I’m not sure any staffer at CSTB can really get behind a full-on “Jesse Helms RIP” headline, but the 86-year old former Senator from North Carolina died early this morning, offering another reason for freedom-loving Americans who don’t necessarily think it’s cool to build a career on appeals to bigotry and an irrational unwillingness to compromise to blow off a couple of roman candles/fingers tonight.

My friend Dan, who once interned for Sen. Paul Wellstone in DC, once wound up getting buttonholed by Helms on the weird secret Congressional subway that connects the Capitol Building and the Congressional Office Buildings. He expected Helms to be some sort of evil Rumplestiltskin-with-an-accent type, and instead found the Senator — maybe not surprisingly — courtly, pleasant, extremely charming and full of all kinds of did-you-know arcana about the Congressional subway and Congress in general. Of course, Dan wasn’t running for re-election against Mr. Helms, isn’t a homosexual or a Democratic judicial nominee or a minority. So, you know, of course.

Anyway, goodbye to one of the last true sons of bitches in American public life.