On the other hand, it inspires me. It makes me want to live my life in such a way that I cause people to sputter with rage, distort my history and demean themselves with a destroy-by-any-means approach. The top:
Robert Bork, who died Wednesday, was an unrepentant reactionary who was on the wrong side of every major legal controversy of the twentieth century. The fifty-eight senators who voted against Bork for confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1987 honored themselves, and the Constitution. In the subsequent quarter-century, Bork devoted himself to proving that his critics were right about him all along.
Some of the folks involved with the proceedings, of course, have reflected with sadness on them. You might read Jeffrey Rosen's piece in The New Republic for more on that.
Toobin rewrites history as it relates to Bork's role in the Saturday Night Massacre. He claims:
Richard Nixon appointed Bork the Solicitor General of the United States, and in that post Bork showed that he lacked moral courage as well as legal judgment. In 1973, Nixon directed Elliot Richardson, the Attorney General, to fire Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor. Richardson refused and resigned in protest, as did his deputy William Ruckelshaus. Bork, the third-ranking official in the Justice Department, had no such scruples and thus served as executioner in the Saturday Night Massacre, to his enduring shame.
For what it's worth, John Bolton says that the two who resigned did so specifically because they'd pledged in Senate confirmation hearings to do just that if the White House ever tried to interfere with Cox's investigation. Bork was confirmed before the Watergate affair became a big deal, so he had never made any such pledge. Still, he actually did want to resign:
[Richardson and Ruckelshaus] urged him not to, because then the entire top leadership of the department might have followed suit, and the country plunged into a constitutional crisis the likes of which we had never seen. Richardson and Ruckelshaus urged him to fire Cox to preserve the department’s legitimacy.
Toobin goes on to mock Bork's correct view that the Founders didn't write into the Constitution, for example, the right to kill your defenseless unborn child.
In what should be to his enduring shame, Toobin favorably quotes Ted Kennedy, who once left a woman to drown:
As Senator Edward Kennedy put it in a famous speech on the Senate floor, “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, [and] writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government.”
Was Kennedy too harsh? He was not—as Bork himself demonstrated in the series of intemperate books he wrote after losing the Supreme Court fight and quitting the bench, in 1987. The titles alone were revealing: ”The Tempting of America,” “Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline,” and “Coercing Virtue: The Worldwide Rule of Judges.”
See what I'm saying? If you knew nothing else about Bork, just seeing Toobin lose his ever-living mind is high enough praise, no? What's so obvious about everything from the Bork hearings to this moment is that his critics hated him because he was brilliant and because he showed their weakness. He ran circles around them and they wanted to destroy him.
Oh that we should have such obituaries.