Family Research Council

Both Jesses Were Right

By Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison Senior Fellow, Family Empowerment


Ken Blackwell is Senior Fellow, Family Empowerment, and Bob Morrison is Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at Family Research Council. This article appeared in American Thinker on February 14, 2014.


Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke to a bank of microphones outside the White House. He had just come from conferring with President Jimmy Carter. He had been invited to join domestic policy specialists and civil rights leaders in a meeting. Mr. Carter was thrashing about, like a fish on the deck, trying to work his way out of his mid-season slump. It's the one that reporters called his malaise.

Jesse was appropriately appreciative of the opportunity to meet with the President of the United States. He thanked Jimmy Carter for consulting him on housing, employment, education, and civil rights. But Jesse could not resist noting that he was never consulted about U.S.-Soviet relations. Just once, he said, he'd like to be asked his ideas on the most important issue of the day.

We take Jesse's point. There is a tendency to relegate some of us to the back of the bus when it comes to discussing the Big Questions, like U.S. foreign policy, like matters of war and peace.

In all candor, we confess we doubt Jesse Jackson's advice to the feckless Mr. Carter would have been beneficial, especially on matters of U.S.-Soviet relations. On the other hand, Jimmy Carter's record was so weak that even Jesse Jackson's input might have helped.

Then there was the other Jesse -- Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). Sen. Helms was a formidable figure for three decades in the Senate. He had overcome his own notorious background as a segregationist to win five terms in the Senate.

Upon assuming the chairmanship of the prestigious Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Helms sought to soothe some doves' ruffled feathers at the U.S. State Department. "Ah'm not against the State Department," Jesse drawled. And then, with a malicious grin, he said: "Ah just wish they'd open up an American desk there."

That Jesse Helms could get elected at all in North Carolina is something of a miracle. North Carolina is not all that Southern, not all that conservative. Sen. Helms realized he had some serious disabilities going into each of his Senate races.

But he was a shrewd political candidate. He was able to leave his segregationist past behind him by making sure that he emphasized and did not run away from powerful social issues. Like the right to life. Like the defense of marriage. And like, of course, religious freedom.

Because he never strayed on these vital issues, Sen. Helms was able to rack up a double-digit level of support among black North Carolinians. He achieved this even running against a black liberal opponent in 1990.

Sen. Helms made sure that U.S. State Department careerists knew that his priorities included opposing the UN and International Planned Barrenhood (Parenthood) drives to push abortion worldwide. Especially, Sen. Helms was concerned about forced abortion in China.

A lot of what we have seen in recent years with our State Department leading the way in pushing abortion and in overturning marriage throughout the world can be attributed to the simple fact we no longer have a pro-life, pro-marriage champion like Jesse Helms as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Even when Bill and Hillary were riding high, they knew they would have to contend with a strong and determined opponent on Capitol Hill if they tried to push their radical plans around the world.

Sen. Helms had seen how the newly-installed President Bill Clinton sent to every U.S. embassy in the world what pro-lifers call "the red cable." This was an order from the White House to our ambassadors overseas to press their host governments to legalize abortion-on-demand.

With public reaction building against their radicalism, First Lady Hillary Clinton told Newsweek magazine in 1994 that abortion was "wrong." Nonetheless, she continued to press this wrong thing throughout the world during her time in the White House, her eight-year Senate tenure, and her stint as U.S. Secretary of State.

We need to follow the Rev. Jesse Jackson's plea -- to include domestic policy specialists in the highest levels of foreign policy-making. And we need to heed Sen. Jesse Helms' ideas that U.S. foreign policy should be a reflection of our founding principles.

"The care and protection of human life -- and not their destruction -- is the first and only legitimate object of good government." This statement was true of the U.S. when Thomas Jefferson wrote it as our third president. But it is also true now when it represents the ideals of this nation to the world.

President Kennedy knew that the people who live "in the huts and villages of half the world" had aspirations for freedom and dignity, too. That's why he said "the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God." The first of these rights is the right to life.

Third World peoples will not see the U.S. government as their friend if elite foreign policy makers here conspire to destroy the lives of their unborn children. Congress should make sure the State Department opens an American desk.