What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Robert Bork, Rest in Peace

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:

Comments (22)

Lydia, I'm puzzled as to why you would say that Robert Bork became a Christian when indeed he became a Roman Catholic. There is a clear distinction. He was a brave man and will be sorely missed.

I don't know where that comment is coming from. If it's some sort of anti-Catholic comment, it is not welcome here. If it is, instead, an insinuation that I'm suppressing the fact that he was a Catholic because I'm a Protestant, no such suppression was intended. Rather, I was using the broader term to show my solidarity with Bork as a brother in Christ, though he was Catholic and I am Protestant.

continued gentlemanliness of the Republicans
or connivance may be?

Lydia, in your solidarity with Judge Bork you are only able to go so far. You would be his sister in Christ up to the point where you disagree with what the Roman Catholic Church teaches on some soul saving dogma. To pretend otherwise is to agree on what is now-a-days called "the essentials" and conveniently push aside all the rest of what Christ taught.

Judge Bork is being lauded now, and rightly so, for his keenness of mind, and for his integrity, courage, and many other good qualities. What I want to say is that his choice of conversion to the Roman Catholic Church rather than into one of the 33,000 denominations in Protestantism speaks volumes.

No insult here to you personally is intended, or indeed to any Protestant. However, indifferentism, or the-many-paths view is not one that Catholics can let stand.

Barbara, now would be a good time to stop talking.

Just sayin'.

Tom Piatak has a brief memorial to Bork here:


For those who are troubled by paleoconservative thought, let me add that Piatak is one of the more moderate paleos with respect to some of the things that I think bother some of y’all.

or connivance may be?

No. I wouldn't accuse, say, Ronald Reagan of connivance. I believe that for decades the Republicans have been victims of their own desire to play by special Marquis of Queensbury rules on judicial appointments, several of which rules go well beyond anything actually in any law. Those Marquis of Queensbury rules may have applied quite a few decades earlier in the 20th century. Both sides could respect them because judicial appointments tended to lie in a zone of reasonableness, and "qualification for the job" had more of an objective rather than an ideological air. It was the left who threw out those rules and politicized the appointment process, appointing people who said insane things such as that the Constitution contains a right to abortion. Indeed, FDR had first introduced the politicization of the court with his own court-packing threat. The Borking of Bork was an extreme instance, and the left has played in the same way ever since, while the right still holds itself bound only to examine some kind of other "qualifications," at the most.

Barbara, it is one of the goals of W4 to bring together Protestants and Catholics, as our contributor roster itself is a combination of Protestants and Catholics. I infer from your comment that you are Catholic. If so, you should be pleased that I referred to Robert Bork as a Christian, rather than taking that as an opportunity to start an argument over whether Protestants and Catholics can both be right or are both going to heaven. Obviously, there are points on which Protestants and Catholics disagree. I'm not uninformed about that. I also know that there are Protestants who think Catholics aren't going to heaven and Catholics who think Protestants aren't going to heaven. If you don't think I'm going to heaven because I'm a Protestant, this doesn't offend me, but please don't add to my list of things that are wrong with the world by hijacking my obituary thread to Robert Bork to try to start some sort of Catholic-Protestant debate. And that on the grounds that I said that Bork became a Christian! Good grief.

Barbara, this is not the time or the place. Lydia is to be allowed a kind word for Bork's conversion without your canned and irrelevant sectarian venom. It is not "indifferentism" to observe basic decorum here. I daresay Lydia understands to substantive ecclesiological divide between herself and Bork better than you do.

Quote by Catholic St. Augustine:

“Order your soul; reduce your wants; live in charity; associate in Christian community; obey the laws; trust in Providence.”

Pope Benedict XVI:

Our Christian conviction is that Christ is also the messiah of Israel. Certainly it is in the hands of God how and when the unification of Jews and Christians into the people of God will take place.

I am a Catholic. I am a Christian.

Are we done with this? Catholics are Christians.


I second what the Masked Elephant said. When I read your first comment, I thought you were a know-nothing protestant fundamentalist trying to insinuate that Catholics aren't "really" Christians. Then, when I read your second comment, I thought you were a Catholic rad-trad insinuating that those who call themselves "Christians" aren't really Christians because they belong to some non-Catholic ecclesial community. Either way, your ilk has nothing to contribute to the discussion here. Catholic or not, you are united to the Church through baptism. Period.

Get lost. Gondor and Rohan are up against the same opponent and we are shooting at the same enemy, and we don't need your nonsense here. We can sort this sectarian nonsense out once the dust clears.


A wonderful tribute. Earlier today I saw this link (HT: Ben Domenech) and thought it was worth sharing with our readers as it also highlights Bork's intellectual integrity and the Left's complete ideological madness (and abdication of intellectual honor):


Wow. Yousefzadeh doesn't pull any punches. By the time I got to the last paragraph, my screen was smoking. Good for him.

Here is a quotation I found late last night after posting the main post. It warms the cockles of my heart, for obvious reasons. From Robert Bork, in an interview about his Catholic conversion:

I found the evidence of the existence of God highly persuasive, as well as the arguments from design both at the macro level of the universe and the micro level of the cell.

I found the evidence of design overwhelming, and also the number of witnesses to the Resurrection compelling. The Resurrection is established as a solid historical fact.

Full link here:


I'm hoping that the non-Christian Christian Obama undergoes a similar conversion, so that one day we can say of him, "He got Borked."

judicial appointments tended to lie in a zone of reasonableness,
Naturally, since both parties agreed on the (moral) premises.
But following the Progressive revolution, and in particular the sexual revolution, the premises were no longer shared. Thus rational argumentation could not proceed.
The Right is clinging to the hope that America is still one nation, even though disagreeing on the moral premises. It is a libertarian hope or delusion may be.
The Left is under no such illusion.They know that a nation can not stand divided and they fully intend to eat up the Right.
The shades of political Individualism do hurt the Right and restrain it from fighting the fight it needs to fight.

i agree with the above commenter who mentioned Piatak, he's a good writer, one of those who i think takes legit shots at current GOP orthodoxy without it coming off like David Frum, AmConMag, etc. etc.

the problem with paleocons in general isn't that there aren't plenty of critiques to be made about neoconservatism, but that they seem to have an almost comically tribal mentality where everything is personal and any disagreements are always in bad faith. not to mention the weird anti-Lincoln fixation and hardcore anti-Israeli sentiment bleeding into anti-Semitism in the most true-believing circles.

Yes, RDE, when one starts trying to isolate "the problem" with the paleocons, he winds up finding that he's grappling with six or eight problems. But because in any given publication it is possible to find some reasonable and compelling arguments, and even some profound insights, I think a lot of people get sucked in. In an effort to rescue that one key insight, or that general sense that these folks must be on to something, some people just open themselves up to thoughts and ideas that it would have been better for them never to have heard.

Naturally, since both parties agreed on the (moral) premises.

Gian, there was more to it than that. I think that there was a time when the majority of judges actually had legal integrity and viewed it as their job to follow the law and not simply to wield power in whatever way they could get away with. The Constitution wasn't generally or broadly viewed as a kind of tabula rasa on which to write all of one's own highest aspirations for the country's policy. Once that _judicial_ premise was thrown out, then the issue of _moral_ premises became absolutely acute, because a judge with x moral ideas would write them into the constitution as "constitutional rights" and so forth.

By the way, people will sometimes mention (or even sneer) that prior to the 1970's the moral and social views of some of the most important Republican politicians (Goldwater comes to mind) were more liberal than what would be acceptable to social conservatives nowadays. I sometimes think they don't connect the dots between that and a decision like Roe v. Wade. Once the court began federalizing deep and crucial moral issues by saying that they were constitutional issues, social conservatism at the federal level became far more important.

The paleos are indeed "onto something," but most of what they're onto can be found at other places like Front Porch Republic without the accompanying spleen. I was a long-time subscriber to Chronicles, but eventually gave it up for exactly the reason you mention -- too much chaff, not enough wheat. A lot of times their anger about current conditions seems to get the better of them, even when their core arguments are sound, and it makes for unpleasant reading. Eventually one learns who to avoid.

I myself am not a big fan of the Lincoln presidency, and I don't like the U.S.'s kneejerk support of Israel, but I certainly don't hate Lincoln or the Jews.

"By the way, people will sometimes mention (or even sneer) that prior to the 1970's the moral and social views of some of the most important Republican politicians"

yes and no. to my knowledge the "good" Goldwater liberals invoke today was based on statements made a couple decades after his run. he's alternatively invoked as Where the Right Went Wrong (opposition to the '64 Civil Rights act, conservatives taking the GOP, etc. etc.) and as brave anti-religious right libertarian depending on what rhetorical point people are trying to make.

of course those two aspects of him aren't necessarily contradictory, i just have an instinctive eyeroll whenever liberals disingenuously pine for Republicans "back in the day" who they hated.

What knee-jerk support of Israel? Last I checked Obama was doing his best to pretend they don't exist.

Masked, "knee-jerk support" is the term used by people who don't know how international politics works. Our support for, say, Japan is every bit as "knee-jerk" as it is for Israel. Here's the difference: Israel's support of the US actually does fit the description of knee-jerk. They're a guaranteed vote in the UN General Assembly even when every single other voting member lines up against the US.

More than that, though, people have no familiarity with the importance of perception in international relations. Israel is in a very peculiar situation, and that country's existence in the face of determined global hostility is the single most powerful symbol of America's special place in the contemporary world. The day that the United States can be seen to be buckling under the pressure to put space between itself and Israel, an extremely important change will have occurred.

That's why, not incidentally, President "We've Been Arrogant and We're Really Not So Special After All" is so keen to create the perception of distance between himself and Israel, and why every time America's role as a global hegemon comes up, Israel invariably finds its way into the discussion. Whether or not you think we ought to be allies with Israel, there's a hard fact to face, which is that if the US were to abandon Israel even a little to those who wish nothing less than its annihilation (and the blood-soaked horror that that would entail), it would have consequences for American standing in the world which could never be undone, and it is almost a certainty that Japan and South Korea would be nuclear powers in under a decade.

But really, people have no interest in all of this. The easy way out, of just letting Israel take it on the chin from time to time, seems to them a reasonable price to pay. Problem is, in international affairs, very tiny misinterpreted signals can lead to things like--well, wars and stuff. With stakes like those, you just don't take a lot of chances that someone gets the idea that you can be peeled off and pressured to sit on the sidelines in a hot conflict.

Anybody who really cares about this kind of thing can start by reading Robert Jervis' Perception and Misperception in International Politics. I'm not a believer in the "scientific" validity of political science, and I think that strategic studies is an especially bad manifestation of the tendency to pointless scientism in the academy. Jervis' work is no exception. But if you set aside the aphoristic, quasi-scientific language and pretention, you can discover a lot of interesting historical insight.

Post a comment

Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.