THEY CAN CALL ME
IN THE ORNATE, chandeliered sanctum of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the first floor of the U.S. Capitol, Senator Jesse Helms was running the meeting.
Helms, a conservative Republican from North Carolina, is widely regarded in Washington as a know-nothing and an isolationist, but neither appellation is accurate. He maintains strongly held views that are often irreconcilable with those of colleagues such as Richard Lugar of Indiana who are interested in foreign affairs above all else, and he is a longtime critic of the United Nations, the institution where Madeleine Albright made her name. But Helms in his own way is quite engaged in international issues that affect the wellbeing of Americans, such as the rise of drug traffickers in Colombia and the uncompensated seizure of American property by the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
During Albright's entire tenure as secretary of state, Republicans have controlled both houses of Congress and chaired all committees. Helms presides over the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has jurisdiction over treaties; the appointments of undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, and ambassadors; and part of the State Department budget. If he wished, he could have made Albright's life miserable--but he did not wish to do so, as he signaled at her confirmation hearing. He regarded her as a refreshing antidote to chronic squeamishness in the White House.