There have been so many excellent entries today on the inimitable Robert Bork, who has just passed away, that it would be gilding the lilies to try to do much more than link them. Here, Hadley Arkes soberly acknowledges the great loss to the country brought about by Bork's being unjustly denied a place on the Supreme Court, while at the same time Arkes does not hide his own differences of judicial philosophy with Bork. Here is the touching memoir of Bork as known by a former clerk. In this entry, Austin Ruse hypothesizes that Bork would not have converted to Christianity had he not been unjustly blocked from the Supreme Court. The conjecture is by no means implausible. About it, one can only say that in that case God brought good out of great evil.
The blocking of Bork from the court marked the beginning of an era. That era had as one of its salient characteristics the increasingly, blatantly partisan behavior and dirty fighting of the Democrats to block federal judicial nominees who would not come to the substantive policy conclusions desired by the left. It was in the context of the Clarence Thomas hearings that Robert Bork himself said to his think-tank colleague Irving Kristol, "Television is showing the end of Western civilization in living color." The other salient characteristic of this era of judicial nominations was the continued gentlemanliness of the Republicans: No hardball recess appointments, no roundabout ways of applying litmus tests or even making sure and certain of a candidate's general judicial philosophy, no serious refusal to confirm Democratic appointees to the federal bench, and the repeated, sometimes disastrous, nomination of dark horses. The result was inevitable: The federal judiciary, and especially SCOTUS, became more and more radically leftist. The Borking of Bork was the watershed. It was also a kind of trial balloon. Once the left realized it could get away with it, we were slouching towards Gomorrah at an ever-increased pace, at the highest levels of American government.
In this sense, Robert Bork represents--because the treatment he received represents--a dark and pivotal moment in our country's history. But that is by no means the sum total of the man. Bork was a voice of one crying in the wilderness. And in the end, he was a penitent (from his atheism) and a convert (to Christianity). Bork showed in his spiritual life that it is possible to turn around. It may not be possible for America to do so now, but we can pray that it is still possible. And we can work for repentance, one man at the time.
Rest eternal grant unto him, and may light perpetual shine upon him.
Robert Bork on Roe v. Wade, showing the unprincipled nature of the use of stare decisis by the SCOTUS majority: