A tribute to Robert Bork

Politics | Andrée Seu Peterson

A tribute to Robert Bork

Robert H. Bork testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the first day of his confirmation hearings on Sept. 16, 1987.
Associated Press/Photo by Charles Tasnadi

It is always hard for me not to see political realities in the same terms as spiritual realities. They are so amazingly parallel: In both dimensions you have truths constantly being attacked by lies, you have moral ways constantly being rejected for immoral ways, you have individual responsibility constantly being trodden underfoot by the unsavory impulses of irresponsibility.

I felt sad when I heard last week that legal scholar Robert Bork had died. It wasn’t a tragic death in the sense of being untimely—the man was 85. It was tragic in the sense that his mauling in the 1987 Supreme Court confirmation hearings, by men unworthy to carry his briefcase, has still not been straightened out in the minds of the American populace. The whole thing makes me philosophically somber regarding the enterprise of a nation’s history writing in general: Does history ever right itself in the end, or is it possible that the machinations of scoundrels can prevail, so that generations grow up learning a lie?

When President Ronald Reagan nominated the former Yale law professor, solicitor general in the Department of Justice, and U.S. Court of Appeals lawyer for the District of Columbia Circuit to the post of U.S. Supreme Court justice, the pack was after him immediately. His professional demeanor at the hearings they called coldness. His argument against Roe v. Wade that the 14th Amendment contains no “right to privacy” they demolished by slander. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy began the character assassination within 45 minutes of Bork’s nomination: “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions.”

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As my tribute to Robert Bork I cite one sentence of his that again demonstrates the interface of spiritual and political reality: “The truth is that the judge who looks outside the Constitution always looks inside himself and nowhere else.”

In this day and age, Bork’s criticism would sail over the heads of his critics: Looking inside yourself and nowhere else is a good thing in the eyes of a people who have increasingly overthrown objective truth for subjectivism and animal instinct. But Bork saw where that was trending—it was slouching toward Gomorrah. It is the cult of solipsism that has claimed the lives of 50 million babies, and is still claiming.

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