Twenty Years Later: Bork Backs Romney

For months, Republican presidential hopefuls have been wooing potential conservative voters with pledges to nominate right-wing ideologues to the seats on the federal judiciary and, more importantly, the Supreme Court.  Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani have been the two candidates most actively pushing this pledge, both having unveiled their own respective “judicial advisory committees” stuffed with judicial confirmation activists ranging from Ted Olson and Miguel Estrada to Jay Sekulow and James Bopp.  

But now Mitt Romney appears to have a leg-up in the battle over which candidate can secure the most militantly right-wing backer by landing the endorsement of Robert Bork:

Today, noted conservative jurist Judge Robert Bork endorsed Governor Mitt Romney for President of the United States.

Joining Romney for President, Judge Bork said, “Throughout my career, I have had the honor of serving under several Presidents and am proud to make today’s endorsement. No other candidate will do more to advance the conservative judicial movement than Governor Mitt Romney … Our next President may be called upon to make more than one Supreme Court nomination, and Governor Romney is committed to nominating judges who take their oath of office seriously and respect the rule of law in our nation. I also support Governor Romney because of his character, his integrity and his stands on the major issues facing the United States.”

Welcoming Judge Bork’s support, Governor Romney said, “For decades, Judge Bork has been a leader in moving the conservative legal movement forward. As one of our nation’s premier conservative jurists, he has been an important voice for our conservative values in Washington. I look forward to his counsel and working with him on the most important judicial matters facing our nation today.”

Earlier this year, Bork appeared at the Values Voter Summit where he explained that social conservatives must use “tactical discretion” and continue to support the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, no matter who it is, in order to ensure that right-wing justices end up on the Supreme Court because, ultimately, “the object should be to get rid of Roe [v. Wade]:

While Romney may consider Bork to “one of our nation’s premier conservative jurists,” that was obviously not the view of the bipartisan group of 58 senators who defeated Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987, rejecting his extremist legal and judicial philosophy.  

In light of Bork’s endorsement, perhaps now would be a good time to dust off a 2002 PFAW op-ed ”In Praise of ‘Borking’” which takes on the Right-created mythology that Bork was somehow the victim of a smear. In reality his confirmation hearings were perhaps the best public conversation about the Constitution that most Americans had ever seen, and it was Bork’s own extremism that led to his bipartisan defeat.

 “In Praise of ‘Borking'” was drawn from a longer draft report about what Bork, and how his post-defeat activities made his extreme approach to our Constitution and culture even clearer than it had been when the Senate gave him the thumbs down.  Here are a few paragraphs from that five-year-old draft report:

To understand what might have been, it is worth looking at what Bork has written and said since his bipartisan 58-42 defeat in October 1987.  After his rejection, Bork resigned his seat on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit so that he could more freely “participate in the public debate.”  Bork has since gone on to become a prolific author and commentator, fully revealing to the nation the extent of his radical understanding and interpretation of the Constitution, his antipathy toward American culture and his ever-growing disdain for the Court to which he was nominated.  [Of course, that disdain was in 2002.  He’s a lot happier since the addition of Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito.]

Robert Bork has carved out a niche for himself as an acerbic commentator on the Supreme Court, as well as various cultural issues.  In fact, to Bork the two topics are closely related and the Supreme Court’s “illegitimacy” and its departure from the Constitution are in many ways responsible for our growing “cultural depravity.”

According to Bork, we are rapidly becoming a fragmented society that has totally lost its nerve and is now either unwilling or unable “to suppress public obscenity, punish crime, reform welfare, attach stigma to the bearing of illegitimate children, resist the demands of self-proclaimed victim groups for preferential treatment, or maintain standards of reason and scholarship.”  Abortion, technology, affluence, hedonism, and modern liberalism are gradually ruining our culture and everywhere you look “the rot is spreading.”

Bork has denounced the public education system that “all too often teaches moral relativism and depravity.”  He considers sensitivity training to be little more than “America’s version of Maoist re-education camps.”  He has shared his fear that recognition of gay marriage would lead to accommodation of “man-boy associations, polygamists and so forth.”  And he has criticized the feminist movement for “intimidat[ing] officials in ways that are destructive of family, hostile to masculinity, damaging to the military and disastrous for much education.”

It appears as if almost everything within contemporary culture possesses the capacity to offend Bork.  He attacks movies for featuring “sex, violence and vile language.”  He faults television for taking “a neutral attitude toward adultery, prostitution, and pornography” and for portraying homosexuals as “social victims.”  As for the art world, most of what is produced is “meaningless, uninspired, untalented or perverse.”  He frets that the “pornographic video industry is now doing billions of dollars worth of business” and the invention of the Internet will merely result in the further indulgence of “salacious and perverted tastes.”  When it comes to music, “rock and rap are utterly impoverished … emotionally, aesthetically, and intellectually.” 

More to the point, Bork is not content merely to criticize; he wants the government to do something about it.  “Sooner or later,” he claims “censorship is going to have to be considered as popular culture continues plunging to ever more sickening lows.”  So committed is he to this cause that he dedicated an entire chapter in his 1996 book Slouching Toward Gomorrah to making “The Case for Censorship.”  In it, he advocates censoring “the most violent and sexually explicit material now on offer, starting with obscene prose and pictures available on the Internet, motion pictures that are mere rhapsodies to violence, and the more degenerate lyrics of rap music.”

When asked by Christianity Today about how he would decide what should and should not be censored, Bork announced: “I don’t make any fine distinctions; I’m just advocating censorship.”  He went on to argue that the United States has a long history of censorship, and that such censorship “didn’t suppress any good art, it didn’t eliminate any ideas.”  He goes on to state that, were individuals to decry such censorship as inhibiting their individual liberty or right to express themselves, he would reply “… yes, that is precisely what we are after.”

During his confirmation battle, there was much discussion of Bork’s views regarding Roe v. Wade and what they might mean for the future.  During his confirmation hearing, Bork asserted that, while he had been critical of the decision itself, he would not necessarily vote to overturn it.  He sought to reassure Committee members by explaining that he believed there was a difference between criticizing the reasoning of a decision and working to overturn such a decision.  When questioned as to whether or not the Constitution protected the right to privacy, Bork claimed to have never given the issue much thought but attempted to make clear that he had a “great respect for precedent” and believed that some precedents are so “deeply embedded” in our history that they should not be overturned.

In 1987, Bork assured the Judiciary Committee that he had neither a “personal political agenda of my own” nor a “social agenda for the nation.”  Since that time, Bork has had no need to conceal his true beliefs and has thus been much more straightforward about his anti-choice views.  He now says that it is “impossible to say that the killing of the organism at any moment after it originated is not the killing of a human being.”  He argues that Roe v. Wade created a “fictitious abortion ‘right’” and, as for the right upon which the decision was based, Bork asserts that “there just isn’t anything that could legitimately be called a general ‘right to privacy.’”  In his view, such a right is merely something spurious the Court cites when it wants to amend “the Constitution to fit the personal philosophies of a majority of justices.”   If any doubts remain as to what would have happened to a woman’s right to choose had Bork been confirmed to the Supreme Court, he erases them by bluntly declaring that “I would have made the fifth vote to overturn Roe against Wade.”