The Original Sin of ‘Borking’ Recalled

by Steven F. Hayward

The subject of partisan opposition to judicial nominations is back in the news this week, which sent me back to this complaint about the injustice done to Robert Bork back in 1987:

As Gene Meyer of the Federalist Society explained today, the Democrats who opposed Bork’s nomination “were completely ignoring what Bork testified to under oath,” instead relying on “a distorted interpretation of things he said years ago in his scholarship.” It was as if the sworn testimony had never even happened. Bork testified not once but twice before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he was unfailingly temperate, scholarly, and sober. Yet from the start Democrats depicted him as the Tim Riggins of the legal academy — all beer-soaked hair and bloody knuckles — and never varied that picture in the face of the evidence. The caricature of Bork as careless and reckless and “wacky” never dimmed, even while it never fit. A few lines plucked from a few articles, repeated on an infinite loop, obscured one of the most thoughtful and serious legal minds of a generation.

Actually, that was written by Dahlia Lithwick on today complaining about Republican “hypocrisy” over the Goodwin Liu nomination; I merely swapped out “Bork” for “Goodwin Liu,” and “Democrats” for “Republicans” (and one or two other small changes) in her copy. I think it’s less a lesson in hypocrisy than in “what goes around comes around.”

I propose a deal for Lithwick: Republicans agree to confirm Liu, if Democrats will confirm Miguel Estrada, Mike Luttig to the Supreme Court, and the other fully qualified Bush appointees they blocked during the last administration. Deal? I didn’t think so.

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