Tuesday, July 14, 2009

'Robert Bork's America'

Here's Senator Edward Kennedy's speech on the Senate floor, June 23, 1987, in opposition to President Ronald Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork to the United States Supreme Court, "Robert Bork's America":

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.

America is a better and freer nation than Robert Bork thinks. Yet in the current delicate balance of the Supreme Court, his rigid ideology will tip the scales of justice against the kind of country America is and ought to be.

The damage that President Reagan will do through this nomination, if it is not rejected by the Senate, could live on far beyond the end of his presidential term. President Reagan is still our President. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate, and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and on the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice.
If you've never read it, see Jonah Goldberg's now-classic article, "Ted Kennedy’s America: The Borking of American Politics" (from October 2007):

If you think American politics have gotten nastier, crueler, and more symbolic over the last 20 years, blame Ted Kennedy

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the borking of Judge Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan’s failed Supreme Court nominee. And it was Ted Kennedy’s bilious bugle blast that brought the man down ...

By today’s standards, the slimy insinuations that Bork was a racist seem almost quaint. The investigations of his private life — Senate staffers pored over his video rental records in hope of finding something prurient — pale to the deepwater dredging of private lives today.

But that’s how precedents work. Small violations of principle tear the social fabric and the breach is pulled ever wider as more people march through the opening ...
Bork's spoke out recently in an interview at Newsweek, "The View From 1987":

President Obama has spoken of empathy as his key standard for choosing judicial nominees. What do you think of that approach?

I don't know exactly what empathy means. I suppose at a minimum it means you want a judge who will depart from the meaning of the constitution when a sympathetic case arises. It does seem to raise a warning that we're talking about a judge who does not follow the law.

And I take it that you don't approve?

You are quite correct.

What are your thoughts about Judge Sotomayor's nomination?

I think it was a bad mistake. Her comments about the wise Latina suggest identity-group jurisprudence. She also has a reputation for bullying counsel. And her record is not particularly distinguished. Far from it. And it is unusual to nominate somebody who states flatly that she was the beneficiary of affirmative action. But I can't believe she will be any worse than some recent white male appointees ...

Related, on the Sonia Sotomayor hearings:

* Chris Cillizza, "
Winners and Losers, Sotomayor Day 1."

* Collin Levy, "Sotomayor and International Law."

* Byron York, "
Will Republicans Eexpose the Two Sotomayors?"

* Investor's Business Daily, "Sonia's Senators."

* Washington Post, "President Obama's High Court Pick Deserves the Deference that Sen. Obama Failed to Show."

* Washington Post, "
Sotomayor Faces Questions on Day Two of Hearings."

More at

Video: Fox News, "
Former Supreme Court Nominee on Judge Sotomayor's Confirmation Hearings."


PrivatePigg said...

Let's not forget Clarence Thomas' thrashing, partially lead by none-other than our current Veep, Joe "Plugs" Biden.

Name one Democratic nominee that was treated with the disdain of Bork, Thomas, Roberts, or Alito? None. Democrats made politics nasty. You can see it when they shout Scalia down, or attack ROTC. And I'm sure we'll hear the "right does it too" mantra, but, in fact, it is very rare, and certainly an isolated incident, as opposed to the left's vitriol, which starts from the top - i.e. Supreme Court nomination hearings, etc.

AmPowerBlog said...

I'll work on something from Thomas, Private.

Thanks for the suggestion!

smitty1e said...

Your Godlberg link no worky-worky, but, by the power of Google.