Our present hyper-partisan and toxic political environment might well have been born on the 1st of July, 1987, when Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to replace Lewis Powell on the Supreme Court. Having convinced themselves – or at least, having convinced their donors - that the Gipper was out to seize personal control of women’s reproductive organs and re-institute Jim Crow, the Senate’s liberal wing had already vowed to stop whomever Reagan nominated, regardless how otherwise uncontroversial he might be. Thus, it only took the Ted Kennedy’s slime machine research team 45 minutes to prep America’s Conscience for this jeremiad:
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, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy… President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice.
Kennedy’s attack was, as Bork believed contemporaneously and a more personally disinterested Economist magazine editorial board later admitted, fabricated out of whole cloth. The ferocity of the attack stunned the Reagan White House into immobility for almost three months. Its only redeeming virtue, from a political perspective anyway, was that it worked.
But President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee approved of the process.
Sauce for the gander would be sauce for the goose, if there was any justice in the world of justice.