The great man is dead.
To lawyers, the leftâ??s defeat of Judge Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987 had the same impact as Romneyâ??s failed presidential bid this year. It seemed like America was crumbling and conservatives were helpless against the leftâ??s media war machine.
There were recriminations â?? Reagan should have nominated Bork before Antonin Scalia, when Republicans had the Senate! The Reagan White House should have responded to the scurrilous attacks on Borkâ??s character sooner!
But most of all, there was fear. If liberals could turn a widely admired legal scholar like Robert Bork into a villain, they could do it to anyone.
Many conservative lawyers who worked on the Bork nomination never recovered. They were so scarred by the leftâ??s ability to demonize Bork, they became useless to the country, afraid to disagree with liberals about anything for fear of having their own video rentals exposed.
(For young people reading this column, that actually happened, leading to the enactment of the Video Privacy Protection Act. And if youâ??re wondering what videos Bork rented, it was mostly classics, such as â??The Man Who Knew Too Much.â?ť)
But soon, other Americans realized they had been hoodwinked. The following year, Borkâ??s book, â??The Tempting of Americaâ?ť â?? a book about constitutional law â?? was on the New York Timesâ?? bestsellers list for 16 weeks.
Bork had become a sacrificial lamb, his crumbled nomination serving to alert America to the legal leftâ??s manipulation of the constitution in order to win court victories where they couldnâ??t possibly win at the ballot box.
Americans learned, for example, that when liberals told them Judge Bork believed there was no â??right to privacyâ?ť in the Constitution, what they meant was that â??Bork does not believe the Constitution provides a right to stick a fork in a babyâ??s head.â?ť
They learned that the constitution simply doesnâ??t say anything at all about the hot-button issues of the day â?? abortion, contraception, pornography, sodomy and so on. Those were supposed to be left to citizens voting in their own states, in a process known as â??democracy.â?ť Conservatives always assumed they had to win at the ballot box. Liberals figured out that if they could get zealots on the Supreme Court to invent â??constitutional rights,â?ť they could skip voting and win by judicial fiat every time.
Since liberals couldnâ??t just come out and say that they hated democracyâ??where they loseâ??and preferred brute political forceâ??where they could winâ??they accused Bork of being a closet slavery-supporter. Sen. Teddy Kennedy, who killed a girl at Chappaquiddick, uncorked his despicable â??Judge Borkâ??s Americaâ?ť speech on the Senate floor within an hour of Borkâ??s nomination, accusing Bork of hoping to bring back segregated lunch counters and consigning women to â??back-alley abortions.â?ť
Borkâ??s name became a verb, meaning to smear a person with ugly slanders for political gain. The sleeping giant of sensible Americans woke up, angry that they had been tricked into fearing Bork. Next time, theyâ??d fight back.
When Clarence Thomas was â??borkedâ?ť a few years later â?? accused of vile sexual harassment out of a Ku Klux Klan playbook â?? Americans exploded in rage. The truth won out and Thomas now goes by â??Justice Clarence Thomas.â?ť
Conservatives wouldnâ??t win all court fights, but at least they became aware they were in a war. Finally, there were two sides fighting. In this way, Borkâ??s defeat may have been more valuable to the country than his becoming a justice.
Rest in peace, Robert Heron Bork.