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Jewish World Review Jan. 8, 2001 / 13 Teves, 5761

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg
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Unfairly 'borking' Ashcroft -- THERE'S A GREAT SCENE in "The Godfather" - let's face it, all the scenes are great - in which Clemenza explains to Michael Corleone that every five or 10 years you need a big gang war just to clear out the bad blood.

Well, Washington is going to the mattresses (another Godfatherism meaning total war) in a way it hasn't in more than a decade.

The chosen battlefield will be the confirmation hearings for John Ashcroft, Linda Chavez and Gale Norton, President-elect Bush's nominees to head, respectively, his Justice, Labor and Interior departments. But this fight won't clear any bad blood, it will just make things more poisonous.

Already the press is reporting that the exact same groups which borked Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987 are going to use the same tactics on Bush's nominees, particularly Ashcroft. "Safire's New Political Dictionary," the bible of political lexicography, defines "bork" as to "attack viciously a candidate or appointee, especially by misrepresentation in the media." The Washington Post reports that the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of gitchy-goo liberal activist groups that made "bork" a verb, is on the verge of trying to make "Ashcroft" one, too.

It's difficult to exaggerate the level of exaggeration these groups were willing to stoop to in order to defeat the most qualified nominee to the Supreme Court of the last generation. History has not been kind to those who tried to destroy Bork. Which is why it might be useful to review their handiwork.

People for the American Way ran a delightfully un-American ad accusing Bork of, among other things, favoring "Sterilizing workers … No privacy … No day in court," etc. It concluded with, "Judge Bork has consistently ruled against the interests of people" (as if the plaintiffs in his courtroom were androids, sentient animals and ghosts).

One Planned Parenthood press release read: "Robert Bork's Position on Reproductive Rights? YOU DON'T HAVE ANY." In another flyer, they added: "STATE-CONTROLLED PREGNANCY? It's not as farfetched as it sounds." They assured the uninformed that, according to Robert Bork, "states could ... impose family quotas for population purposes

or sterilize anyone they choose." At the time, the Grand Mufti of asinine liberalism, Senator Ted Kennedy, issued a fatwah declaring that no historical excess against Bork could go too far. He declared, "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids ... and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on millions of citizens."

With that encouragement, various groups investigated Bork's private life. Hoping to find X-rated movies, they scrounged up only classic Hitchcock. Whisper - and shouting - campaigns suggesting that Bork was anti-Semitic and racist were launched, despite the fact that Bork's first wife was Jewish (she died of cancer); that he had risked his career to win a place for a Jewish lawyer at his Chicago firm; that he took up the cause of a black woman blocked from meetings at the Justice department. And yet Gregory Peck felt no reluctance in cutting television ads suggesting Bork favored poll taxes and literacy tests.

Bork was indisputably qualified to be on the Supreme Court - and Senator Joseph Biden, the Democratic chair of the Judiciary Committee at the time, even said so before he joined the feeding frenzy. Bork was solicitor general, acting attorney general, perhaps the foremost authority on anti-trust law and a former Yale professor. He is still, a dozen years after hanging up his gavel, one of the most frequently cited authorities in judicial opinions.

All of these qualifications mattered not a bit; they were swallowed up in the self-interests of groups with other agendas. The same thing appears to be happening now.

The Washington Post reports that most of the groups see the campaign against Ashcroft as a "warm up." In the words of one Democratic leader, "This gives us a chance to get our own house in order …to get our troops ready for a bigger fight."

In the meantime, Ashcroft is already being borked. Bob Herbert of The New York Times calls Ashcroft a "shameless liar." The Times and other outlets are going out of their way to make Ashcroft into some kind of Nazi. Outright accusations that he's a racist abound, though for now still in code. There is literally nothing in Ashcroft's record that suggests he is a racist.

Sure, there's plenty that shows he is in favor of restricting the role of the federal government, giving states more latitude, favoring the death penalty or showing that he is a social conservative. And for these groups that's enough to Ashcroft him.

To comment on JWR contributor Jonah Goldberg's column click here.


01/04/01: Want to be more efficient? Increase number of politicians
01/02/01: Whole lotta exploitin' goin' on
12/28/00: Hypocrisy police pounce on Clinton book deal
12/26/00: Sometimes, it's good to be a Grinch
12/21/00: Though symbolic, Bush's diversity sends a message
12/19/00: Gore concedes --- but why did it take so long?
12/14/00: Is 'Queer as Folk' what we asked for?
12/11/00: Election mess hardly a 'civics lesson'
12/07/00: Clinton's tacky legacy
12/05/00: Marriage civilizes the manly beast
11/30/00: Gore's speech more pompous posturing
11/28/00: Rabble-rousing Dems act irresponsibly
11/27/00: Duking it out with democracy
11/16/00: Issues irrelevant to most voters
11/14/00: Gore's us-vs.-them campaign
11/10/00: Dot-com disasters missing brand-name success
11/06/00: Conventional wisdom turns with the polls
11/03/00: Clinton photo, appropriately, hits below the belt
11/01/00: Electoral college ensures democracy
10/30/00: New Yorkers, media letting Hillary off the hook
10/23/00: Gore needs to put first things first
10/20/00: Treatment of Farrakhan glosses over odd issues
10/16/00: Secrets of election can be found in 'Star Trek'
10/12/00: Arafat hardly 'provoked' into violence
10/10/00: Undecided voters may be ignorant, not discriminating
10/06/00: The importance of character isn't debatable
10/03/00: Conservatives are the true friends of science You know why?
09/29/00: Symbolic 'born alive' vote makes sense
09/25/00: Conservatives adopt abandoned liberalism
09/21/00: Ventura's media backpedaling makes fiction of his new book
09/18/00: Tough questions target Hillary Clinton's elitism
09/14/00: Hollywood morality to blame
09/11/00: Specifically, AlGore's detailed plan is meaningless
09/07/00: Time-honored tradition: Insult the press
09/05/00: Scouting out justice
08/30/00: The ADL's historical revisionism
08/28/00: Sitcoms will survive, post-"Survivor"
08/24/00: Candidates' choice of movies shows refreshing honesty
08/21/00: An AlGore victory? Only if dead birds fly
08/17/00: AlGore is doomed, but Dems ignore warning signs
08/15/00: Proud and true: He's a Jew
08/10/00: Exploiting religion would be tragic mistake
08/08/00: Cheney serves up tempting appetizer
08/03/00: Republicans now 'nice,' media still nasty
08/01/00: Presidential campaign could use some anti-metric mania
07/27/00: Government shouldn't subsidize Reform Party
07/25/00: Campaign finance 'reform' gives too much power to liberal media
07/20/00: Hillary slur speaks volumes
07/18/00: AlGore's McCarthyism
07/11/00: 'Survivor' shows hypocrisy of animal rights groups
07/05/00: McDonald's deserves a break today
07/03/00: On July Fourth, time to reflect on America's founding
06/28/00: America bashing becomes international pastime
06/23/00: If Fonda is sorry, let her say so
06/06/00: NAPSTER exposes artists' hypocrisy
04/18/00: Not much difference between TV journalists, TV actors

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