Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Judge Robert Bork has died.  In 1987, President Reagan nominated him to the US Supreme Court, but the Senate rejected the nomination.  In 2005, Frank Sesno interviewed Bork about his role in the culture wars:

SESNO: How did that feel, personally, to be the first one out of the cannon?
BORK: Well, I knew what was happening. The core of the issue was, they were afraid I would vote to overrule Roe against Wade. And they were quite right.
SESNO: And your name became a verb.
BORK: My name became a verb. And I regard that as one form of immortality.
SESNO: To Bork means what?
BORK: I think to attack with -- to attack a person's reputation and views unfairly. 
From the Oxford English Dictionary:
Bork, v.
Pronunciation: Brit. /bɔːk/ , U.S. /bɔrk/
Forms: also with lower-case initial.
Etymology: < the name of Robert Heron Bork (b. 1927), a judge whose nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 was rejected following a large amount of unfavourable publicity for his allegedly illiberal and extreme views.
U.S. Polit. slang.
trans. To defame or vilify (a person) systematically, esp. in the mass media, usually with the aim of preventing his or her appointment to public office; to obstruct or thwart (a person) in this way. Also intr.
1987 Los Angeles Times 20 Sept. v. 4/3, I think this time the local minorities are ‘Borking’ up the wrong tree.
1991 New Republic 9 Sept. 21/2 ‘We're going to Bork him,’ the National Organization for Women has promised. But if they succeed, liberals may discover that they have Borked themselves.
1993 N.Y. Times Bk. Rev. 23 May 11/1 This powerful force..that now goes around ‘Borking’ politically incorrect nominees.
2001 Roll Call (Electronic ed.) 5 July, Democrats..have established a tradition of ‘Borking’ Republican nominees. 
Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, the current vice president, chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time.  The New York Times reported on Biden's opposition to Bork:
'He has put himself in an awkward position,'' said a senior Democratic strategist who is uncommitted for 1988. ''He was in an ideal position, but he has turned a big plus into a bigger question mark by acting like a hanging judge. The difficulty, I'm afraid, is that he doesn't think things through. He's so bright, but he needs an edit button on his mind before he talks.''
Most of the criticism of Mr. Biden has centered on his inconsistent statements about Judge Bork. In November, in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, he responded to a hypothetical question with the comment: ''Say the administration sends up Bork. I'd have to vote for him, and if the groups tear me apart, that's the medicine that I'll have to take.''
On July 1, when Judge Bork was nominated to replace Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., Mr. Biden said, ''I will not now take a formal position.'' A week later, after meeting with civil rights groups, the Delaware lawmaker shifted ground again, declaring, ''Most certainly, I'm going to be against him.''
Then on July 18, in a joint appearance with the other Democratic candidates in Cleveland, he said he had ''made a mistake'' in the way he had announced his opposition. But on July 22, at a meeting with a group of reporters, he said the mistake had been ''more of a public-relations mistake than a substantive mistake'' and added: ''I don't have an open mind. I don't have an open mind because I know this man.''