Spitting on the Dead
Jeffrey Rosen is a liberal in good standing. He is the legal affairs editor of The New Republic. He posted a piece on the passing of Robert Bork. Rosen was a summer intern on Joe Biden’s staff that summer. (May I say that some of the colloquies between the uber dense Biden and the uber brilliant Bork during the confirmation hearings make for some amusing viewing.) Although Rosen opposed the confirmation of Bork, he regrets the manner in which his nomination was defeated:
But even from the sidelines, as I celebrated Bork’s defeat, I remember feeling that the nominee was being treated unfairly. Senator Edward Kennedy set the tone with a demagogic attack. “Robert Bork’s America,” he said, “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, and schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of Americans.”
Bork’s record was distorted beyond recognition, and his name was transformed from a noun into a verb. The Borking of Bork was the beginning of the polarization of the confirmation process that has turned our courts into partisan war zones, resulting in more ideologically divided opinions and less intellectually adventurous nominees on the left and the right. It led to the rise of right-wing and left-wing judicial interest groups, established for the sole purpose of enforcing ideological purity and discouraging nominees who have shown any hint of intellectual creativity or risk-taking. And it had obvious costs for Bork.
Go here to read the rest. The reaction of most of the TNR readers commenting on the post is unsurprising but depressing nonetheless:
To paraphrase Bette Davis…
You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good.
Robert Bork is dead. Good.
basman, I regret nothing.
No matter how “friendly and convivial” Bork was in private, his public views were beyond the pale, and his influence has been disastrous for the country.
I refuse to mouth false pieties on the death of a man I despise.
The death of anyone is certainly a time for quietude and reflection. Bork was a totemic figure for conservative law scholars and the conservative legal movement. Still, why should Bork’s passing obscure the fact that blocking his elevation to the SC was best for the country, certainly for women and for those of us who wish for a sensibly moderate to liberal SC approach to jurisprudence. The Democrats and particularly Senator Kennedy fought a much needed battle and yes, it was messy – and it did change the confirmation process – but this was a small price to pay for the alternative: Robert Bork on the SC for the past 25 years. America is a better place without A Robert Bork SC era and though it is certainly respectful to pay tribute to a man who was undeniably accomplished in his field, why should we pretend that nixing his SC nomination was, in retrospect, wrong? It was absolutely the correct thing to do with his nomination. I am eternally grateful to Ted Kennedy and the 58 senators who voted against his elevation to The Court and his death does not alter that assessment in the slightest.
To be fair there were better comments and some took the commenters gleeful over the death of Bork to task, but the consensus was that it was a good thing that Bork’s confirmation was defeated and that such a good end justified the disreputable means use to accomplish it. Most conservatives think that liberals are wrong and wish to convert them. Most liberals think that conservatives are evil and wish to defeat them by any means necessary.