One of the things I’ve noticed over time is one a republican is no longer a threat to democrats electorally the media suddenly finds nice things to say.
At the New Republic we see this process up close.
Before the hearings, Robert Bork had been renowned at Yale Law School, where he taught for nearly two decades, not only for his influence on antitrust and constitutional law, but for his ideological open-mindedness: many students of his era fondly remember the seminar he co-taught with his closest friend on the faculty, the liberal constitutional scholar (and TNR legal editor) Alexander Bickel, which featured affectionate bipartisan debates. After Bickel criticized his conservative jurisprudence in one class, Bork replied, “You’ll notice that my colleague’s elegant theories of jurisprudence are a cross between Edmund Burke and Fiddler on the Roof.” TNR was said to be Bork’s favorite journal at the time, and in 1968 he wrote a piece for this magazine, “Why I Am for Nixon,” praising the Republican presidential candidate as the true heir of classical liberalism.
As soon as Robert Bork became a “threat” to the left it was necessary and proper for good Catholics like Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden to destroy him and his reputation if they could.
Yet Bork remained the man he was.
After the hearings, he would become, in print at least, something of the caricature of legal conservatism that Kennedy had painted. But he remained friendly and convivial in private: Whenever I ran into him and his devoted wife, Mary Ellen, over the years at holiday sing-alongs, he loved to discuss his old friend Bickel over scotch. Although the hearings had left Bork professionally embittered, he remained personally gracious.
I suspect many of the left who knew that Bork was a better man than they pretended he was. All of these people who could have done something or said something at a time when it would have meant something will unburden themselves of the guilt and they will feel better about themselves.
The world will now hear about Robert Bork the good republican, but only because he is Robert Bork the dead republican.