Mom and Dad went to the beach and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” This saying captures a bad joke that is played on kids. But when you’re chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and end up with a lousy T-shirt, it shouldn’t be a laughing matter. In the ease of Jesse Helms of North Carolina, his T-shirt says, “Somebody at the State Department loves me,” with the word “loves” in a red heart.

This story is not made up. Helms did wear such a T-shirt at a Softball game featuring staffers from his office and the office of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The T-shirt symbolizes an embarrassing “courtship” during which we have seen photographs of Helms and Albright smiling and holding hands. In practical terms, this arrangement means that the United Nations has been given a new lease on life, at the expense of American taxpayers.

Many Americans do not realize just how close the U.N. is to fulfilling the goal set by its first acting Secretary General, communist spy Alger Hiss, of becoming a full-fledged world state. Thanks to a federal financial bailout engineered by Senator Helms, the U.N. is poised to expand its international campaign for population control, global environmentalism, managed trade, and military hegemony. Now operating criminal tribunals in Bosnia and Rwanda, the U.N. is also laying the groundwork for an International Criminal Court which could kidnap Americans off the streets, imprison them in foreign jails, and prosecute them before judges from China, Libya, and Iraq. In such proceedings, defendants would have no right to a jury trial and no right to face their accusers—rights guaranteed to Americans under the U.S. Constitution. With a criminal court in place, the U.N. would only need the power of taxation to have all the essential elements of a world government. The current budget of over $10 billion a year could quickly rise to tens of billions, even trillions, with a global tax in place.

The most powerful political figure standing in the way of world government has been Senator Jesse Helms, whom many Americans were counting on to save our rights and sovereignty. Ironically, however. Helms may now go down in history as the senator who saved the world organization from self-destruction, enabling the U.N. to gain valuable time in which to consolidate and expand its power.

Some are already trying to put the best possible spin on the catastrophe. Writing in the Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes insisted that Helms had outsmarted Albright and the establishment by getting the Senate to agree to a package of tough “reforms” for the world body. Helms had supposedly been clever and shrewd.

In fact, Helms and Albright made a deal to pay a phony “debt” to the world body under the cover of phony “reform.” There is nothing in this deal to be proud of Instead, it represents total capitulation to the notion that our future as a nation rests in a world managed by unelected international bureaucrats and global elites. It provides them money that they don’t deserve and that we don’t owe.

The details surrounding the story demonstrate how a long-time hero of conservatives can be compromised to serve the interests of the foreign policy establishment. Barnes himself alluded to the switch, noting that Henry Kissinger, once an archenemy of Helms, had campaigned for him in 1996. But Barnes tried to insist that Helms had secured support without changing his political position.

Unfortunately, many of Senator Helms’s constituents and associates have told me that the senator has changed. Age may be a factor, but explanations vary. Some say it’s because he doesn’t want to go down in history as an obstructionist. Others say that he made a deal with the Clinton White House because he didn’t want his Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be cut out of the process of managing foreign affairs legislation.

In any event, Helms has a new staff, some of whom are arrogant, inaccessible, and suspiciously “moderate.” This is not to say that Helms has suddenly become a liberal. After all, he fought the chemical weapons treaty and the nomination of William Weld as ambassador to Mexico. He can be expected to battle the proposed International Criminal Court. But on the issue of the U.N.’s immediate and long-term survival, “Senator No” became “Senator Yes.”

The explanation for this turnaround may lie, in part, in his controversial personal relationship with Albright, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. His dealings with Albright have been one of the most talked-about and disturbing topics of the year. For whatever reason, both Helms and Albright decided they should work together, especially on the U.N. problem. This alliance came in handy for Albright because of revelations that she misrepresented her family history, including her Jewish past. Writing in The Forward, a Jewish paper, E.V. Kontorovich said Albright lied about her Jewish background because “she preferred it not to be true.” Although her Jewish background did not become widely known until after her confirmation as Secretary of State, many in Washington knew about her deception.

But because Albright is a woman, and because Helms accepted her dubious “anticommunist” credentials, this controversy was ignored and she was confirmed to the post, becoming the first female U.S. Secretary of State. She promptly announced that she would push for ratification of the feminist Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a U.N. treaty which would mandate government regulation of the economy in the name of women’s rights. However, Albright’s main mission has been to save the U.N. from financial ruin. In this crusade. Helms has been her willing partner.

The timing was critical: for the first time in its history, the U.N. stood on the brink of financial bankruptcy in 1996. Waste, fraud, and abuse had reached Soviet proportions. The Clinton White House had decided to make Secretary- General Boutios Boutios-Ghali into the scapegoat, calling for his ouster. Helms had written an article in Foreign Affairs, the house journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, threatening to lead a campaign for America’s withdrawal from the world body unless major changes were made. Helms had also condemned U.N. attempts to build a world army and impose global taxes. “As it currently operates,” Helms argued, “the United Nations does not deserve continued American support.”

These were tough words. But they were not matched by tough action. Boutios-Ghali was evicted but replaced by another veteran U.N. bureaucrat, Kofi Annan of Ghana. Annan’s record was even more despicable. Annan was the U.N. director of peacekeeping who helped mastermind and supervise the U.N.’s 1993 Somalia mission that killed 18 American soldiers and left 84 wounded. Annan also presided over the Bosnia fiasco, which resulted in NATO taking over for the U.N.

Miraculously, however, Annan became U.N. Secretary-General and was hailed as a “proven reformer” by President Clinton. Helms seemed to buy it, even though Annan had hired the notorious Maurice Strong as his special assistant on reform. Strong, another veteran U.N. bureaucrat, was a public advocate of global taxes whose idea was to consolidate U.N. operations and thereby make them stronger in the long run.

Eventually, two reform plans were offered —one by Annan and one by Helms. The Annan plan, reflecting Strong’s influence, was designed, in the words of Senator Rod Grams of Minnesota, to reshuffle the cards in a deck that remained as big as ever. Even the Washington Post called the plan “unremarkable.” Both plans required the U.N. to cut 1,000 positions—a far cry from Helms’ original call for a 50 percent cut in the 50,000-strong U.N. bureaucracy —and it turned out the positions were already vacant. The Helms plan also included calls for reductions in the “dues” the U.S. pays to the U.N.

To understand how far Helms moved on the issue, consider what the Post declared when the senator announced his plan: “If you measure the Jesse Helms U.N. reform package against what he originally sought—a 50 percent cut in the bureaucracy, a 75 percent cut in the Secretariat’s budget, a virtual gutting of the organization’s missions in the name of repelling its supposed profligate invasions of its member states’ sovereignty—then you will perhaps be relieved at the changes that he and the Senate Democrats and the Clinton administration have now agreed to.”

To be sure, Helms had some provisions that seemed pleasing to conservatives. His plan purported to prohibit global taxes by requiring a certificate that such schemes are not being officially promoted by the U.N. bureaucracy. But guess whom the certificate is supposed to come from? Secretary Albright. However, it was under Albright as U.N. Ambassador that the world body moved aggressively to implement these schemes. The leading cheerleader was James Gustave Speth, the Clinton-appointed administrator of the U.N. Development Program.

Assuming that Albright could be trusted to “certify” that the U.N. is not up to no good, the Helms reform plan had an exception in the area of global taxes for global “fees,” a dangerous loophole. The Clinton administration is expected to support a variation of a global tax or fee this December when it signs a U.N. treaty to prevent “global warming.”

The Helms reform plan also purported to prohibit the U.N. from establishing a world army under its control. However, NATO has since emerged as the de facto military arm of the world organization, operating in the former Yugoslavia under U.N. authorization. This is consistent with the use of “regional organizations” under the U.N. Charter to serve U.N. interests. In addition, a group of European countries and Canada is creating a 4,000-strong “Multinational U.N. Stand-By Forces High Readiness Brigade,” for use by the world body. Since this is an initiative of nations, rather than the U.N., it is acceptable under the Helms legislation.

In exchange for these phony reforms. the U.N. gets $819 million of U.S. taxpayer money over a three-year period. This is most of the $1.3 billion the U.N. claims is owed by the U.S. This figure, a subject of much controversy, is derived from U.N. calculations about what the nations of the world are obligated to pay the U.N. for general and peacekeeping expenses. The U.N. bureaucracy has decided that the United States should pay 25 percent of the general costs and 31 percent of peacekeeping. But Congress has withheld some payments as a protest against U.N. mismanagement, and other payments were withheld because of the belief that the United States was being overcharged.

It’s here that Helms abandoned not only the truth but the national interest, because he knew in his heart and mind that we owed nothing to the world organization. On February 15, while defending payment of this “debt” to the U.N. during an appearance on the Evans & Novak program on CNN, Helms said his recollection was that “about two billion dollars worth of expenditures” had been made by the United States “to support activities of the United Nations that nobody has even thought about reimbursing the American people for.” Helms was part of this group, for he had clearly not demanded reimbursement.

The Washington Times took a similar position, admitting in an editorial that the money wasn’t owed but saying that the payment would provide an “incentive” for U.N. reform. To put it charitably, it appears that Helms was misled by his staff, who failed to inform him about a critical General Accounting Office (GAO) report that put the “debt” issue into the proper context and provided extraordinary details about our true financial relationship with the U.N.

Bob Dole, as majority leader of the U.S. Senate, had requested this report. He realized soon after Clinton took office that funds were being diverted from various federal agencies, especially the Pentagon, to support the U.N. He asked the GAO to investigate, resulting in the publication in March 1996 of a report which showed that, during fiscal years 1992-95, the United States had spent $6.6 billion in support of U.N.-authorized operations in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Somalia, and Haiti. Of this figure, however, only $1.8 billion was counted against American “dues” to the U.N. Of the remaining $4.8 billion, the U.N. reimbursed the United States only $79 million.

The Jesse Helms that we used to know would have demanded our money back. He would have taken a principled pro-taxpayer and pro-sovereignty position, even if the world was united against him. Instead, Representative Roscoe Bartlett, a Maryland Republican, played this role, introducing a bill in the House with the appropriate title of “The United Nations Erroneous Debt Act.” More than 60 members cosponsored his bill, including House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas. Bartlett also vowed to introduce amendments to various appropriations bills to cancel payment of this “debt.” One of these amendments received 165 votes last September.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, the $1.3 billion “debt” to the U.N., Bartlett subtracted it from the roughly $4.8 billion owed to the United States and concluded that the world body was in arrears to American taxpayers by about $3.5 billion. For its part, the Clinton administration and Madeleine Albright claimed these expenditures were all “voluntary” and that the U.N. could not be expected to credit or reimburse us. They asserted that federal agencies could be looted to support the U.N. and that Congress had no alternative except to pay the bills. The Bartlett legislation was an attempt to reassert the congressional power of the purse. Senator Helms should have championed this cause from the start.

Where would the U.N. get $3.5 billion? Annan said that paying back this money could bankrupt the U.N. and force the organization to sell its New York City headquarters. In fact, the U.N. has a $15 billion pension fund that it could tap into in order to balance its books. Not surprisingly, this is said to be the best-managed program at the U.N. And thanks to Senator Helms, it will continue to grow.