A Tough But Fair Postscript to the Career of Robert Bork
Naturally, condolences are to be extended to the man’s family and friends.
However, Jeffery Toobin (award-winning author on legal matters, including the SCOTUS) has written a concise summary of why so many found the idea of Bork on the highest court in the land so objectionable:
Bork was born in 1927 and came of age during the civil-rights movement, which he opposed. He was, in the nineteen-sixties, a libertarian of sorts; this worldview led him to conclude that poll taxes were constitutional and the Civil Rights Act of 1965 was not. (Specifically, he said that law was based on a ‘principle of unsurpassed ugliness.’) As a professor at Yale Law School, his specialty was antitrust law, which he also (by and large) opposed.
Richard Nixon appointed Bork the Solicitor General of the United States, and in that post Bork showed that he lacked moral courage as well as legal judgment. In 1973, Nixon directed Elliot Richardson, the Attorney General, to fire Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor. Richardson refused and resigned in protest, as did his deputy William Ruckelshaus. Bork, the third-ranking official in the Justice Department, had no such scruples and thus served as executioner in the Saturday Night Massacre, to his enduring shame.
One of his last books may have summed up his views best. Thanks in part to decisions of the Supreme Court—decisions that, for the most part, Bork abhorred—the United States became a more tolerant and inclusive place, with greater freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination than any society in history. Bork called the book, accurately, ‘A Country I Do Not Recognize.’
Read the whole thing here: newyorker.com
Toobin feels that Senator Kennedy was not “too harsh” in his characterization of Bork and his views in his famous (or infamous, depending on where you stand) speech. I would disagree a bit. The speech itself was more polemical than necessary, and the speaker was himself so flawed as to open the door to Bork’s supporters attacking the messenger and ignoring the message (as Rush Limbaugh did just today).
Having said that, I strongly believe that the 58 Senators who voted against Bork’s confirmation did this nation a great service.