WE HAD THOUGHT that, in our writings on the subject of Robert Bork, we had succeeded in offending just about every interest group there was. We were wrong. We print on this page today a letter from the pharmacists of America, whom we dragged into the argument the other day as pillars of rectitude and exemplars -- so we mistakenly believed -- of the strict constructionist school of thought. They are not amused.
You need to understand what happened. In the course of a friendly mud wrestle with our columnist George Will, we expressed an expectation that "on the great occasions," Judge Bork would lack the necessary breadth of vision and "dole out justice about as a pharmacist dispenses pills."
We should have known. Objecting "in the most strenuous terms" to the implication that pharmacists are prisoners of their texts and do not bring judgment to bear, the American Pharmaceutical Association accuses us of having trivialized the profession of pharmacy, as well as having dribbled away some of our own diminished stock of credibility. Both retraction and apology for our simile are demanded.
Sorry, but we can't oblige. This newspaper has admitted to a certain amount of ambiguity as to the kind of Supreme Court justice we would prefer, but we have no doubt as to pharmacists. Originalists are what we want, those who will stick undeviatingly to the prescribers' intent. Lest the pharmacists think us alone in this sense of what a good pharmacist does, we offer a fragment from a speech by Justice William Brennan, quoted on the opposite page the other day by columnist Nat Hentoff. Justice Brennan was speaking of his predecessor Benjamin Cardozo, in whose time, he said, a judge "was thought to be no more than a legal pharmacist, dispensing the correct rule prescribed for the legal problem presented." Justice Cardozo was praised for having looked beyond this formulation.
To our friends the capable, vigilant and -- let it even be said -- activist pharmacists, on whose professionalism we greatly depend, we say: Take two aspirin, go to bed, and if the soreness persists, write us in the morning.