The Borking of Barack Obama
In 1987 President Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. The reaction to that pick was so unique and so extreme that a new verb entered the English language—Borking. To this day a true political junky will use that word as shorthand for over the top rhetoric, character assassination and no holds barred political discourse. While the resistance to the pick succeeded in stopping Bork’s nomination it also stained the body politic. Any fair telling of the story acknowledges that the way Judge Bork was treated set a precedent for future Supreme Court nominations that has damaged the common good. I say this as someone who generally leans Left on national politics. To this day I am uncomfortable thinking about Ted Kennedy because I so associate him with his vicious attacks on Bork. I believe that my party, the Democratic Party, hurt not only itself but the good of our country by unleashing a new type of political attack on judicial nominees.
I raise this story now because I feel that the shoe is on the other foot. Now it is the Republican Party that has so demonized and diminished President Obama that they have made genuine compromise with him something to be feared within their party. And yet I still hear Republicans try to claim that the way Obama has been treated is just politics as usual, just the kind of cute rhetoric that all politicians use. They would like to go on as if the last 30 months of verbal assaults against the president has no bearing on their party’s ability to reach a meaningful compromise on the debt crisis. They sound like Democrats in the 1980s trying to live with themselves after the crushing of Robert Bork. They so want to believe that their consciences are clear that they ignore the obvious. After creating a picture of Obama as a socialist, Muslim, terrorist pal, unnatural citizen they would have us believe that this rhetoric has no connection to their unwillingness to compromise in the debt ceiling negotiations. Why can’t they just face the reality that they upped the anty, they pushed the envelope, they went beyond the norm, and now they are living with the consequences.
Here is what I would like to hear, just once, from a Christian conservative Republican—“We went too far. In our zeal to defeat Obama we delegitimized him to a large chunk of our base. We should not have done this. We did to him what Democrats did to Bork. We were wrong and if we are going to work for the common good we have to acknowledge that.”
If I could just hear something like that, instead of what always sounds like minimizing or justifying or excusing away or trying to make moral equivalence, it would be nice, it would be Christian.