Walter Olson on the historically nasty confirmation battle that kept Robert Bork off the US Supreme Court:
Of course the confirmation critique that makes it into every Bork obituary isn’t Heflin’s or Johnston’s. It’s Ted Kennedy’s blowhard caricature, intended for northern liberal consumption, of “Robert Bork’s America” as “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, school children could not be taught about evolution,” and so on.
Never in memory had a judicial nomination been fought in such language. Why?
As a constitutional law scholar, Bork had distinguished himself even among conservatives for his scathing critique of the Warren Court, which he accused essentially of having made up constitutional law as it went along.
To organized liberal groups, on whose behalf Kennedy was acting, this was the next thing to a declaration of war. Yet they couldn’t exactly come out and defend making up constitutional law as you went along as their own vision for the high court.
Instead, they served up a steady diet of vitriol and wild oversimplification, especially in TV ads and other messages delivered outside the confirmation hearings.
The Washington Post itself opposed Bork’s confirmation, yet nonetheless editorialized against the “intellectual vulgarization and personal savagery” to which some of his opponents had descended, “profoundly distorting the record and the nature of the man.”