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Ted Kennedy’s America. The Borking of American politics.
NRO ^ | October 26, 2007 12:00 AM | By Jonah Goldberg

Posted on 10/26/2007 6:03:28 AM PDT by .cnI redruM

If you think American politics have gotten nastier, crueler, and more symbolic over the last 20 years, blame Ted Kennedy.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the borking of Judge Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan’s failed Supreme Court nominee. And it was Ted Kennedy’s bilious bugle blast that brought the man down. Almost immediately after Reagan nominated Bork, Kennedy pulled himself off his barstool and proclaimed: “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of the government ...”

Kennedy’s assault rallied left-wing interest groups to the anti-Bork banner for an unprecedented assault on a man the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Berger dubbed the most qualified nominee he’d seen in his professional lifetime. As Gary McDowell noted recently in the Wall Street Journal, that time span included the careers of Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, and Felix Frankfurter.

Then-Judiciary Committee chairman Joseph Biden, Kennedy’s lieutenant in the assault, told the Philadelphia Inquirer not long before Bork was nominated: “Say the administration sends up Bork. I’d have to vote for him, and if the (liberal interest) groups tear me apart, that’s the medicine I’ll have to take.” But when it came time to take his medicine, he ran away like a Kennedy fleeing a car accident. The fact that Biden was about to run for president — for the first time — probably helped him rationalize his flight from honor.

By today’s standards, the slimy insinuations that Bork was a racist seem almost quaint. The investigations of his private life — Senate staffers pored over his video rental records in hope of finding something prurient — pale to the deepwater dredging of private lives today.

But that’s how precedents work. Small violations of principle tear the social fabric and the breach is pulled ever wider as more people march through the opening.

Ethan Bronner, author of “Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America,” recounts Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan’s response to the Kennedy speech. She acknowledged that the tirade was grotesquely unfair but that it “worked.” And, she continued, “The next time, the Right should answer in kind, matching tone for tone and blow for blow.”

The following year, George H.W. Bush ran a tough race against Michael Dukakis. The fact that a race against the Muppet-robot former governor of Massachusetts needed to be tough beggars the imagination today, but Bush actually started out 17 points behind Dukakis. Liberals thought Bush was too tough on poor Dukakis, who seemed to be doing much of the heavy lifting in his own destruction anyway, what with his disastrous tank ride and nonchalant response to the hypothetical rape and murder of his wife.

But Republicans believed that they had to match the Democrats “tone for tone, blow for blow.”

In 1991, Bush nominated Clarence Thomas for the high court, and Democrats attempted to replay their Bork triumph and likewise destroy Thomas. But Thomas would not be goaded into the meat grinder. This remains the outrage according to liberals today: He refused to go quietly into the night.

In 1992, Bill Clinton introduced the phrase “the politics of personal destruction” to the lexicon. Clinton used it preemptively to delegitimize scrutiny of his private life. After all, the accusations against Thomas — he allegedly asked a subordinate out on a date; he joked about a pubic hair — were of Disneyesque innocence compared with almost every Saturday night in Little Rock for Clinton. In a world where the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill standard was held consistently, Clinton would not have been qualified to be a tollbooth attendant on the New Jersey Turnpike. Hence, he called for an end to the ratcheting up of the gotcha game before he himself got got.

But it didn’t work. His private life spilled out for public viewing, steaming in the cold air.

Liberals were outraged, sometimes fairly, often not. But they felt they needed to respond tone for tone, blow for blow. They scoured the private lives of Clinton’s “tormentors” for dirt, and they often found it.

There’s more, of course. The Florida recount saw Republicans feeling justified to do whatever it took — even fight like Democrats — to win. The recount, in turn, laid the foundation of bitterness and bile that fuels the omnivorous banshees of the “netroots,” who proudly proclaim they care only about winning and being as ruthless as they imagine the Republicans are.

But at this point you know the story. In Ted Kennedy’s America, it’s blow for blow and eye for eye now, and everyone is blind to how we got here.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; Politics/Elections; US: Massachusetts
KEYWORDS: 110th; bork; kennedy; kennedyism; partisanwitchhunt; politicalhate; smearcampaign; swimmer; tedkennedy; witchhunt
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America's worst. Senator. Ever. Ted Kennedy!
1 posted on 10/26/2007 6:03:30 AM PDT by .cnI redruM
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To: .cnI redruM

I don’t recall Reagan really going to the mat to save his nomination (though that was a long time ago and I may have forgotten).

Reagan ran rings around the media and Congress on other issues like his tax cuts.


2 posted on 10/26/2007 6:07:29 AM PDT by tips up
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To: .cnI redruM
“If Mary Jo Kopechne had lived, she would be 64 years old.
Through his tireless work as a legislator,
Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.”
Charles Pierce, January 5, 2003 Boston Globe Magazine
3 posted on 10/26/2007 6:07:47 AM PDT by Diogenesis (Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum)
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To: .cnI redruM

Decent people should ostracize Ted Kennedy.


4 posted on 10/26/2007 6:09:57 AM PDT by popdonnelly (Get Reid. Salazar, and Harkin out of the Senate.)
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To: .cnI redruM
Borking may have been the first shot across the bow...probably an extension of Nixon hate.

Now the dems have escalated it exponentially due to the BJ Clintoon impeachment. Someday we have to drop a nuc on this crap.

5 posted on 10/26/2007 6:10:54 AM PDT by Clint N. Suhks (BUILD THE WALL, ENFORCE THE LAW! ®™ ± ‰˘ ©)
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To: .cnI redruM
The image “http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/9c/TeddyVWad.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
6 posted on 10/26/2007 6:13:40 AM PDT by P8riot (I carry a gun because I can't carry a cop.)
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To: .cnI redruM
Ted Kennedy's America is a land in which abortions including partial birth abortions would be government sponsored even for school children, whites and Asians would be denied college admission and jobs because of racial quotas, the politically correctness thought police would stifle free speech, schoolchildren would be taught global warming propaganda instead of real science and 11 year olds would be furnished with birth control by their schools, radio talk shows and bloggers would be censored at the whim of the government by the "fairness" doctrine.
7 posted on 10/26/2007 6:15:50 AM PDT by The Great RJ ("Mir we bleiwen wat mir sin" or "We want to remain what we are." ..Luxembourg motto)
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To: .cnI redruM

The runt of a demented brood. All Kennedys are pus.


8 posted on 10/26/2007 6:17:33 AM PDT by massgopguy (I owe everything to George Bailey)
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To: popdonnelly

9 posted on 10/26/2007 6:19:14 AM PDT by ErnBatavia (...forward this to your 10 very best friends....)
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To: The Great RJ

Robert Bork’s America would be a place where no one was allowed to own a gun.


10 posted on 10/26/2007 6:22:36 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks (Go Hawks !)
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To: .cnI redruM

I wonder if he was compromised by the KGB sometime in the 60’s.


11 posted on 10/26/2007 6:26:28 AM PDT by pbear8 (Padre Pio please pray for Tony Snow)
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To: popdonnelly

“Decent people should ostracize Ted

It would be great but it probably won’t happen in his lifetime with Democrats protecting him. But I have a feeling there a really Decent Guy who will eventually ostracize him.


12 posted on 10/26/2007 6:31:41 AM PDT by caseinpoint (Don't get thickly involved in thin things.)
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To: .cnI redruM
"In a world where the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill standard was held consistently, Clinton would not have been qualified to be a tollbooth attendant on the New Jersey Turnpike."
13 posted on 10/26/2007 6:32:15 AM PDT by BenLurkin
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To: .cnI redruM

“This month marks the 20th anniversary of the borking of Judge Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan’s failed Supreme Court nominee.”

There was nothing “failed” about Robert Bork. The failure was that of Congress - to approve the nomination of one of the most highly qualified nominees of the Twentieth Century.


14 posted on 10/26/2007 7:03:04 AM PDT by Jack Hammer (here)
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To: .cnI redruM
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
15 posted on 10/26/2007 7:17:35 AM PDT by preacher (A government which robs from Peter to pay Paul will always have the support of Paul.)
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To: popdonnelly
The already have. There just aren’t enough of them out there anymore.
16 posted on 10/26/2007 7:18:07 AM PDT by .cnI redruM (Columbia U has fewer ROTC cadets than Iran has practicing homosexuals.)
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To: Diogenesis

If only that legislation requiring air bags in cars had passed a few decades ago....


17 posted on 10/26/2007 7:18:53 AM PDT by .cnI redruM (Columbia U has fewer ROTC cadets than Iran has practicing homosexuals.)
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To: Clint N. Suhks
There was a Caning Incident in the US Senate, but it occurred in 1837. Back before Ted was even old enough for his first Sloe Gin Fizz.
18 posted on 10/26/2007 7:20:09 AM PDT by .cnI redruM (Columbia U has fewer ROTC cadets than Iran has practicing homosexuals.)
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To: pbear8
With apologies to the Great Robert Dinero.

Ted: “You know how they got to me...They gave me a Grasshopper.”

Eager Liberal Groupie: “What’s grasshopper, Senator?”

Ted:”Well, you take two parts Vermouth....”

19 posted on 10/26/2007 7:23:27 AM PDT by .cnI redruM (Columbia U has fewer ROTC cadets than Iran has practicing homosexuals.)
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To: P8riot

Stroke of genius.


20 posted on 10/26/2007 7:23:41 AM PDT by Yardstick
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