Well, crazy Jesse is at it again. But this time he's gone too far. Or so they would have you believe.
After the 73-year-old senator's most recent critique of President Clinton, everyone seems to agree that the Forrest Gump of the Senate should heed some authentic Gump advice: "Nobody ever got into trouble by keeping' his mouth shut."
Political pundits have patronizingly ridiculed him. Politicians, including fellow Republicans, have publicly criticized him. The New York Times even called for Republicans to reject Helm's bid to chair the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
So what was Jesse's crime against humanity? A few words. Pointed words. Honest words. words that stung only because they smacked so painfully of the truth.
The recent furor began on November 18 when Senator Helms responded to the question of whether he thought President Clinton was "up to the job" of Commander in Chief. Helms simply said, "No 1 do not. And neither do the people in the armed forces."
Was this some rare heresy, the product of a deranged mind?
After all, didn't one William Jefferson Clinton flagrantly dodge the draft back in the Sixties? During the Vietnam War didn't Clinton organize protests against has own country while on scholarship at Oxford?
Even the most ardent Democrat must admit that open disrespect for the United States armed forces represents a dubious qualification to become the Commander in chief of those armed forces.
Of course, Clinton has since expressed his appreciation for the important work of military personnel. But what else can a career politician are expected to say? And how should we interpret Clinton's sincerity, as he simultaneously shrinks the size of the military?
And are we supposed to think it preposterous that most American soldiers feel strong contempt for Slick Willie? Take a look at the smirks that inevitably appear on soldiers' faces upon introduction to their "Commander in Chief" during contrived photo-ops.
The following week, as everyone knows, Helms let something else slip to a North Carolina newspaper: "Mr. Clinton had better watch out if he comes down here. He better have a bodyguard."
to suggest that President Clinton would not be completely safe at an American military base is some- what troubling. Even though most members of the armed forces despise Clinton, we would hope that their trained obedience would preclude any dangerous incidents.
Of course, only a couple of months, ago, a lunatic crashed his Cessna into the White House. And a few weeks later some idiot fired a couple dozen rounds into the West Wing. While Clinton was upstairs watching television.
Yet, after the Washington establishment weighed down on poor Jesse, the old Senator finally recanted by admitting a "mistake." He stopped just short of formally apologizing for his "offhand remark."
Still, more skeptical observers must wonder what the mistake was. Was it a mistake to state the obvious-- that Clinton lacks the respect of most members of the United States military? Was it a mistake to suggest that Clinton is not safe in parts of his own country--given this lack of respect and two recent assassination attempts?
Or was it just a mistake to state the obvious. Was it a mistake to state the painful truth that the supposed leader of the free world is no leader at all?
While Helms is being excoriated for his recent remarks, perhaps we should recall another Gumpism: "Honesty is the best policy unless you are a crook."
Brad Edward White's column appears on alternate Wednesdays.