To the Editor:
No president serves for more than eight years but his influence on the Supreme Court lasts far longer. Andrew Jackson was 12 years in his grave when his Chief Justice, Roger Taney, brought on the Civil War by holding that Congress could not bar slavery from the territories. Nothing that can be asked of any presidential candidate is more important than what sort of justices he would appoint.
Barack Obama has already demonstrated his preference for mainstream justices by appointing Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, would choose justices like the ones he says he admires: the right-wing activists Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito. And when it seemed that Romney’s judicial outlook couldn’t get any worse, it did. He chose Robert Bork to co-chair his justice advisory committee.
Bork, it will be remembered, brought so extreme a record to his 1987 Supreme Court confirmation hearing that the Senate rejected him by a vote of 58 to 42, the largest margin ever. In Bork’s opinion, there was no constitutional right to privacy, no broad protection for freedom of speech, no equality for women and minorities. Only a few months ago, he asserted that women “aren’t discriminated against any more.”
Bork’s character impugns Romney’s judgment no less than Bork’s views. That character was laid bare in the Watergate crisis of 1973.
President Nixon was desperate to keep Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor, from obtaining the White House tapes that he knew would prove him guilty of obstruction of justice. When Cox insisted, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliott Richardson to fire him. Richardson refused and resigned. So did his deputy, William Ruckelshaus. Bork, as solicitor general and third in line, had no compunctions against becoming Nixon’s hatchetman.
For such a person to have Romney’s ear is to give cause for wonder as to whether any part of the candidate’s soul remains unsacrificed to his ambition.
Martin A. Dyckman