Advice for the new Congress from the original conservative insurgent

By Marc A. Thiessen
Tuesday, January 4, 2011;

This week, as conservative insurgents take their seats in Congress, I can't help but think that my old boss, the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), would be thrilled. Before there was a Tea Party there was the New Right, and Helms was its most successful leader. He turned his surprise election in 1972 into a three-decade run driving the Washington establishment crazy. Were Helms still alive, he would have some advice for the GOP class of 2010.

Helms understood that some ideas before the Senate are irredeemably flawed and need to be killed. But Helms also practiced "constructive obstruction" - such as the time he blocked the confirmation of all U.S. ambassadors until the Clinton administration agreed to negotiate on his State Department reform legislation. Eventually the administration got its ambassadors and Helms got the dismantlement of the U.S. Information Agency and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Learn to obstruct constructively.

Jesse Helms was the original conservative insurgent. Follow his example, and you will leave a lasting mark in Washington. You may even shut down a government agency or two.

Marc A. Thiessen served on Jesse Helms' s Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff from 1995-2001. A visiting fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, he is the author of the book "Courting Disaster" and writes a weekly column for The Post.

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