Robert Bork, R.I.P.
Robert Bork has passed away. His book Slouching Towards Gomorrah was very influential for me and helped put me on the road from a reluctant libertarian to conservatism.
Slouching Towards Gomorrah was indeed a worthwhile book. And I’d say that it was more than conservative. With its cogent critique of “radical individualism,” it had strong elements of traditionalist conservatism.
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The battle over Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in Fall 1987 was a landmark event in modern American history. Using a Sony Walkman at a law office where I was then working as a temp (ironically, it was the radical leftist law firm in Greenwich Village headed by Leonard Boudin, father of the Weather Underground terrorist Kathy Boudin), I listened, enthralled, to Bork’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. With his comprehensive understanding of the Constitution and ability to state it so clearly, which set him off from the mental sparrows who usually were nominated to the Supreme Court before and after him (think O’Connor, Kennedy, Souter), I felt I was listening to a mind with the same scope as Hamilton’s or Madison’s.
The lynching of Bork by the Democrats, led by the beyond-egregious Edward Kennedy, has frequently been identified as the beginning of the politics of personal destruction. Listening to Kennedy’s shockingly vile smearing of Bork at the hearings ended the last tiny bit of vestigial affection I had had for him. After that, I regarded him as simply a thug, and never veered from that view.
I remember saying, in astonishment and indignation, to one of the attorneys: “Kennedy is a thug.” I don’t remember how he replied.
Paul K. writes:
You speak of “The lynching of Bork by the Democrats, led by the beyond-egregious Edward Kennedy … “
Let us not forget the vile performance of the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Joe Biden, described here. Professor Stephen Calabresi of Northwestern University Law School writes:
“He very much planned the hearings, organized them, orchestrated them and caused them to take the form that they did. I think it is fair to say that he was the Grand Inquisitor in the Inquisition. He was the person, really, orchestrating the whole show.”
That’s the legacy of pompous, fatuous Joe Biden, whom the media so often describe as “likeable.”
Biden allowed unprecedented hostile questioning of Bork to take place—and scheduled a large number of “very hostile witnesses,” Calabresi said.
“(Biden) dragged out the hearings substantially” he added. “There was a lot of time before the hearings to allow outside left-wing groups to gin-up a political campaign against Judge Bork. In general, he treated the Bork hearings more as if they were about electing a Supreme Court justice, than about deciding to ‘advise and consent’ about a presidential nomination.”
The Bork hearings became a negative “landmark,” the law professor charged.
“We went from having a process where the Senate gave its advice and consent to nominations, to one where the hearings became kind of a mini-national election, and depending on the full results after the hearing, the Senate would either ratify the nominee or nor. I think that’s a very unfortunate change in our constitutional structure—and one that has discouraged many talented people from wanting to serve in the judiciary today.
Here is a tribute to Bork by the Federalist Society in 2011.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 20, 2012 03:41 PM | Send