Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 907

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 907


This is the grave of Robert Bork.

Unfortunately born in 1927 in Pittsburgh, Bork grew up wealthy. His father was an executive for U.S. Steel and so little Robert got all the good education. He went to elite prep schools and then on to the University of Chicago, a university that has never produced problematic graduates….He graduated in 1948 and then stayed on to go to law school there. He was in Korea for two years during the war, which meant he graduated and passed the bar in 1953. He doesn’t seem to have been involved in major actions while fighting. After he graduated, he went back to the military for one more year. Bork went into private practice in 1954 and then in 1962 was hired by Yale Law to teach there, which meant his students became the elites of the legal and political professions to the present, including Bill Clinton. He took such bold positions as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a terrible injustice to whites, though he used specious legal language to cover up what he really meant. Speaking of the word “specious,” that’s the exact word Bork used to dismiss Griswold v. Connecticut, a decision he of course also opposed. He at least claimed to support Brown v. Board, though I’ve always suspected he did not in fact actually support but rather when he was working it was too politically damaging to say it. He was of course the biggest friend the NRA ever had, opposing any and all gun control from the beginning of his career. In other words, hell of a nice guy here.

Bork became a well-known conservative hack, which meant that Richard Nixon came calling. Nixon named him solicitor general in 1973 to lead the government in cases at the Supreme Court. Now, the solicitor general is not a real attention-grabbing position, outside of the legal world. But Bork was also happy to do Nixon’s bidding and this, as you all know, is how he first came to national attention. When Nixon wanted to end the Watergate investigation and fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox, he needed someone to do it. But this was outrageous. So Eliot Richardson chose to resign as attorney general than do this. William Ruckleshaus then chose to resign as deputy attorney general than do this. But you think Robert Bork had any problem with it? Ha ha, of course not. He glad fired Cox. Bork later claimed that Nixon promised him a Supreme Court seat if he did this, but Nixon did not get a chance to name another justice.

After the Nixon years, Bork went back to teaching at Yale. He was a right-wing extremist who wanted to roll back the 20th century. He always felt that cases such as Lochner were properly ruled and that the more power corporations had, the better off the rest of us were. This is insane, but evidently made sense in his warped, twisted brain. In 1978, he wrote The Antitrust Paradox, arguing that corporate power helped consumers and that antitrust laws were bad. Already an influential legal thinker, despite the shallowness of his thought, Bork was one of the group of right-wing lawyers laying the groundwork in the 1970s for the New Gilded Age today. So of course this got the attention of Reagan and his hacks. Reagan named Bork to a position on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1982. There, he worked with his fellow ideological extremist Antonin Scalia in a number of cases that sought to limit personal freedom when it conflicted with hard-right ideology and expand it when it coincided with hard-right ideology.

So Bork became a favorite of both Reagan and the far-right. That meant he was on the fast track to the Supreme Court. Reagan thought about nominating him in 1986 when Warren Burger retired but that went to Scalia after Rehnquist got promoted to Chief Justice. But Bork got the next pick when Lewis Powell retired. Powell was horrible, but Bork was going to be even worse. He was so controversial a pick that Democrats just couldn’t allow it to go through. The resentment that Republicans have felt over this for over thirty years now is completely ridiculous. It also goes to show how Trumpism is hardly something new, but rather has been the animating feature of Republicans ever since 1987, even if it got worse over time. That someone so extreme was seen as the ideal candidate by Republicans goes to their deep immorality and hatred of democracy. In any case, Democrats did stand tall, as they should. People were really scared of what he would do. As he openly wanted to repeal the civil liberties cases of the last few decades, the ACLU took the almost unprecedented step of announcing its opposition. Ted Kennedy took the lead:

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 could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy … 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 the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice.

That’s a powerful statement. Bork said it was a pack of lies. But it was not a pack of lies. It was a statement of Bork’s vision of America. Originalism, other than being complete bullshit and just an excuse for hypocrisy, was and is also a vision for a reactionary America based around whatever social and cultural conservatives want to pretend the nation used to be like, even if it has no connection to reality. The vote really wasn’t that close. Not only did nearly all Democrats vote no (Boren and Hollings voted yes), but several Republicans voted no (Packwood, Chafee, Specter, Stafford, Warner, and Weicker). In fact, it was partly for this vote that William F. Buckley chose to support a right-wing candidate to take out Weicker and thus launched Joe Lieberman into the Senate. In any case, a shocked Reagan White House chose Anthony Kennedy instead. Incidentally, Joe Biden played a big role in torpedoing Bork’s nomination too and good for him on that.

Bork was hardly through with his public life when he was denied his Supreme Court seat. Instead, he left the DC Circuit and became the biggest right-wing hack possible. He took a job at, of course, the George Mason School of Law. I don’t know how much teaching he was doing at this point, as I assume he was mostly a feather in the hat of the Koch Brothers and other rich extremists who fund George Mason. I do know that he spent much of time doing interviews, lecturing, and writing. His writing remained horrible screeds in favor of an America where I would not want to live. In his 1996 book Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, Bork made howler after howler about how liberals were destroying America. For example, on women:

Once such things as the right to vote and the right of wives to hold property in their own names had been won, the difference in the opportunities open to women has been largely due to technology. I am old enough to remember my grandmother washing work clothes on a scrub board, mashing potatoes by hand, and emptying the water tray from the bottom of the ice box. There was simply no possibility that she could have had both a family and a career. Were she young today, she would find that shopping, food preparation, laundering and much else have been made dramatically easier so that she could, if she wished, become a lawyer or a doctor or virtually anything that appealed to her.

As one might suspect from their hostility to men, marriage, and family, radical feminists are very much in favor of lesbianism. This involves more than the demand that lesbianism be accepted by society as just another “lifestyle.” They want not only lawful lesbian marriages but “reproductive rights” for lesbians. That means the right to bear children through artificial insemination and the right to adopt one’s lesbian partner’s child. Since sperm is sold freely in the United States, much more freely than in other nations, there are lesbian couples raising children. It takes little imagination to know how the children will be indoctrinated.

LESBIANS RAISING CHILDREN HOLY SHIT HOW HAS THIS NATION SURVIVED SINCE 1996!!! WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN! Also, those kids were now listening to the EVIL RAP MUSIC because of “the authority figures of mothers and female teachers and the domineering whining feminists.” This is the man Republicans were horrified didn’t get on the Supreme Court! And it’s not like his writing got less extreme over time. It made Antonin Scalia’s later positions that he just took from right-wing talk radio seem moderate by comparison.

Despite all of Bork’s bullshit about the government staying out of corporate regulation, of course Bob went all in with lobbying himself, especially for Netscape (and who can forget that legendary company!) to say that Microsoft was a trust limiting competition! This utter hypocrisy outraged everyone, including Bork himself who was outraged at the outrage. After all, who could ask him to be consistent since all his positions were just positions of convenience anyway. By the 90s, Bork really wasn’t practicing in any meaningful way. He was just a guy you paid a bunch of money to so you could put his name on your documents. Nice grift if you can get it. Oh, he also worked really hard on Leona Helmsley’s case to make sure she stayed out of prison. He hung out with all the best people.

Anyway, Bork finally died in 2012, at the age of 85, a rich and powerful and bitter old reactionary. Good riddance.

Robert Bork is buried in Fairfax Memorial Park, Fairfax, Virginia. Not only is this the same cemetery as Scalia, but it’s the same small section of the cemetery as Scalia. And when I visited, were there people there to pay their respects to their heroes? Oh you know there were! They assumed I was there for the same reasons, being a middle aged white guy and all. But…I had different purposes.

If you would like this series to visit other people involved with Watergate and its investigations, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Eliot Richardson is in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Howard Baker is in Huntsville, Tennessee. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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