Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ted Kennedy v. Robert Bork

Nay, I will not be issuing a broadside seeking to roast the corpse of history's 2nd most senior-serving Democratic U.S. Senator like an ersatz kielbasa-bob burbling over a Gdansk bonfire. Nor will I delve into the unseemly-to-damn-near felonious personal behavior at several key junctures of E.M.K.'s existence. For the sin of maliciously (and, ultimately, futilely) cutting the re-election legs out from under a truly decent (if, slightly, ineffectual) man, President Carter, I leave that to the two dozen remaining non-GOP Baptists to harangue. No, my point is a slightly personal one based on chance encounters and an effort to at least try to define what a good (American-version) man is?

Suprisingly [ :) ] to most, I've had experience in real politics, specifically as a U.S. Senate intern. In the course of prosecuting mundane tasks, I happened upon the Massachusetts Senator twice and found him to be - as has been reported - a genial fellow. The only more friendly Senator (including my boss - with whom I barely exchanged a glance, much less word) was then Sen. John Danforth. I almost literally bumped into him outside the Hart Building and, while walking across the Capitol's front quad, exchanged thoughts about the relevance of Rheinhold Niehbuhr - J.D.'s thesis subject - to contemporary politics. I mention this only to underscore that I've no axe to grind with the late Senator.

That said I was struck this past weekend by the contrast in the lives of Robert Bork & Ted Kennedy. Why? Perhaps the tumblers were set-off by Sen. Kennedy's deserved reputation as a protector of the downtrodden and my natural (plus counter-intuitive) propensity to flip over said existential coin for evidence, in this case, of a bully hiding on the other side. If so, the case study for this hypothesis is the '87 Judiciary Committee lynching of then Judge Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court. Less than an hour after the announcement by then Pres. Reagan, the inheritor of Camelot's tarnished mantle took to the United States Senate floor to deliver the following bombast:

"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 {See left (sorry for pun) from his initial California gubenatorial run campaign poster [ :) ]} 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."

About the only thing Sen. Kennedy omitted was the insinuation that Bob B. had a sweet-lookin' swastika tatted on his butt to boot! We all have personal low points, but what got lost in much of the hoopla re the Bork nomination was that the Court lost a truly seminal thinker. The school of 'Originalism' Bork has promulgated remains a viable - and flexible - legal construct. Although usually assorted with conservative rationale, non-Justice Bork has consternated many Republicans, for example, with arguments that the 2nd Amendment only guarantees the right to a militia and not the ability to buy "teflon-coated bullets". Bork's formerly unfashionable anti-trust work is now the prevailing wisdom on the subject and undergirds his always acknowledged standing as a legal mind of the first order.

What was done to Robert Bork on a personal level during his nomination process, was downright despicable regardless of philosophical disagreements any person may have had with the man. Sen. Kennedy was by anyone's admission the primary Kapellmeister of the opposition, despite hearty assists from our current Vice President & Sen. Arlen "Flip-Flop Parties" Specter. To the best of my knowledge, Teddy K. never admitted any regret/remorse for his role (or that his opposition, in the end, just fueled the fire for conservatives to redouble their agenda-pushing efforts by pimping-out true fire-eaters like Justice Scalia as payback). My point in this rhetorical effort is to note only that I've yet to see a comparison of these two cojoined, yet diametrically different, Catholic figures' lives vis-a-vis discussion of what a good (public) man is? It's suprising because the obvious contrasts are fairly meaty and instructive (at least for those with Y chromosomes).

Bork was an esteemed Yale law professor while the Kennedys are part of the mortar, literally, supporting rival Harvard. Both gents spent the bulk of their lives grappling with weighty affairs vis-a-vis the inherent fairness of American domestic life from equally well-defined, but 180 degree opposing, ideologic + professional avenues (legislative v. judicial). On a personal level, R.B. - despite his vilification above - is personal probity's quintessence; a leaked expose (during the ex-Prof's confirmation) of his videotape preferences revealed only a propensity for Cary Grant films. The other, well ... lets just say Dewars can't count on robust Hyannisport holiday sales any longer. Lastly - and this isn't meant to be petty - they were on drastically different sides of a joint perennial/personal battle with their waistlines. Teddy waxed/waned perpetually, but Judge Bork successfully has kept off +50# for the past 10 years.

So? I don't seek to deny Teddy any imagined halo & I admit he did as much good as wrong. His family has been drug through the mud more indiscretely than debate over what Marilyn M. was (or wasn't) wearing when she was found dead; no further discussion needed of such tawdriness.

Robert Bork, however, still draws breath and contributes to our civil discourse. Despite being wronged, he has not let anger color his pronouncements. Beyond opposing one of Pres. G.W. Bush's ill-chosen Supreme Court nominees (Harriet Miers), the former professor has continued to espouse interesting ideas & remains intellectually engaged. The most striking example of the former being along the lines of how our Congress should be able - like the Canadian parliament - to overrule some high court decisions with supra-majorities. Go figure, eh, Earl Warren?

If we are to praise Teddy this hour, let us have a word too for one of his unfortunate victims. Moons ago in the old Washington National Airport, I sat next to Bork while both of us got a shoeshine. I had seen a "Washington Post" piece that he had been called to jury duty not too long before, reported dutifully, had not been called to sit but nevertheless applied himself diligently in the waiting room to a collection of work by G.K. Chesterton. The Judge chuckled when I brought up the story, admitted to such plus said Chesterton was an old touch-stone of his. Before departing my company, the kindly ex-bench-dweller was nice enough to sign the leaf of what I was then perusing - The Wise Men.

I found Robert Bork, albeit in only that sole brief encounter, to be just as genial in person as the late Bay State Senator and, ironically, that might be their one most common & commendable attribute.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A bumper crop of bile, Deity doubts & other mirthful musings!

The pain, the glory, the existential heartburn! Prey-tell of what do I speak? Well, but of course, the alleged Almighty's cruel joke which was Tom Watson's 2009 British Open. Tom is to left in a suitably contemplative pic before his Sunday Hemingway code-hero collapse. To those not familiar with details, Mr. Watson, in press conferences, used the term "spirtual" to describe his play more frequently than Dick Cheney tossed-off "Al Qaeda" circa October 2001. The original T.W. specifically cited intervention from former caddie Bruce Edwards, a Lou Gehrig's disease victim, for his near miraculous play. Certainly many a duffer has hauled-out a temporary thick rug to call-in help downing the odd tricky four footer, but rarely has a quality player drafted particular personage from the big Pine Valley in-the-sky.

So what does this say about the role of a Supreme Deity and/or Tom's relationship with Bruce Edwards? Does God exist, but He/She/It really is a malicious bastard enjoying nothing more than toying-out humanity worse than someone getting their Bernie Madoff statement of steady 11% profits only, a year later, to be hit with the reality of owning a financial portfolio about as attractive as making Henry Louis Gates the next head of the neighborhood 'Welcome Wagon'? Please. Possibly - and this is truly nasty - ole Bruce really disliked Tom and, fatefully teasing along the Viagra linksman, this was his last chance to whip-out the celestial middle finger to his old patron? Personally I much prefer the lack of a Supreme Being to this alternate explanation.

Regardless the sheer depravity of Watson's inability to par the final hole - and win the Claret Jug - after hitting two solid shots from the tee, must rank as a cruel defeat worthy of any Nick Adams' short story from the pen of the original 'Papa'. Certainly it made this scribe less fearful of retribution in the Hereafter, which is a good thing considering the self-esteem body-blows suffered as of late due to reactions from my MrWillTracy Twitter 'Tweets'. No less than my own blushing bride of 18 years (see right [At least this is a fair depiction based on perpetual attitude projected!]) objected to her moniker as 'Mrs. Battle-A.' [Shortened for Mrs. Battle-Axe]. Can anyone of reasonable sanity fathom such an illogical reaction?

Nonetheless the 'Tweets' are quite popular, but - admittedly - they do reduce my time to compose more thoughtful blog entries. To tarry with a bevy of one-line broadsides or keep my satirical powder dry, so to speak, for extended rhetorical roastings? Such is the daily cross that I must bear! In said struggle I find myself much akin to condition coursing thru current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls vis-a-vis penchant, publicly, to ask following query of national import: "When exactly is that Alaskan fruit loop going to give up the electoral ghost and instead (thankfully) mud-wrestle Oprah for daytime TV's daily supremacy?".

Sarah Palin - the best answer (as has been pointed-out in a previous blog entry) to the question 'Name the modern GOP equivalent to Huey Long?'. Apparently the sturm und drang of Alaskan electoral politics thinned the Governor's hair to such an alarming extent that emergency coif procedures had to be employed. During WWII Prime Minister Churchill had his stogies & FDR the love of his faithful Fala (plus a mistress), but was that episode really any comparison to the left-wing media blitz endured by the Palin-ator post McCain? Please.

The real question is what platform will S.P. use moving forward? Remember that she & hubby have flirted previously with 3rd party affliations, i.e. Alasaka First. There was talk, too, in her rambling resignation speech of working with all those suitably S.G.-cleansed regardless of party affiliation. Will the Wasilla wonder reinvent a contemporary 'Spread The Wealth Society'?

For those who have correctly complained about the lack of meaty posts beyond the mirthful appetizers provided on Twitter, I profusedly apologize and can only bid you the blessings of Allah (or sympathy of your local shylock) as weak recompensation. In the spirit, however, of getting back to a good footing I offer all the promise of belated entries & pics of this year's trip to the Masters, the U.S. Open @ Bethpage plus the usual assortment of product reviews suitable for a discerning gent of non-Bible Belt tastes.
To that lattermost stated, let me heartily recommend the Five Vegas Miami 'Knuckle' as a tasty post-dinner and/or quick stick. Usually I abhor a less than an aesthetically-pleasing Indian and the 'Knuckle's' wrapper is nothing to write home to MOMA about, but - after getting a half dozen as a come-on with another order - I must say I've enjoyed mightily these 60 ring-size puppies; definite nutty & slightly peppery flavor to them.
Lastly I point my faithful to something else of refined taste - This young lady is, shockingly based on pic to left, an aspiring model. Her site, however, is quite appealing without usual graphic banality which plagues the Internet. Attendant verse not so sure about, but I still view Yeats primarily thru prism of his latent Fascism.