A profile in politics

    Score another victory for partisan politics, the ultimate power in the game of government.  Republican William Weld has given up the battle to be the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, after resigning the governorship of Massachusetts earlier this summer to fight for the job.
    His withdrawal resulted from the implacable animosity of Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina.  But it was an animosity that needn't have been allowed to carry the day.  Helms, possibly the greatest embarrassment the U.S. Senate has known since the days of Mississippi's Theodore Bilbo, has been around so long that he rose to the important chairmanship of the Committee on Foreign Relations.  He opposes Weld, he says, because Weld favors medicinal use of marijuana and needle exchanges to reduce transmittal of blood-borne diseases.  Both are sensible positions, but to Helms they mean Weld is "soft on drugs."  Hence Helms refused to allow confirmation hearings before his committee.
    As presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said in July, "The Constitution does not grant to one individual senator the right to stand in the way of the prerogative of a president to name foreign emissaries...."  Right, but the excercise of a constitutional right can sometimes demand fortitude.
    The Foreign Relations Committee could have voted on the Weld nomination without Helms' sanction.  But the committee wasn't about to risk offending its powerful chairman.  And, while the committee has a 10-8 Republican majority, to a number of GOP members, Weld isn't "their kind" of Republican; he tends to moderation.
    Why, then, didn't the full Senate take the nomination out of the hands of the committee?  Same political makeup; same answer.

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Jesse Helms
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William Weld

Tuesday, September 16, 1997, Page 8A

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Related article "Embarrassment to the GOP"
by U.S. Representative Jim Leach (1st Dist. Iowa)