The family of Judge Robert Bork released news of his death this morning. Bork was an intellectual giant and would have arguably been one of the greatest Supreme Court Justices in American history. But like a promiseing military officer cut down in an early battle of a long war, Bork was never allowed to display his brilliance. It is widely thought that his intellect would have even over-shadowed the current reputation of Antonin Scalia who is often regarded as the conservative “heavy” on the court. One of the greatest travesties of the 20th century was the hatchet job that Teddy Kennedy did on the brilliant Bork. So vile was the attack, a new verb was coined to describe an unfair political assault on an individual – “borking”. (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.)
The unusually partisan battle over his nomination plagues nominees to this day as character assassination and political one-upmanship are now modus operendi — particularly for conservative nominees. Feminist Florence Kennedy used the term “borking” to describe what she was attempting to do when Clarence Thomas was nominated to the Court. Another legacy of this political assassination has been that anyone nominated to the Supreme Court from that day to this one, know better than to clearly state his/her opinions or philosophy during the confirmation hearings. Today’s nominees must be nearly stealth candidates who know how to hide their records and their opinions until they are sworn in.
Ronald Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy after Bork was voted down (he refused to withdraw his name even when he knew he would be defeated as a show of defiance to what was happening) rather than to choose another strong conservative. To this day, Kennedy is a squishy conservative at best, often playing the role of deciding vote on many cases.
Bork would later write a book in 2003 entitled, “Slouching Toward Gomorrah” which was prophetic tome that remains a must read for thinking conservatives in my opinion.
America is poorer today because he never served on the Supreme Court and sadly, while the immoral Kennedy was celebrated as a hero upon his death, few will genuinely reflect on what might have been now that Bork has passed.