Editorials

CONNONWEAL The Judge Bork Blues When Judge Bork and the administration determined to carry the judge's Supreme Court nomination to the floor of the Senate, it was widely conceded they...

...If liberals were supposed to be trapped by the danger of resurrecting the "social agenda," then the anti-Bork lobbying demonstrated that the "social agenda" could cut two ways...
...These Hiave not been ineffective...
...Doubts about the basis for this deference have steadily grown, provoked in part by the Reagan administration's own declared wish to reshape the political coloration of the federal judiciary...
...In fact, if these three conservatives were competing for a single seat on the Court, Mr...
...Thus Alabama Senator Howell Heflis felt compelled to frame the issue as whether Mr...
...Bork because he is a Threat to the Republic...
...The questioning of Bork by Senators Kennedy, Mentzenbaum, and Leahy was frequently boorish and demagogic...
...They should not have to pretend that a Bork or his equivalent represents some extraordinary deviation in constitutional interpretation not represented by, say, a Rehnquist or a Scalia...
...Likewise, the fact that the person filling this particular seat may tip an already closely divided Court is a perfectly legitimate consideration for liberal Senators...
...This was actually the prevailing attitude throughout most of the nation's history, but had become a distinctly minority opinion only a few decades ago...
...Opposing the nomination, they said, would be a trap for liberals with presidential hopes like Senators Biden and Simon...
...They might have to vote no on Bork to appease influential groups within the Democratic party, but they would soon find themselves looking like spoilsports and overwhelmed by presidential popularity across the country...
...Bork's critics to task for their slogans and distortions, good...
...Accusations that Senator Kennedy is guilty of vilification ring false coming from conservatives who know that right-wing publicity has demonized Mr...
...We only hope that a liberal with relatively clean hands in the Bork battle responds directly by detailing the administration's own record in this regard...
...When we urged that the Senate openly examine ttje political ideologies of Court nominees, we hoped that this might minimize the questioning of personal integrity that had, in previous cases, been substituted for a political scrutiny considered taboo...
...To some extent, the low politics the simplifications and distortions to which Judge Bork has been subject, arise from the lingering illegitimacy of high politics arguable matters of principle and worldview in the Senate's deliberations...
...There is, however, something monumentally hypocritical about the cries pf pain coming from administration loyalists...
...The administration argues that the anti-Bork blitz has kept the Senate from judging the nominee ' 'on the merits.'' One could argue to the contrary that it has allowed the Senate to do exactly that...
...This journal has long argued that questions of judicial and political philosophy, not just questions of technical competence, judicial temperament, and personal integrity, should be examined by the Senate when considering nominees for the Supreme Court...
...It should not have been necessary to suggest the judge might be an "extremist" to refuse to confirm him...
...Even those with short memories should recall that the Bork nomination was originally seen as a sure thing...
...CONNONWEAL The Judge Bork Blues When Judge Bork and the administration determined to carry the judge's Supreme Court nomination to the floor of the Senate, it was widely conceded they had little chance of victory...
...Bork's name, but the political significance of this latest nomination was simply too obvious, and the Senate hearings showed that a new standard for confirmation (in fact, the traditional one) had been definitely adopted...
...It should have been sufficient to say that he is not "my kind of conservative" or the kind of conservative the country needs now...
...Despite the "low politics" currently in the foreground, what is at issue between the administration and the coalition that has blocked the Bork nomination are honest differences of political outlook that is, of "high politics...
...Falsely crying "Wolf...
...A fight over Bork, moreover, would once again raise public consciousness of the conservative "social agenda," to liberal disadvantage...
...By that time, it was widely assumed that the Senate should defer to the president's political preferences in regard to judicial appointments in the way it properly deferred in regard to executive-branch appointments...
...Their primary objective, it was said, was no longer the Bork nomination itself...
...Right now, it seems, the decision is up to the White House...
...Maybe a lesson can be learned all around...
...Bork might well be our first choice...
...The White House might urge the old deference in sending up Mr...
...Political mailings come across our desk regularly accusing liberal Senators and Representatives of being in cahoots with Communists, criminals, and pornographers...
...What about the future...
...To hear, for example, an activist nun, capable of understanding the details of constitutional claims, expressing dismay that Judge Bork "oidered women to be sterilized," is to want to respond, "Now wait a minute...
...The effect of the well-orchestrated anti-Bork campaign has been mainly to neutralize what the White House assumed to be its political edge...
...once may be once too often...
...We wonder whether Senators Hatch and Simpson have checked the mail that goes out over their names or from organizations they endorse...
...The judge himself has valid grounds for complaint...
...There will either be a compromise at the higher level or more streetfight-ing at the lower one...
...Instead, they intended to mount an attack on the "distortions," the "politicization," the "lynch mob" conduct of Judge Bork's opponents and thereby clear the ground for the president's next nominee, if not even reinsert the conservative "social agenda" into next year's election...
...Obviously there are high politics and low politics...
...They have never hesitated to moujt dem-ogogic campaigns of exactly this sort...
...If the administration is going to take Mr...
...Bork's credentials as a jurist...
...otherwise they will find themselves having to accept an obscure nominee who can't possibly be portrayed so luridly...
...Liberals should quickly squelch the idea that they are voting against Mr...
...None of this calculation, it should be noted, had much to do with Mr...
...If the likelihood of confirmation once rested on the political difficulty that Southern Democrats might have encountered in opposing a nominee advertized as conservative, then the mobilization of black leadership offset that pressure with a counterpressure...
...President Reagan himself has hardly been a model of 579 precision and judiciousness in his charges that the Supreme Court has taken God out of the schools...
...Bork were an "extremist" or a "true conservative...
...Administration strategists were reported congratulating themselves on a political coup...
...Kennedy for years...
...Does this standard amount to "personal vilification and public lynching" as Judge Bork's supporters are now claiming...
...The impression that moderate objections to the nominee's political and judicial viewpointare not enough forces opponents to voice immoderate ones...
...The media campaigns and direct mailings by Planned Parenthood, People for the American Way, and other liberal lobbies have been marked by emotionally manipulative exaggerations...

Vol. 114 • October 1987 • No. 18


 
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