Dean Chambers Defends Bork. Kind Of.

Dean Chambers, poll unskewer extraordinaire, has a trite and empty piece out on the death of Robert Bork and the battle over his Supreme Court nomination in 1987. It purports to be an analysis of the situation, but it lacks any actual content to it.

Within hours of the nomination of Bork by President Reagan, Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy set the tone of the confirmation battle with his drive-by-shooting-style speech in which he opined:

“Robert Bork’s America is 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, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.”

Okay. And are those statements wrong? No, they’re not. Bork was a fervent opponent of reproductive rights, which would, in fact, push women into the back alleys for abortions as they did before Roe v Wade. And Bork did, in fact, oppose almost all of the Supreme Court’s rulings that broke down the Jim Crow laws and ended state-sponsored racial discrimination in the South. And yes, Bork’s reading of the 4th Amendment was so narrow and pinched that it would have given the police far more power to surveil our lives without constitutional safeguards. And he did, in fact, argue that artistic or literary speech was not protected by the First Amendment, only explicitly political speech was protected. And he did, in fact, argue for the strictest standing doctrine, which would prevent citizens from challenging the government’s unconstitutional actions and shut the courthouse door to the average person. Nothing Kennedy said there was even exaggerated very much, to be honest. But Chambers apparently thinks that mere quoting of it proves it wrong.

After that rhetorical declaration of war on the Bork nomination, the dirt-digging researchers swung into action and soon we would learn more about Robert Bork’s past than we ever wanted to know. There could no doubt that so much dirt was uncovered that Bork himself would learn a few things he had never known about himself. The allegations were considered slanderous but Bork was advised not to dignify them and otherwise to ignore them.

The problem is that he doesn’t actually discuss any of that “dirt” on Bork, which was not personal but was very much relevant to his nomination. There were no tawdry personal allegations aimed at Bork, there were entirely valid criticisms of his total lack of ethics. The infamous Saturday Night Massacre, for example, showed Bork to be entirely devoid of anything remotely like a sense of right and wrong. He was a pawn for power, nothing more. When Nixon didn’t like the fact that the investigation was showing that he had flagrantly broken the law, he demanded that the person in charge be fired — and kept going until he found Bork, who was willing to do the firing when two other DOJ officials were not. That’s not some pointless smear, it’s a serious issue and it rightly brought him criticism.

Chambers never even mentions any substantive criticism of Bork in his article. He seems to take it as an article of faith that “the left, the Democratic Party and their willing accomplices in the media” did a hatchet job on Bork without ever even attempting to address the issues. This is pure political hackery, which is all Chambers is capable of.

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  • Michael Heath

    We need more honest outrage like Sen. Kennedy’s when people like Robert Bork are nominated.

    I was incredibly happy to watch Sen. Kennedy also go after John Roberts in one of his judicial nomination hearings. Roberts had defended the Reagan Administration in court on their attempts to suppress the rights of black voters. Kennedy’s relentless haranguing of Roberts in that Senate hearing led to Roberts finally conceding that our right to vote is “fundamental”.

    [Like Ed, I wish we didn’t parse rights like we see here with my referencing a so-called fundamental right. But as long as the court arbitrarily uses levels of judicial scrutiny rather always applying strict scrutiny, it’s prudent of us to note which rights are fundamental in the eyes of the court’s precedents. Which BTW, marriage also is.

  • xmnr

    Michael Heath, do you have a blog? If so, I would be an avid reader.

  • anandine

    I read recently that Rehnquist had asked Bork to do as he did with Cox, because otherwise the Nixonites could have done even worse crap to the Justice Department with nobody at all in charge. I can’t vouch for it, but it’s possible.

  • pacal

    Chambers is merely uttering a familar “conservative” meme. The one that claims that bork was the victim of vicious witchhunt, public “lynching” etc. Andrew Sullivan in his comments regarding Bork’s death also regurgitated the same meme. This meme is of long standing among “conservatives” and is the “politically correct” opinion to have. The fact that virtually all of the claims made against Bork were correct is of course ignored or by implication denied.

    It is fascinating to see how the present day presenters of this meme ignore what Bork did during the confirmation process. Basically Bork presented himself has far more moderate than he actually was. In other words he lied and did so repeatidly.

    Regarding Bork and the Saturday Night Massacre. It should be mentioned that supposidly Bork considered resigning but one of the guys who had in fact resigned told him he Bork should stay on.

  • John Hinkle

    Dean Chambers is building up a good track record.

  • slc1

    Re xmnr @ #2

    Many of us here have been haranguing MH for years to start his own blog. As best I can tell, his excuse for not doing so is that he’s too busy. I too would be a daily reader of a Michael Heath blog, although I suspect I would be given the heave ho if I attempted to comment there.

  • I think Dean is angling for Dick Morris’ job on Fox as the always wrong pundit.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    d.c.wilson @ # 7 – does Fox employ any other kind?