment against African Americans.

Many of the accounts of Helms's retirement linked him with another prospective retiree, Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. ...But there is a great difference between them. Thurmond, who holds the record for the longest anti-civil rights filibuster, accepted change. For three decades he has treated African Americans and black institutions as respectfully as he treats all his other constituents.

To the best of my knowledge, Helms has never done what the late George Wallace did well before his death -- recant and apologize for his use of racial issues. And that use was blatant.

And Ross Douthat:
[Helms] simply was an awful bigot, and worse he was an awful bigot who never expressed a shred of remorse, so far as I know, for his toxic approach to issues ranging from civil rights to HIV to foreign affairs. Far from being the sort of politicians who conservatives ought to defend, out of a sense of issue-by-issue solidarity, he's the sort of politician conservatives ought to carefully distance themselves from, because his political style brought (and continues to bring) intellectual disrepute to almost every cause with which he was associated.

And in his own words and deeds. I don't get why conservatives aren't ashamed to be associated with him.

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