Elizabeth Dole has a passion for irony, apparently. The North Carolina Senator proposed an amendment to rename a tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV funding bill for Jesse Helms.
Yes, she thought it was appropriate to name a bill aimed at fighting AIDS after the guy who said, "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy" and that people get HIV due to "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct." (JMG has a further rundown of Jesse Helms's statements on HIV/AIDS.)
Joe says this is pretty much saying "fuck you" to people who have died of AIDS. This is a continuation of the GOP strategy of telling us that up is down and revising history to make conservatives look like heroes and heroes look conservative. I do have to give some kudos to Dole for being on top of repainting Jesse Helms as something other than the horrible human being we knew him to be - it took Republicans several decades to start to turn MLK into a libertarian and they didn't start beatifying Ronald Reagan until a few years after he left office.
And Dole couldn't really be more obvious. Jesse Helms did eventually, after being persuaded by Bono, support funding to fight HIV/AIDS abroad. But not in the US:
Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) said his comments regarding being ashamed about his inaction on the AIDS epidemic didn't mean he altered his views on homosexuality or his belief that government spending on AIDS research is excessive compared to spending on other illnesses. "I don't have any idea on changing my views on that kind of activity, which is the primary cause of the doubling and redoubling of AIDS cases in the United States," Helms said. During a Christian conference in Washington last month, Helms said he had been "too lax too long in doing something really significant about AIDS." But on Tuesday, Helms said those comments were focused on the epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and didn't apply to domestic AIDS issues involving homosexuals.
Considering that the bill in question is to fight HIV/AIDS abroad and not in the US, Dole is probably going to say that she's on firm ground here, that Helms would have supported this funding to fight diseases because he was a Christian, blah blah blah.
Personally, I find it far more offensive that Jesse Helms considered himself the final arbiter on who's part of the sick that we should pity and who's not, who got sick because it was their fault and who accidentally got the disease, who deserves to die and who deserves to live. And it doesn't make him a friend of the cause - he's just pushing his own agenda, not actually supporting the fight against AIDS.
Naming an HIV funding bill after Helms is just an insult to everyone's intelligence who knows a thing or two about this character. But the repetition of his name in direct association with funding to fight the disease will just create an impression that he was a wonderful statesman, that for all those elitist gays and libruls criticized him, he was a true blue Christian leader trying to fight a disease and save children's lives. Ultimately the only things that benefit are the Religious Right and Republican brands.
This needs to be stopped. So will a certain Illinois Senator oppose this?