Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Robert Bork Was a Terrible Human Being and No One Should Grieve His Passing:

As solicitor general, Bork was third in line at the Justice Department, so the order fell to him. Sniveling bootlicker that he is, he carried it out. And surely Nixon knew that Bork would bend to his will—he had previously offered Bork the job of his chief defense counsel in the Watergate matter, a job that Bork later said he would have accepted if Nixon had allowed him to listen to the tapes. When he asked, Nixon's chief of staff Al Haig told him that the president would rather publicly burn the tapes and resign than let anybody, even his own attorney, listen to them.

Knowing that Nixon regarded those tapes as a red line, Bork fired Cox and his staff, and—in a startlingly dystopian move that is scarcely conceivable happening in the U.S. even today—saw to it that FBI agents sealed off his offices, as well as those of Richardson and Ruckelhaus, so that the president could lock down any evidence of his criminality they had uncovered. Bork would later describe his reasoning: "A junior officer in the government cannot face down the president and expect to get away with it." Which is a different way of saying that the president is immune from criminal investigation at the federal level. If the president does it, that means it's legal.

It's easy to second-guess difficult moral choices in hindsight. It's easy to condemn people for getting hard choices wrong. This isn't one of those cases. Two brave men had shown Bork the right path. He could have followed them and slept that night with a clean conscience. Instead, he chose corrupt power over justice. He chose criminality over law. He participated in a vast effort to obstruct a criminal investigation that thankfully failed despite his best efforts. That the man Richard Nixon chose as his defense attorney was ever even fleetingly considered for a seat on the highest court in the land, let alone nominated, is a cruel prank.

Robert Bork should be remembered as coward and sycophant. The fact that he persisted in public life, and continued to garner praise from conservative circles for his ideas, is an indictment of a corrupt and blind political culture.

The rest—the hatred of gay people, the rancid paranoia, the tribal resentments masquerading as principled stands—is garden-variety, Ann Coulter bullshit.