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Robert Bork



The Bork nomination, of course, marked a watershed moment in American politics — American conservatives whining that there’s no dirtier pool than accurately describing their ideas and their consequences, and getting the media to take this silly argument seriously decades later. The Bork nomination is also historically significant as one of the few times the United States Senate has served a useful purpose.

I’ll let the late Ted Kennedy deliver the eulogy:

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  • Glenn

    Have always found it something of a shame that his rejection by the Senate tends to overshadow his Saturday Night Massacre role in people’s memories.

    • Rarely Posts

      + 1.

      • firefall


        • Halloween Jack


    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      So much of the internal history of the Republican Party in the last quarter of the 20th century involved rewarding those who had been “good soldiers” during the Nixon years. Bork was a spectacular example of this phenomenon.

      • Joel

        Also, too, Iran-Contra.

    • Njorl

      I used to hold the SNM against Bork. I heard an interview with Ruckleshaus in which he said Bork was planning on resigning as well. Ruckleshaus and Richardson convinced Bork to stay. Also, Bork hired Leon Jaworski to continue the investigation.

      His odious judicial opinions are enough reason to dislike him.

      • Arouet

        Lack of moral fortitude in the face of people trying to convince you otherwise is not an excuse. I’ll continue to hold all of the above against him.

        • rea

          Lack of moral fortitude in the face of people trying to convince you otherwise is not an excuse

          The people who convinced him otherwise were the very people who had already resigned–the notion was that somebody had to stay on and run the Justice Department, and Bork was the highest ranking Justice Department official who had not given his word to Congress that he would not fire Cox. It would have been dishonerable to put lower ranking, non-political appointees in the Department in the position of having to chose between their jobs and obeying the president.

          • Murc

            What rea said.

            There are plenty of reasons to dislike Bork; his judicial philosophy was loathsome.

            But I just don’t know what he could have done better during the SNM. Does anyone?

            That’s not rhetorical. Seriously, what should he have done differently? The very guys who resigned rather than break the word they gave to Congress asked him to stay on in order that someone run the Justice Department under the aegis of a President who had clearly lost his shit. If Bork had resigned, Nixon would gone on a spree through the career ranks of civil servants.

            Bork was in an impossible position and made as good a call as he could.

            … I can’t believe I’m defending Robert Bork.

            • Glenn

              Well, I must say I’ve always been a bit dubious of this story. Whatever their position vis-a-vis Nixon, they were still Republicans who had every reason to try to whitewash Bork’s role. But even assuming it’s true, I’ve never quite understood why you just don’t refuse — and that’s not just Bork, it goes for Richardson and Ruckleshaus too. Make the SOB fire you or make him fire Cox himself. I really don’t buy the idea that the DOJ couldn’t survive without Bork at the helm.

              • Murc

                Nixon didn’t have the authority to fire Cox himself. He had the authority to order other people to do it but not to unilaterally shitcan him.

                (Yes, this is weird.)

                Also, you don’t refuse a lawful order from the President. You just don’t. You carry it out or you resign. And, while I’m not an expert on this, I’m relatively sure that Nixon’s orders during the SNM were all lawful ones. Douchebag ones, but lawful ones.

                • Johnny Sack

                  I thought that Nixon’s order was later found to be unlawful?

                • Njorl

                  Nixon also had a policy of requiring a letter of resignation from all of his high ranking people when he hired them. This gave him the option of accepting their resignation at any time.

              • Very dubious, in my case. Sounds like your typical after the fact made up BS by Republicans to cover Bork.

            • Plus, it’s not like there’s an even plausible argument that Nixon’s decision to have Cox fired was going to help him survive the scandal, rather than embolden and disgust Congress even further.

  • It is amusing that “Borking” has become synonymous with the worst forms of smearing and character assassination when in reality it was accurately describing an individual’s professional views. Heaven forbid we look at a man’s publicly stated legal views when considering him for the highest court of law in the nation!

    Compare that with “Swift-Boating” which was just telling blatant lies about alleged character flaws that weren’t really that relevant to being with.

    • timb

      He opposed not just Roe, but also Griswold and Loving. What an asshat

    • Joseph Slater


  • i didn’t wish him dead, but i certainly could care less if he rests in peace: whatever his private virtues may have been, the man was an ass who defended the indefensible.

    • …and may his head now be piked. :-)

      • Karate Bearfighter


      • howard

        now why i didn’t i think of that! solidarity with erik at all times….

  • SP

    Silly Democrats, by opposing him they cost Obama a chance at another nomination.

    • JREinATL

      Sure, and maybe Obama’s nominee would be so awesome that could go back in time and keep Bork from voting with Rehnquist, White, Scalia, and Thomas to create a majority in Casey that overturned Roe v. Wade.

      And Van Damme could play him in the movie version: Time Justice.

  • Alan Tomlinson

    He will be missed,

    just not by me or any of my friends.

    I do wish his soul peace.


    Alan Tomlinson

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    In an apt tribute to the unsuccessful defense of Bork by conservatives, a (not conservative) friend of mine on Facebook has just been defriended by John Podhoretz for attributing to Bork two views that he very explicitly stated in Slouching Toward Gomorrah: that the Declaration of Independence was a mistake and that gun control laws cause things like Sandy Hook to happen. As you say, conservatives really cannot stand having their actual views openly discussed. If Bork (to his credit, I guess) was unusual, it was in the frequency with which he stated his actual views openly.

    • Halloween Jack

      Your friend should be proud of that.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        He most certainly is!

    • Mike F.

      I knew I recognized you from somewhere.
      I guess this means Jim and Loomis are bound together in the vanguard now.
      That is really gonna piss Jim off — I can’t wait to tell him!

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        LOL. (And, yes, it is Jim Livingston I was talking about.)

    • John (not McCain)

      Was that the book where he blamed the transistor radio for the downfall of society? Or was that claim just a wrong answer during his appearance on Who Wants to Be a Supreme Court Justice?

  • Joe Biden also addressed a great lecture to Bork.

    You know, in wingnuts’ minds, Biden is the buffoon.

  • Rarely Posts

    And now, of course, we can expect a wave of right-wing, feigned outrage for the “incivility” of Lemieux referring to his critical views of a conservative public figure right after the public figure’s death. I’m guessing this thread tires out by 200 comments though.

    I’m honestly impressed that you’re willing to take on that hate, immediately after the two-minute hate against Loomis for his expressing his dislike of a conservative public figure. Especially given that the two-minute hate against Loomis is so amazingly over the top (culminating in entirely false reports to both the police and his employer characterizing his criticism of the public figure as a “violent threat”).*

    It’s so tiresome dealing with the right-wing because they enjoy feigned outrage, lying, and ad hominem attacks. Their goals are to inflict pain and distort the public discourse so that we can’t have useful or honest conversations about things. And they don’t just do this to further political ends; they enjoy and take pleasure from doing this. Much like the Republican party platform, it’s difficult to get everyday people to even believe they do what they do because it is so beyond the pale. So people take their feigned outrage seriously, and most people don’t even know what happened at the Bork hearing (just like most people won’t believe that people claiming that Loomis violently threatened a person are basing that on his “head on a stick” comment). These people are so sick, it’s hard to handle it.

    These are among the reasons that I use a pseudonym online. It’s hard enough just to remain engaged in the political debate; I can’t handle the idea of being unable to “turn it off” in my private life.

    The upshot is that I really respect all of the LGM contributors for doing this difficult work. I often disagree with Loomis, Lemieux, Campos, etc., but I applaud you all for taking on this toxic discourse.

    * Personally, I’m enraged that people are claiming that wanting to see someone’s “head on a stick” is a threat, or even uncivil. The phrase is used incredibly as a part of our everyday language as simply a way to express displeasure with someone’s actions. It’s so flagrant and intentional lie on their part.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      These are among the reasons that I use a pseudonym online. It’s hard enough just to remain engaged in the political debate; I can’t handle the idea of being unable to “turn it off” in my private life.

      Over the years, I’ve de-pseudonymized myself on a lot of other websites, but I haven’t done so here, in part because a lot of wingnut stalker trolls seem to lurk around this blog.

      Like RP, I applaud the writers at LGM for being willing to take the heat!

      • sparks

        I’ve never de-pseudonymized myself on political blogs, knowing how groups like Scientology went after their “enemies”. It takes no leap to figure that anyone lunatic and vicious enough could do the same, and I’ve seen plenty of them on the right.

      • Scott Lemieux

        With the consequence that we weren’t able to contact you when we need a guest blogger! ;)

        • John Doe 1

          I am sparks!

          • John Doe 2

            I am sparks!

            • John Doe 3

              I am sparkticus!

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          Promises, promises…

        • rea

          I was once asked to guest blog at another, prominent lefty blog despite my pseudonym. I couldn’t figure out how to post anything, though–I wasn’t computer literate enough to pull off blogging . . .

      • Glenn

        That’s a pseudonym? How disappointing.

    • Randy

      It’s so tiresome dealing with the right-wing because they enjoy feigned outrage, lying, and ad hominem attacks.

      You’re right about that. It’s especially ironic in this context. The right-wing whining over the Bork nomination was triggered by a detailed examination of his published and publicly available views. His personal life and character were largely left alone.

    • BigHank53

      No, the outrage is real in a lot of cases. I’ll grant you it’s self-generated outrage; that’s the reason so many right-wing positions in the “culture war” are the losing ones. (See school prayer and nativity displays, for example–flatly unconstitutional.) They’re playing to lose, so they can feel outraged and sulky and sorry for themselves. Then they can “strike back” by stiffing the waitron or cheating on their taxes.

  • Won’t miss him. Glad he’s gone. Wish he’d gone many years earlier.

    He was a terrible American and a worse human being.

    • rea

      I was astonished to learn that he did of cardiac problems–didn’t think that was possible . . .

      • rea

        died, not did

  • Anonymous

    Remember, as an advocate for tort reform, he sued the Yale Club because of his own clumsiness.

    • Glenn

      Ha, had forgotten that one.

  • Lefty68

    I don’t normally speak ill of the recently deceased, but Bork was one of the most overpraised hacks in recent memory. The journalists who thought that he was a major intellectual powerhouse were duped by his eloquent writing style and self-perpetuating reputation as a scholar. The quality of conservative jurisprudence can only be improved by his death. (Not that it will be.)

    • Probably helped that he had a booming voice and looked like a bygone-era authoritarian, which of course he was.

      • The hipster beard was ahead of his time. His jurisprudence would have fit well on the Taney Court.

        • A “Hipster Robert Bork” tumblr would certainly indicate a society deadened by a smothering network of moral chaos.

  • creature

    One less asshole that was wasting oxygen. There’s plenty more that we (the collective ‘we’) don’t need, either. It’s one less Nixon scumbag running around, loose and unconvicted.

    Is that a ‘violent threat, impled or overt’?

  • mike in dc

    When Scalia dies, will originalism(as “understood” by “conservative jurisprudence”) die with him? I certainly hope so. It doesn’t seem like Roberts and Alito specifically embrace it. Just a bizarro line of argument to stick with, more than 200 years after the drafting of the original document by land-owning wealthy (mostly) WASP males.

    • RedSquareBear

      Just a bizarro line of argument to stick with, more than 200 years after the drafting of the original document by land-owning wealthy (mostly) WASP males.

      It’s only bizarre under the assumption you don’t want power re-concentrated in these hands.

      That the line comes from a papist of Mediterranean descent, however, is a pretty bizarre Historical happenstance.

      • RedSquareBear

        (To the extent this re-concentration of power hasn’t already happened and to the extent that de-concentration ever did happen, obviously)

  • Jason

    As a younger man, I’ll always remember him for suing the Yale club for $1,000,000 plus punitive damages after he fell before giving a speech. I can only assume the speech was about the need for tort reforms.

    • Reilly

      Cost of tripping on a dais; one million dollars.
      Hypocrisy; priceless.

  • 4jkb4ia

    The more I spend in blogtopia the more I think that the Bork nomination was a formative political event in my life. I was in high school and the issues at stake were so fundamental to what the United States was. This was clear only from Bork speaking for himself, not what any of the senators said about him. An obvious consequence is that I believe that with any nominee you have to be looking for a judicial philosophy and not only how they will vote on the two or three things you are most interested in. The nominees are now all coached to say that they will call balls and strikes to varying degrees.

    • Murc

      The nominees are now all coached to say that they will call balls and strikes to varying degrees.

      This may be unreasonable of me, but I actually get really angry when I see judges say this, under oath, in front of the Senate. If anyone in their courtrooms had tried to lie so transparently, they’d be charged with perjury, but it’s okay if you just REALLY want to be on the Supreme Court, apparently.

      Any judge who can’t articulate a well-formed judicial philosophy and explain how they view past important cases and how they’re likely to rule going forward is either a liar, a coward, or an idiot, possibly some mix of all three. In any case it should be regarded as an enormous black mark re: their qualifications to be a Supreme Court Justice.

      • This is actually the real criticism of Borking. Bork would have been an awful justice, but the legacy of his defeat is nominees just refuse to tell us anything and get confirmed. Bork’s mistake apparently wasn’t having extreme views, but being relatively honest about them.

  • MAJeff

    Good riddance.

  • If we don’t speak ill of the dead we’re liable to forget why their deaths were a good thing.

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