Monday, October 24, 2011

How "Bork" Became a Verb

A question one hears frequently among young people interested in contemporary political doings is why our discourse is so raw. Why is it, people wonder, that there's so much animosity between Republicans and Democrats and so much invective in our political life? Conservatives usually reply that the hostility goes back to two Supreme Court nominations in which the reputations and careers of two men were destroyed by Democrats in order to try to keep them off the Court.

In the first case, that of Robert Bork (1987), the tactic worked. In the second, the confirmation of Clarence Thomas (1991), it didn't, but the scars left by the ugliness and relentless attempts to destroy these men left a very bitter taste in the mouths of many observers and set the tone for the debased rhetoric of the next two decades.

Those confirmation hearings were doubtless the backstory behind the impeachment of Bill Clinton by Republicans, which was in turn the impetus behind the awful treatment by Democrats of George W. Bush.

In any case, Joe Nocera, a columnist at The New York Times writes about the Bork case in a piece that recounts how even those involved in the slander of this highly qualified jurist admitted what they were doing. After describing Bork's qualifications for the Court Nocera writes:
I’ll take it one step further. The Bork fight, in some ways, was the beginning of the end of civil discourse in politics. For years afterward, conservatives seethed at the “systematic demonization” of Bork, recalls Clint Bolick, a longtime conservative legal activist. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution coined the angry verb “to bork,” which meant to destroy a nominee by whatever means necessary. When Republicans borked the Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright less than two years later, there wasn’t a trace of remorse, not after what the Democrats had done to Bork. The anger between Democrats and Republicans, the unwillingness to work together, the profound mistrust — the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one.

It is, to be sure, completely understandable that the Democrats wanted to keep Bork off the court. Lewis Powell, the great moderate, was stepping down, which would be leaving the court evenly divided between conservatives and liberals. There was tremendous fear that if Bork were confirmed, he would swing the court to the conservatives and important liberal victories would be overturned — starting with Roe v. Wade.

But liberals couldn’t just come out and say that. “If this were carried out as an internal Senate debate,” Ann Lewis, the Democratic activist, would later acknowledge, “we would have deep and thoughtful discussions about the Constitution, and then we would lose.” So, instead, the Democrats sought to portray Bork as “a right-wing loony,” to use a phrase in a memo written by the Advocacy Institute, a liberal lobby group.

The character assassination began the day Bork was nominated, when Ted Kennedy gave a fiery speech describing “Robert Bork’s America” as a place “in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters,” and so on. It continued until the day the nomination was voted down; one ad, for instance, claimed, absurdly, that Bork wanted to give “women workers the choice between sterilization and their job.”

Conservatives were stunned by the relentlessness — and the essential unfairness — of the attacks. But the truth is that many of the liberals fighting the nomination also knew they were unfair. That same Advocacy Institute memo noted that, “Like it or not, Bork falls (perhaps barely) at the borderline of respectability.” It didn’t matter. He had to be portrayed “as an extreme ideological activist.” The ends were used to justify some truly despicable means.
Nocera's concluding sentence will not be welcome by many liberals, but it's good advice all the same:
[T]he point remains this: The next time a liberal asks why Republicans are so intransigent, you might suggest that the answer lies in the mirror.
The invective shows no signs of an imminent abatement. Nancy Pelosi informs us that Republicans want women to bleed to death on the floor, others insist that Republicans want to see blacks swinging at the end of a rope. Morgan Freeman is quite certain that opposition to Mr. Obama is due to the fact that he's black, and, indeed, the left finds themselves taking every opportunity to shout that the entire Tea Party is a bunch of racists, despite the utter lack of evidence for their claim, and much counterevidence against it.

And so it goes.


Jonathan Tobin at Commentary informs us that the thousand or so Palestinian murderers and thugs recently released from Israeli jails will be awarded financial grants from both Hamas and Fatah:
It is no secret that Hamas was strengthened by the conclusion of its ransom deal with Israel in which over one thousand Palestinian terrorists were freed in exchange for the safe return of Gilad Shalit​. But its Fatah rivals are not taking this triumph lying down. In the wake of the announcement that Hamas will be paying each of the released killers, almost all of whom are either directly or indirectly responsible for the murders of Jews, a bonus of $2,000, the Palestinian Authority has also decreed that it will be paying every one of the murderers a separate honorarium though the amount was not specified.

That PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, the man that is supposed to be Israel’s peace partner, will pay this cash reward for murder, is an irony that is lost on an Obama administration that continues to urge the Jewish state to make concessions to the PA.

This is of more than passing interest to American readers since hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds are transferred to the Palestinian Authority every year. That means Uncle Sam is paying a subsidy to mass murderers. That’s a not insignificant point to remember when Congress decides whether or not to continue the flow of aid to the PA.
Leave aside the question of what our leaders in Washington are thinking when they facilitate the transfer of money from your pocket to the pockets of people who have murdered Israeli children, and ask instead what kind of human beings these must be who would actually celebrate and reward horrific acts not unlike those perpetrated by the two Palestinians who savagely murdered an Israeli family of five while they slept in their beds.

There's a pervasive sickness afflicting these people, an all-consuming hatred and blood lust, and though we must deal with them we must never delude ourselves into thinking that they think the way Westerners think.