by Edd Doerr
In today's (10/22/11) New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, with whom I generally agree, blamed the "ugliness" of today's Republican politics on the Democrats' defeat of the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987. I profoundly disagree. Bork was, and remains, an unpleasant, eccentric ultraconservative ideologue totally out of sync with our country's best traditions and values.
I spent the summer of 1987 campaigning against the Bork nomination in at least 30 speeches and media appearances around the country, and Americans for Religious Liberty was one of the large number of organizations that opposed Reagan's Bork nomination. As soon as the Senate made Bork's papers available after the nomination I spent a whole day going over them and found his reputation for profundity or wisdom unfounded.
In 1984 I attended an American Enterprise Institute lecture by Bork on "Tradition and Morality in Constitutional Law" and took notes. I remember thinking at the conclusion of his talk that "Bork is just a Jerry Falwell in striped pants", as I wrote in Voice of Reason at the time.
Bork, like his idol Chief Justice Rehnquist, dismissed the constitutional principle of church-state separation as a "useless, bad metaphor". He disagreed with the Supreme Court's precedents that there is a constitutional right to privacy that protects access to contraception and abortion. He said that the First Amendment's freedom of speech and press is limited only to political expression. He made it very clear that permanent or transient majorities have the right to trample and limit the rights of individuals and minorities.
Joe Nocera owes his readers an apology for his defaming of the Democrats who kept Robert Bork off our country's highest court.
(I would have posted this comment in the NY Times had it not truncated the time for such responses.)