The infamous Senate Non-Confirmation trial of Constitutional scholar and Justice Robert Bork enjoys, or suffers, or at any rate is doomed to a virile afterlife in the public imagination. The phrase “Robert Bork’s America” and even the eponymous word Borking have ingratiated themselves into our political lexicon as firmly as “Founding Father” or the “-gate” suffix.
Rightly so: The act of political circus perpetrated by Senator Ted Kennedy has irrevocably politicized the confirmation of SCOTUS Justices, damaging a process that ought to revolve around studied reflection of abstruse, intricate legal decisions written over the course of years on the bench by highly intelligent candidates. Today, the process is prejudiced in favor of the opinions of the most vocal urban dwellers of Washington, D.C., material readily leveraged by third- and fourth-hand summaries of legal records propagated by political actors and media players. Even the successful confirmation of the principles and good Clarence Thomas was due in no small part to his own compelling, televised testimony, and its subsequent effect on public opinion polls.
The Confirmation Trial of Neil Gorsuch
That brings us to the confirmation trial of Neil Gorsuch, a broadly published Appeals Court Judge of ten years who possess a J.D. from Harvard and a thoughtful and intelligent legal philosophy. Judge Gorsuch went to Washington and encountered a crew of Democrats desirous to a man of shredding him and his sterling reputation. Ranking Democrat Dick Durbin (IL) capitalized on one woman’s discredited testimony in an attempt to brand Gorsuch as a sexist. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren scolded him thus: “Giant companies don’t need another Supreme Court justice to tilt the law in their favor,” (*cough*NewLondon,Connecticut*cough*). The magazine Slate brought the toxic bullying to the popular level by tarring the Judge as “cold” for one particular ruling he made that affronted empathetic sensibilities.
Justice in the making: Another photo shows Gorsuch leaning over a railing with his tie undone while sticking his tongue out at the camera
God forbid a man in power ever take himself in any way except with grave severity. As we all know, sticking one’s tongue out for the camera is an undignified, plebeian hallmark of a most plentiful lack of intelligence.
It doesn’t matter that in 2006 the Senate confirmed Gorsuch to the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in a unanimous voice-vote that included Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Charles Schumer. Gorsuch was a villain of unprecedented sleeping cruelty who had to go down.
A Villain in the Annals of History
It seemed that the savage onslaught threatened to annihilate the single best accomplishment of the Trump Presidency. A good man’s good name would be ruined, mired in accusations of greed, sexism, and heartlessness. Even if he managed to achieve confirmation, Gorsuch was apparently in real peril of becoming a villain in the annals of history and her first draft, journalism—much as Hitler and Nixon are universally “fair game” for unmasked attack, rational discussion taking a backseat. In the face of such other real-life tyrants achieving anonymity (Pol Pot, Francisco Franco—and honestly, how does anyone achieve anonymity with a name like one of those?) or warm aspirations (Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez), it seems arbitrary and unjust.
(Disclaimer: Hitler was a national-socialist who propounded pseudo-science to justify genocide against people arbitrarily classified as inferior and non-people while perfecting the State as an all-encompassing state religion to care for every aspect of human life. Nixon, for his part, opened China.)
In the end, the Senatorial circus left no mark, the insults do not recur to memory, and no one cares. Instead, it feels as if we are exhuming all these accusations from an age ago.
In this we have a valuable perspective that we would be wise to harness moving forward into the future. It is an assurance that wild, groundless, flailing accusations, even when they assault us from all sides and threaten to engulf us and our good names, have a dismal half-life. Truth abides, truth prevails.
Few of us will ever be appointed to the High Court of the United States, but more of us than we’d like will one day find ourselves ensnared in libel, slander, rumor, gossip, treachery, and lies. Whether it comes in the form of some foolish reaction to actions of ours, or as some calculated aggression, or sheer folly, we will probably be plunged into despair. It will seem like the new status quo; a recovery to the good old placid days will seem impossible, unthinkable.
But it will pass. The accusers will fade away, because Lies are tyrannous masters—they demand constant devotion that few are willing to keep paying. We forestall the danger of a much more memorable meltdown or panic on our part by reminding ourselves that the storm passes. Not in every case, but oftener than we dare believe. Really.
The whole lesson reminds me of some wisdom from Rome’s Stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius, whose words stand the test of time:
Be like the headland against which the waves break and break: it stands firm, until presently the watery tumult around it subsides once more to rest…