Former North Carolina senator Jesse Helms, writing with the same passion that made him the Senate's leading archconservative for 30 years, renews his criticism of abortion in a memoir published this week, comparing it to both the Holocaust and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"I will never be silent about the death of those who cannot speak for themselves," Helms wrote in "Here's Where I Stand," which is scheduled for release Tuesday.
While in the Senate, Helms repeatedly introduced bills seeking to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. In the book, he defends his criticized comparisons of abortion and the Holocaust.
"I reject that criticism because this is indeed another kind of holocaust, by another name," he wrote. "At last count, more than 40 million unborn children have been deliberately, intentionally destroyed. What word adequately defines the scope of such slaughter?"
Throughout his career, Helms also spoke bluntly on sensitive issues including school prayer, government funding for the arts and welfare reform. Helms says he did so because that's what both he and his constituents wanted.
"The way to be successful in politics and remain true to your principles is to know the distinction between your principles and your preferences," Helms wrote.
The memoir chronicles the life of the 83-year-old politician, the son of a police chief in a small town where Democrats dominated local politics.
When he arrived in Washington in 1973, Helms wrote, "all of the conservatives on Capitol Hill could have comfortably toured the city in a minivan." When he left, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and conservatives were a driving force in Washington politics.
After his rise to chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Helms was a frequent critic of the State Department and of policies he said the Senate had essentially rubber-stamped in previous decades.
Helms devotes an entire chapter to his views on race relations, defending his record as a 1960s television commentator and senator who challenged most of the nation's civil rights legislation.
"I felt that the citizens of my community, my state and my region of the country were being battered by this new form of bigotry," he wrote. "I simply could not stay silent in the face of this assault -- and I didn't."
Helms rejected the notion that racist tendencies drove him to oppose the creation of a national Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in 1983, or to run a 1990 campaign ad tying his black opponent to affirmative action.
He wrote that he opposed the King holiday in part because the Senate rejected a Helms amendment that would have unsealed the FBI files of the civil rights leader. Helms contends that King's advisers included communist sympathizers.