To justify their insistence that a Supreme Court seat be left vacant for more than a year, Republicans are resurrecting painful memories of what happened almost 30 years ago to the nomination of Robert Bork.
The parallels are uncanny.
Bork, for example, received a full congressional vetting. Even after the Senate Judiciary Committee concluded that he was not fit for the nation’s highest court, the panel allowed the constitutional process to play out to its end. At Bork’s request, it sent the nomination to the Senate floor, where it was debated and rejected by a vote of 58-42, the largest margin of defeat for a judicial nominee in the country’s history.
That’s exactly like the current case, in which the Senate refuses to consider an Obama nominee no matter who it is.
Likewise, the Senate vote against Bork was bipartisan, with six GOP senators agreeing that Bork was too far out of the legal mainstream. That’s exactly like the current case, in which — as we all know — the Republican refusal to act is motivated not at all by crass partisanship. In fact, it is divisive and hurts their feelings to even suggest such a thing.
I’m going to suggest it anyway: Their refusal is driven by partisanship, and also by a deep animus against the man twice elected by the American people to be their president. But again, the parallels with the Bork case are uncanny. Like it or not, this is deserved revenge for what Democrats did in 1987, when they rejected Bork out of hatred for Ronald Reagan and to ensure that he didn’t get to name another justice.
Except that after rejecting Bork, that same Senate voted 97-0 to confirm Justice Anthony Kennedy, nominated by Reagan. Kennedy was sworn into office on Feb. 18, 1988, in a presidential election year.
In the Bork case, those who voted against confirmation cited multiple reasons for doing so. Bork believed that government’s power over the individual was so extensive that it could reach into the bedroom and ban the sale or use of contraceptives, even by married couples. He argued that people had only those rights that were explicitly granted to them by government, in direct contradiction to the founding fathers who spoke and wrote often of natural rights and inalienable rights beyond those listed in the Bill of Rights.
Bork had opposed the Civil Rights Act, arguing that laws banning discrimination were “a loss in a vital area of personal liberty.” He also believed that in its role as defender of the culture, government could silence viewpoints that it believed to be corrosive to public morals. Censorship “is going to have to be considered as popular culture continues to plunge to ever more sickening lows,” as he later explained in his book “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”. He specifically endorsed government censorship of “the obscene prose and pictures available on the Internet, motion pictures that are mere rhapsodies to violence, and the more degenerate lyrics of rap music.”
Again, the parallels with the current situation are obvious. They may not know the nominee’s name, but Republicans have already conducted a thorough investigation of his or her credentials and have concluded that he or she is unqualified. That’s how brilliant they are.