Review by Booklist Review
For most of 30 years, 1973-2003, Helms was the most reviled and despised U.S. senator, though about 53 percent of North Carolina's electorate reliably backed him. Helms says the latter fact is more important, but it is hardly surprising that in his relaxed, folksy memoirs, which resemble oral history, he seems quite concerned about the former one. He could hardly be racist, he says, because his beloved police- and fire-chief father taught him never to use the \lquote N' word and to assess another person by what's in the head and what's in the heart, not by color; moreover, he points out his early public praise of the youthful accomplishments of Harvey Gantt, who became his black Democratic opponent in 1990 and 1996. The good working relations he cites with women in the Senate and the State Department, and his encouragement of women running for office, confirm that he is no misogynist. Nor is he an isolationist or myopic nationalist; rather, foreign relations were top priority for him, from his appointment to the Foreign Relations Committee as a freshman senator to the chairmanship of that body during his last years in the Senate. So, far from opposing the UN, he says that if it didn't exist, the U.S. should do whatever it took to help create it. Finally, that he isn't cranky and uncooperative the many tales of his good relations with ideological opposites in the Senate attest. He was and is unapologetically conservative, however, and he wishes that liberals would fight him with fact-based counterargument rather than emotional outbursts and misrepresentation. In the end, Helms seems a decent, old-fashioned, patriotic nationalist and a charming self-defender. --Ray Olson Copyright 2005 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
The five-term North Carolina senator and conservative icon describes his humble beginnings, his political principles, his rise to power and his friends among the powerful in this confident, if rarely surprising, memoir. Helms covers his small-town childhood, when "dad served as both chief of police and chief of the fire department"; his early days as a newspaperman, wartime navy recruiter and radio host; his brief time in 1950s Washington as a staffer for conservative senator Willis Smith; and his stint as a TV commentator in North Carolina during the 1960s, which made possible his first winning Senate campaign. The remainder of the book (about three-quarters of it) often defends Helms's unbending principles, his crusades against abortion and for school prayer, and his attempts to "derail the freight train of liberalism." Helms also sketches profiles of each president under whom he has served, saving special praise for Ronald Reagan, who "made clear where he stood," and for George W. Bush. Helms's controversial stance on race relations and his notorious "white hands" advertisement (from his 1990 reelection campaign) receive unapologetic defenses: "I have always counted many blacks among my friends," the senator says. He also explains his late-career conversion to the crusade against AIDS in Africa and his "genuine friendship" with the late liberal Paul Wellstone. Helms concludes as he began, denouncing abortion and affirming his strong faith in "the Christian religion" and "the Miracle of America," in terms that should delight religious conservatives, as well as anyone curious about the longevity, and the integrity, of a political survivor. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Helms, the conservative Republican senator from North Carolina for three decades, offers reminiscences of his small-town childhood, schooling, career in journalism, and life in politics, with portraits of Presidents from Nixon to the present Bush. He is neither introspective nor reflective, and little of the famous "Senator No" irascibility that made him despised by the Left is evident in this rather bland volume. Readers looking for a detailed autobiography will be disappointed, for the material is neither fleshed out nor fully organized and toward the end becomes a series of disconnected position papers on such topics as arts funding, Foggy Bottom, the press, Taiwan, etc. To give readers a clearer sense of his actual style, Helms would have done better to offer verbatim transcripts of his Senate speeches, but evidently he is trying for a warmer, fuzzier approach here. Friend and foe alike will agree that Helms has not wavered in his beliefs, but the former will find all of this familiar and the latter just might be surprised at how cordial he is, even toward opponents such as Bill Clinton. Recommended for libraries with large political collections.-Michael O. Eshleman, Kings Mills, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Who is America's greatest enemy? Not bin Laden, not Hussein--no, the bad guys, suggests right-wing doyen Helms, are the liberal media and anyone of a liberal bent. Helms--once a sportswriter and TV executive before departing for politics' greener pastures--has nothing but scorn for the press, which coddles the nation's foes and otherwise impedes the spread of Republican values. Thus, "When it became apparent that [Panamanian president Manuel] Noriega was deeply involved in drug smuggling, gun running, and money laundering, even many in the liberal media concluded that he had to go." And thus, "Even though the liberal media tried to belittle [George W. Bush's] accomplishments, his record as Governor stood up to the scrutiny of critics." And so forth. Just as bad are the liberals in the Senate, who, Helms recalls, opposed him at every turn: the dupes who gave away the Panama Canal; the unholy triumvirate of Carol Moseley Braun (an African-American who opposed Helms's defense of the Confederate flag), Teddy Kennedy ("Without his opposition, we conservatives very likely would not have done so well in the past thirty years" and John Kerry ("a bit arrogant and overbearing," even though, Helms recalls, he sided with Kerry in calling for the Iran-Contra hearings). The digging at the presumed liberal elite aside, Helms's memoir is mostly a what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation affair, a forced essay punctuated by all the usual stump-speech platitudes about how we owe God thanks for "letting us live in America" and how the "terrorists" in Iraq "believed we were soft and not willing to stand up to their cowardly attacks." There is almost nothing in Helms's pages of the hard work of doing politics in the Senate, with all the compromises and back-door deals that entails, and entirely too much of Helms's celebratory but insubstantial reminiscences of friendships with the likes of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and the sitting president. Self-serving, as a politician's memoir will be--and almost perfectly unrevealing. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.