The argument I think Matt makes is that Briebart might have had a private life where he was (by all accounts) a loving husband and father of four children, but he also had a public life where he was a very mean person, and he made a lot of money by being mean and hurting other people. I'm not going to go through all of the bad things Briebart did, but if you don't know about them, here's one. In addition to ruining people's lives for fun and profit, Briebart contributed nothing to our national debate, indeed for someone who was displayed as a symbol of mean people on the "left" saying mean things about him he wasn't exactly a nice guy in public. He divided Americans against other Americans, again for fun and profit, and said things much worse that anything Matt Yglesias said. I didn't have to describe what he looked like for you to know who I was talking about in that video, it was rather apparent. I would also say that while it might be a personal tragedy for people who knew him personally that he died, the public figure that left the stage should be held accountable for what he did.
This week we had another death of a once major political figure and it looks like it is being overshadowed by a sense of important national loss. Any debate about what he did, why he did it and why that might be wrong is being stifled by a sense that it is wrong to speak ill of the dead. But I'm going to speak ill of him.
The one who actually died was Robert Bork. If you don't know who Bork is that's okay, but you probably should read more. The great journalist Jeff Toobin wrote what I would say is a pretty even handed review of Bork's life (okay that isn't very fair but recently a friend of mine got a job at Planned Parenthood so I bet Bork wouldn't think to highly of me either, also I know single mothers so I guess I am twice damned in Bork's book) Toobin writes:
Robert Bork, who died Wednesday, was an unrepentant reactionary who was on the wrong side of every major legal controversy of the twentieth century. The fifty-eight senators who voted against Bork for confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1987 honored themselves, and the Constitution. In the subsequent quarter-century, Bork devoted himself to proving that his critics were right about him all along.Yeah, that's kinda harsh, but it's also true. Bork has two great claims to fame, number one he was the number three man in the Justice Department in 1973 when Richard Nixon ordered the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox, because Cox was linking Nixon to the Watergate break ins. Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox, Richardson said no, so Nixon fired Richardson. President Nixon then ordered Richardson's deputy, a fellow named William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox, and the Ruck-master also said no, so Nixon axed him too. So the President of the United States of America was essentially removing anyone from the Department of Justice who might seek to pursue the chain of evidence in the Watergate Burglary to it's ultimate genesis, that is President Nixon. NOT TO FEAR DICK, BORK IS NOW AT THE HELM! Bork of course immediately fired Cox. Bork always said he did this because otherwise Justice would be "leaderless" or something, umm okay, Mr. Morality punts big time (we'll get to that latter.)
Later Bork would climb the ladder of the Federal Judiciary until his next great moment of history in 1987 when ole Dutch Regan nominated him for the Supreme Court. This began an epic battle that involved many factors. Remember Regan had shocked the Democrats in 1980 when he won the biggest landslide against a incumbent President in decades AND the GOP won a majority in the Senate. By the late 80's the situtaiton had turned. Democrats won a huge victory in the 1986 mid-terms and many were working to try and push back against the GOP conservative agenda that had made headway in the early 80's. Into this Bork comes, according to many of his peers a Judicial genius, at the same time Bork would say things on national televison that showed him to be a radically out of touch with American society of the the 80's, let alone today. Which implies to a dumb as shit field organizer like me he wasn't that bright at all. Again Toobin:
Bork gave honest and forthright answers to the questions posed by the senators on the Judiciary Committee, which was led admirably by then Senator Joseph Biden. Much of the questioning focussed on Bork’s long-held belief that the Constitution does not include a right to privacy. As one of the creators of the “originalist” school of constitutional interpretation, Bork asserted that since the framers did not use the word “privacy,” that value was not reflected in our founding document. Accordingly, he opposed such decisions as Griswold v. Connecticut, which said states could not ban married couples from buying birth control, and Roe v. Wade, which prohibits states from banning abortion. He promised the senators he would reflect those views as a Supreme Court Justice.Indeed, while Bork was talking about Griswold-which was a case in the 60's about a then decades old law in Connecticut which made all forms of contraceptives illegal in the state, even those used by a married couple under the advice of a physician (just think about that)-he argued these types of laws were no different from laws regulating pollution from factories. This of course was massively unpopular with the American public and so Bork went down in flames.
Bork never really recovered from this defeat. While constantly praised as a Judicial genius by his peers, he neither taught nor wrote any thing of significance about the law for the next 20 odd years (he resigned his Court of Appeals seat in 1987 after he lost his confirmation). Instead he started writing books in which he would condem everything about modern American society from working mothers to pre-maritial sex. In short the political lackey from 1973 turned himself into some sort of great moral voice, or something and stuff. Too bad their was none of that culture warrior steel to stand up for the Constitution back in'73. Toobin again sums up what happened:
One of his last books may have summed up his views best. Thanks in part to decisions of the Supreme Court—decisions that, for the most part, Bork abhorred—the United States became a more tolerant and inclusive place, with greater freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination than any society in history. Bork called the book, accurately, “A Country I Do Not Recognize.”Yeah I don't imagine he did either.