Friday, July 20, 2018

Letter to The Weekly Standard

Terry Eastland's comment in the July 23rd issue contains a reasonable account of the liberal/conservative divide in the Supreme Court in recent decades. However, the comment goes horribly awry regarding the failed Robert Bork nomination. Calling the opposition to Bork a "vicious" campaign is totally out of bounds; more accurate would be to call it "vigorous", or "spirited", but certainly not "vicious", which is a slur.

Calling Bork "one of the great intellectuals in the law" is simply ludicrous. Noone who watched or listened to his inept testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee would mistake Bork for a "great intellectual". He repeatedly refused to answer even the simplest, most basic questions about the criminal law, using the excuse that he hadn't studied the issue.

But Bork had more problems than this. He came across in the confirmation hearings as aloof and unapproachable, turning off even many of his supporters. As Senator Howell Heflin commented, "He's too professorial".

As ably documented in Ethan Bronner's "Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America", Bork waffled over key issues during his confirmation hearing, repeatedly flip-flopping back and forth. This made him look hopelessly opportunistic, and called his character into question. Bronner says that Bork "modified views he had held strongly and repeated widely for two decades".  Bronner adds that Bork's repeated waffling earned him "the contempt of some fervent admirers".

Not every issue boils down to liberal vs. conservative. Sometimes it is just competent vs. incompetent.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Kavanaugh Nomination

An editorial in The Weekly Standard for July 23, 2018, mentions that Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh was one of the authors of the notorious Starr Report, and describes that document as "a fair, thorough, and nuanced work of analysis".

Renata Adler's article "Decoding the Starr Report", which first appeared in Vanity Fair in December, 1998, and which is reprinted in Adler's book After the Tall Timber, has a completely different analysis of the Starr Report.  Adler says that the Starr Report is "an utterly preposterous document: inaccurate, mindless, biased, disorganized, unprofessional, and corrupt". She goes on to call it "a massive document in which it is literally impossible to find information by title, date, alphabetical or chronological sequence, or context of any kind".

She summarizes the information about the Clinton/Lewinsky "affair" in a way that makes Lewinsky look like a complete villain who repeatedly stalked and harassed President Clinton. Her analysis is based on a through reading of the Starr Report, and I suggest that if you don't have the time nor inclination to read the report itself (and who in their right mind does), then you should read Adler's article for the detailed information necessary to understand the misguided impeachment effort launched against Clinton by the right-wingers in the House.