Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee: The Constitution and the savage attack that made his name a verb.
Robert Bork passed away yesterday at the age of 85.
A more decent man it would be hard to find.
That was, of course, not what was being said about him when President Reagan nominated him for the Supreme Court in July of 1987.
Famously — make that infamously — then-Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy took to the Senate floor and bellowed this:
Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.
Were Robert Bork not a public figure the remark might have been slanderous.
It was slanderous, just not legally so.
At the time, I was a young member of Ronald Reagan’s political staff. And we, as with a good number of our colleagues spread out over the fiefdom that is a modern day White House, were charged with making the case for Judge Bork.
Erroneously, we assumed this would not be a difficult thing to do.
Here was a man who had been a Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Chicago law school. A United States Marine. A member of a prominent Chicago law firm and then a longtime professor of law at Yale Law School. Where his students included a young Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Jerry Brown, and Anita Hill, among others. From Yale he went on to be Solicitor General of the United States.
Let’s pause here.
To be Solicitor General of the United States — the U.S. government’s lawyer — is usually a prestigious but uncontroversial position. In any administration, if there is controversy at the Department of Justice that controversy usually swirls about the Attorney General of the moment.
It was Robert Bork’s misfortune — and the nation’s great good luck — that his tenure as Solicitor General came during the administration of Richard Nixon. Specifically, right in the middle of the Watergate scandal.
As the howling pack drew near, Nixon’s Attorney General Elliot Richardson appointed the liberal Kennedy friend and JFK Solicitor General Archibald Cox, himself then a Harvard law professor, as a Special Prosecutor to investigate Watergate. Cox began making the kind of demands of Nixon that were inevitably doomed to be resisted, specifically a demand for Nixon’s White House tapes. Nixon, of a Saturday night in October 1973, demanded Richardson fire Cox. Richardson refused — and quit. So too with the next in line at Justice, Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. With both the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General abruptly quitting, the Nixon directive fell to the number three official at Justice — Solicitor General Bork. It would serve no purpose for yet another resignation. Someone had to run the Justice Department — there was, after all, much on the DOJ plate beyond Watergate. Feeling obligated to follow a legal directive from the President of the United States — Acting Attorney General Bork fired Cox. Knowing full well he was summoning the whirlwind.
There was, of course, an uproar. But for the moment it seemed to pass by Bork. He was, self-evidently, a genuine legal scholar, not some sort of political hack with a law degree. It was Bork’s skillful legal work as Solicitor General that Richardson believed was responsible for convincing then-Vice President Agnew to resign with a plea bargain, rather than litigate corruption charges against him. In the day Agnew was a major political figure in his own right, and easing him out of the vice-presidency was hardly the act of a fevered Nixon-loyalist. A new Attorney General — Ohio Senator William Saxbe, a former state attorney general — was quickly appointed and confirmed. Bork stayed on, returning to Yale when Jimmy Carter took over the White House and appointed his own old friend as Attorney General. Eventually he made his way back to Washington in the prestigious law firm of Kirk and Ellis.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online