C. Everett Koop and Robert Bork were two prominent conservatives in the 1980s. And both had interesting beards.
That’s about all they had in common.
Robert Bork says President Richard Nixon promised him the next Supreme Court vacancy after Bork complied with Nixon’s order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973.
Bork’s recollection of his role in the Saturday Night Massacre that culminated in Cox’s firing is at the center of his slim memoir, Saving Justice, that is being published posthumously by Encounter Books. Bork died in December at age 85.
Bork writes that he didn’t know if Nixon actually, though mistakenly, believed he still had the political clout to get someone confirmed to the Supreme Court or was just trying to secure Bork’s continued loyalty as his administration crumbled in the Watergate scandal.
… Nixon ordered Richardson to fire Cox over the prosecutor’s subpoena of White House tapes. Richardson resigned rather than carry out the order. The next in line, William Ruckelshaus, refused to fire Cox and was himself fired.
At TPM, a former student recounts Archibald Cox’s recollection of the Saturday Night Massacre:
C. Everett Koop, on the other hand, who died last week at the age of 96, is well-remembered even by those with whom he most disagreed because he was more interested in doing his job and serving the public than in political power games.
I got a call from Attorney General Richardson saying, “Professor, the president wants me to fire you.” So I said, “Well, Elliott, you do what you think is right.” And so Richardson resigned rather than fire me. Then I got a call from Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus, who became attorney general when Richardson resigned. And he said, “Professor, the president wants me to fire you.” So I said, “Well, Bill, you do what you think is right” — and he resigned, too. Then I got a call from the next man in line at the Justice Department, Solicitor General Bork. He hadn’t been my student. …
Martha Kempner has a nice remembrance of Koop at RH Reality Check, “C. Everett Koop: The Surgeon General Who Put Science Before Personal Ideology.”
Reagan, however, drafted Dr. Koop into the abortion debate toward the end of his second term when he asked the Surgeon General to write a report about the psychological effects of abortion on women.
… [Koop] interviewed experts and activists on both sides and found that even more so than in the debate over AIDS, anti-choicers skewed science to fit their point of view. After doing the research, he concluded that there: “was no unbiased, rigorous scientific research on the effects of abortion on women’s health that could serve as the basis for a Surgeon General’s report on the issue.”
Koop had integrity. Bork did not.
And Koop’s beard was way cooler, too.