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William Murchison | Lessons From the Bork Debacle





It’s always best, I find, not to talk too rapturously about Ye Olde Days: days which, on careful inspection, yield evidence of problems aplenty. I won’t assert, therefore, that no public figure ever received in earlier times a public evisceration comparable to that inflicted on the late Robert Bork, presidential nominee in 1987 to a seat on the U. S. Supreme Court.

I will make just two claims: 1) The political-journalistic assault on Judge Bork was indecent, slanderous, and hysterical — a disgrace to ethics and standards all across the board; and 2) it ought to have warned us what a mess our national life was becoming.

Americans under 35 or so won’t remember the scandal of the Bork hearings: the slimy attacks on a distinguished jurist, the distortions of his record, and most of all, the out-and-out lies spun by public figures unwilling to admit they knew better.

Largest of the liars — I don’t mean merely in pounds and ounces — was Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who, one hour after the nomination was announced, characterized "Robert Bork’s America" as "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, school children could not be taught about evolution …" — blah, blah, blah.

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