Toobin got it mostly right:
Postscript: Robert Bork, 1927-2012
Jeffrey Toobin / News Desk
Robert Bork, who died Wednesday, was an unrepentant reactionary who was on the wrong side of every major legal controversy of the twentieth century. The fifty-eight senators who voted against Bork for confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1987 honored themselves, and the Constitution. In the subsequent quarter-century, Bork devoted himself to proving that his critics were right about him all along….
No disrespect intended, to be sure, but just as certainly, no particular respect for the passing of Robert Bork’s pity-party, and the puerile partisan posturing of his sycophants and would-be admirers. Just listen to them bray:
Robert H. Bork, 1927-2012
Roger Kimball / Roger’s Rules [Pajamas media]
Judge Robert H. Bork, one of the the greatest jurists this country has ever produced, died early this morning from heart complications in a Virginia hospital near his home. He was 84. — Bork was a national celebrity. Several years ago …
Oh sheerest GARBAGE! Bork was an extremely disgusting jurist who found himself on the wrong side of history, made a cottage industry for a quarter century out of his “martyrdom” and has a term ascribed to him that supposedly means one thing but which ACTUALLY means quite another.
What is there to admire about Robert Bork?
Not much, actually.
In March 2002, the Oxford English Dictionary added an entry for the verb Bork as U.S. political slang, with this definition: “To defame or vilify (a person) systematically, esp. in the mass media, usually with the aim of preventing his or her appointment to public office; to obstruct or thwart (a person) in this way.”
And, like his ‘legacy’ it is fitting and proper that this outright lie is a grotesque reversal of the actual situation.
Here’s the Washington (Moonie) Times, in a spin worthy of Tokyo Rose [no link]:
America has lost one of its greatest legal thinkers. Robert H. Bork, a jurist, a teacher and a father, passed away Wednesday morning, but his ideas will live on. Judge Bork is best known as the federal judge liberals most feared to see elevated to the Supreme Court …
And Kimball continues his “rightie victimhood” screed, with the old “I’m rubber, you’re glue” argument so beloved of our “brave” conservatives:
The vicious campaign waged against Judge Bork set a new low—possibly never exceeded—in the exhibition of unbridled leftist venom, indeed hate. Reporters combed through the Borks [sic] trash hoping to find compromising tidbits; they inspected his movie rentals, and were disgusted to find the films of John Wayne liberally represented. So hysterical was the campaign against Judge Bork that a new transitive verb entered our political vocabulary: “To Bork,” scruple at nothing in order to discredit and defeat a political figure…
Bork was an influential law professor (and crank) at Yale Law school in the early ‘Sixties.
In 1965, he tortuously logicked out that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was unconstitutional and that poll taxes were fine. He (along with fellow radical William Rehnquist) convinced Barry Goldwater to vote AGAINST the bill, a vote Barry later called “the biggest mistake” of his political career, and Goldwater didn’t mean that as a purely political calculation; he meant that he felt it was wrong, and was disgusted with himself for buying the semi-Randian shysters’ sophistries.
But it sure as hell didn’t help him in the election that fall, either.
Then, Bork came out against Griswold v. Connecticut, because he didn’t feel that the Constitution granted any special privacy or rights to married couples and felt that the state had a right to prohibit them from purchasing contraception. Griswold v. Connecticut is one of the landmark cases of the 20th Century, just as important as Roth v. Ginsberg, Brown v. Board of Education, Texas v. Lawrence or Roe v. Wade. Little Bobby Bork was on the wrong side of each and every one.
Then, when Rehnquist left the Solicitor General’s office for the Supreme Court, under Nixon (Rehnquist promptly failed to recuse himself from a case he’d argued before the high court, and voted FOR his case, which won 5-4 and set the tone for Wild Bill’s tenure), Bork was moved into the position.
He promptly found himself involved in the “Saturday Night Massacre,” when Nixon demanded that Attorney General Eliot Richardson fire Special Watergate Prosecutor Archibald Cox, and dissolve the office, Richardson resigned, rather than carry out an unconscionable (and, as it turns out, criminal) act, followed by his deputy William Ruckelshaus, who was fired when HE refused, leaving Robert Bork in charge of the Attorney General’s office and with an ethical and legal quandary.
Bork promptly fired Cox.
In 1981 he would be appointed to a federal judgeship by Reagan–specifically to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., the “fast track” court for future Supreme Court Appointees–most recently John Roberts, who is now Chief Justice–because the First Circuit deals with a wide variety of federal and jurisdictional cases not seen in the other Circuit Appeals courts.
And infamously wrote the decided a case in which female employees at a chemical plant were given the choice between being sterilized or being fired in favor of the company, since, as Bork noted in his Supreme Court hearings, “They HAD a choice.”
Yeah: Sophie’s Choice.
Among other masterpieces of judicial imprudence.
But Bork’s true weirdness was in promoting or inventing or both the questionable spiritist séance notion of “Original Intent,” in which the “Founders” or “Framers” of the Constitution should be channeled into the Twentieth Century to see what they intended about telecommunications, transit (like, say, railroads), intellectual property and other inventions of which the founders had no notion of. This notion has overtaken a certain wing of the judiciary, including Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and other devotees.
Which brings us to Bork’s fame.
Ronald Reagan decided to try and shove Robert Bork down the throats of a Democratic Senate, who knew full well Bork’s questionable past.
Toobin recounts (ibid.):
Much of the questioning focussed [sic] on Bork’s long-held belief that the Constitution does not include a right to privacy. As one of the creators of the “originalist” school of constitutional interpretation, Bork asserted that since the framers did not use the word “privacy,” that value was not reflected in our founding document.
And he was rejected by the largest margin ever recorded in Senate history.
Thence was born the mythology of Robert Bork, Martyr for Justice.
He promptly resigned from the Federal Bench and spent the rest of his LIFE claiming he’d been ROBBED by them AWFUL Democrats, who strangely weren’t keen on appointing a Justice just about guaranteed to … well, to do what Scalia and Roberts and Thomas and Alito and O’Connor and Rehnquist and Kennedy have done.
To embrace a bizarro world judicial ideology that has produced such monstrousities as Bush v. Gore and Citizens United. Oh, and the guns case that essentially wiped out handgun laws all over the USA, including Washington D.C. (T’would be a sad irony if a family member of one of those Alter Boys of the Supreme Court were gunned down on the streets of the District, knowing that THEY made it possible.)
Bork turned his martyrdom into a cottage industry, and, from 1987 to 2012, he made himself the Gray Eminance of Republican judicial philosophy, author of an endless number of pity-party whining novels about how bad American Law was without his looney tunes point of view.
Looney tunes? Isn’t that a bit harsh?
Sure: it’s “mainstream” in a lot of circles now, except it’s the same gullible rubes who suddenly find global warming science a “hoax” and evolution controversial.
But, as far as Western Liberal Thought is concerned, Bork was a troglodyte. A strange Cotton Mather of the Law, thundering his crazy pronouncements to a grateful and gullible audience of GOPs, a living martyr to political keerecktness.
And Robert Bork made out like a bandit. He spent the rest of his life as a sort of Sex Symbol to the D.A.R. An Ahab-bearded Jeremiah, inveighing against the sinfulness and wickedness of modern secular society. A few years before his death, as I’ve reported here, he made a sudden high-profile conversion to Catholicism, like several other political players, in what seems a sort of political/religious quid pro quo between Rome and U.S. Republican policy: others include Newt Gingrich, Clarence Thomas, and others. All suddenly became conspicuous at Red Masses, as, again, I’ve reported on at length.
I found Bork books at my parents’ house. I found them in friends’ libraries. A cousin of mine recently cited the Authority of Bork in making some argument against abortion or gun control or something or other.
I’ve read a few of his books, and, frankly — sue me, Konservative Skolarz — they are claptrap. Bork has the ‘creationist’ ability to instantly know his judgment and then, with wonderful sophistry, logick his way to that foreordained conclusion.
And he was CONVINCING. He convinced Barry Goldwater to make the single worst mistake Barry ever felt he made: VOTING AGAINST THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT! Barry got it. Bork never did.
Make no mistake, Bork WAS a sophist, and is very convincing in his lunacy. But he has been precisely backwards to the direction of American society, less a harbinger of Twenty First Century radical “Conservatism” than a throwback to Antebellum Nineteenth Century “king of the hill/sky’s the limit” politics.
One of the more political jurists we’ve ever seen, Bork had a vaudevillian’s instinct for remaining relevant in Republican circles. He managed to make himself the Centerfold of the GOP’s Neverplayboy magazine over and over again. He stayed out of the mainstream media, but was ubiquitous in the alternate Universe media of the talk radio and Fox Snooze crowd. He was the living embodiment of the “bias” of the “liberal media,” the Bork Who Was Borked.
And the Right has made sure that Supreme Court nominations ever since have been a Roman Gladiatorial Event, ostensibly to “get even” for Borking Bork, as the GOP veers ever closer to the organization model of the Cosa Nostra.
Most recently, he was Mitt Romney’s legal advisor, and one shudders to think of Bork in the West Wing, vetting judicial and US attorney nominees and appointments.
And his “cause” was taken up by a self-pitying generation of thugs, bullies and con artists, or, as we call them today, Republicans.
I do not know what Bork’s last words upon dying were. “Rosebud,” probably.
But I do know what his first thought after his death was:
“I didn’t know St. Peter had horns and a tail …”
Rest and stay there, Robert Bork. The world is a better place without you in it.
If you’d like to see how Bork’s thinking has completely screwed up the American economy, take a look at this interview on his (deleterious) effect on antitrust law.