The Corner

Apology, Please

Peggy Noonan’s weekend column calling for maturity on the part of Republicans in the Sotomayor debate contains her usual good sense, but the naïveté struck me (my emphasis added):

A few—very few—agitate to go at Judge Sotomayor as the Democrats went after Robert Bork in 1987. The abuse suffered by that good man is a still suppurating wound within the GOP, but it is also a wound for the Democrats, the worst kind, a self-inflicted one. They damaged our national political culture and lowered their own standing with their assault, and their victory left them looking not strong and uncompromising but mean and ferocious. And on some level they know it. Ask Ted Kennedy, if he had it to do over again, if he would repeat all his intemperate and unjust words about “Bob Bork’s America” and “back-alley abortions” and blacks turned away from lunch counters. He’d be a fool if he said yes. He damaged himself in that battle.

Well, he’s a fool, then. But here’s a way Senator Kennedy can surprise us and help drain the pus out of that suppurating wound, not to mention do some good for his immortal soul: Apologize publicly for his disgraceful treatment of Judge Bork. Not apologize for working to stop his confirmation, but for the lies he told to achieve that end. I don’t expect that, because Kennedy has shown himself throughout his life to be a man without honor — but no one is beyond redemption. Taking the floor of the Senate and sincerely asking Judge Bork for forgiveness would take away much of the sense of grievance that drives the “intemperate and unjust words” about Sotomayor, and strengthen the hand of Senator Sessions and others on our side arguing for a more respectful debate. With one short, heartfelt speech, Senator Kennedy can undo some of the damage he’s done to our politics, shame some of Sotomayor’s harsher critics, and unburden himself of a sin that, while he may well have confessed in private, can only be expiated in public.

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