A quarter of a century ago, a good and great man was slandered to maintain liberal judicial power. It was Vice President Joe Biden, who as a senator, led the injustices committed against Judge Robert Bork.
The Wednesday morning death of Bork, Ronald Reagan’s failed 1987 Supreme Court nominee, should make us think how much freer and better this country would be if Bork’s intellectual power and constitutional integrity had been present within the justices’ deliberations over the past 25 years.
Had Reagan nominated Bork to replace retiring Chief Justice Warren Burger in 1986, when Republicans enjoyed a 53-47 majority in the Senate, as many advised him to do, things might have gone differently. Instead, Bork faced a 55-45 Democratic majority the next year.
(Justice Antonin Scalia, confirmed 98-0 in 1986, could instead have been named to the Bork Court in 1987.)
The new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee was Biden. Many recall Sen. Ted Kennedy’s outrageous charge that with Bork on the court, “blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters.” But Bork’s chair wasn’t warm before Biden launched his shameful accusation:
“It appears to me that you are saying that the government has as much right to control a married couple’s decision about choosing to have a child or not, as that government has a right to control the public utility’s right to pollute the air.”
We ended up instead with Justice Anthony Kennedy, a champion of foreign law who often sides his swing vote with the court’s liberals.