Testimony, cross examination and scrutiny are part of the price of admission to the Supreme Court. But enough is enough. When will there be time for fairness?
Three months ago the president honored my father by nominating him to become an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Since then our family has endured a relentless and bitter campaign against my father, a campaign designed and executed for the purpose of instilling fear in the souls of all who would listen. It has been a campaign conducted with flash cards printed early by organizations and individuals desperately needing a cause.
Week by week the campaign has mounted. As the distortions were repeated over and over again, we watched my father portrayed as some villainous ideologue, a racist and a sexist. For his opponents the more he is made to look like a crazed neanderthal, the better for them. Indeed, one particularly ugly rumor spread by his opponents to injure him is that my stepmother, Mary Ellen, doesn't believe that the Holocaust happened.
These characterizations, these rumors, are vicious slander and they hurt. They hurt because the people I meet on the street who took the trouble to watch and listen to his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee know that they are untrue. My stepmother, brother, sister and I -- who know him better than anyone -- know they are untrue. And what's more, the special-interest groups that so masterfully have spread these lies know it, too.
But in Washington, if a rumor is sustained long enough, it eventually spills into the press and becomes credible. And it becomes damning.
My father has undergone the most thorough investigation and interrogation of any nominee for the bench, not once, but three times. He was investigated in 1973 when nominated to be solicitor general. He was investigated again in 1982 when he was named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. And every aspect of his life and work was probed and dissected again this summer. One newspaper even got hold of the list of his videocassette rentals hoping to find that he watches X-rated films. The worst they could say about him is that he has a penchant for Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant.
No, the special-interest groups, ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Organization for Women, would like you to know an evil caricature of Robert Bork Sr. I know a different picture. I know that:
He never has harbored any biases or prejudices. Our home was always open to our friends no matter who they were or where they came from.
He, as a junior associate, fought for and won a place at his Chicago law firm for a lawyer whom the senior partners didn't want to hire because he was Jewish.
He came to the aid of a black female lawyer in the Justice Department who charged that she was being excluded from meetings by her white male colleagues.
I also know my father's professional record as solicitor general and as a federal judge. I know that at the Justice Department he argued that pregnancy discrimination by employers was illegal sex discrimination. I know that as a federal judge he voted in favor of female flight attendants at Northwest Airlines who had suffered pay discrimination; that he voted in favor of female foreign service officers at the State Department who believed that they had been discriminated against in pay and promotion; and that he voted in favor of a naval officer who claimed he had been passed over for promotion because he was black.
"It tees me off when people say he's uncaring. Bob is a truly decent human being." Those aren't my words. Those are the words of Guido Calabresi, dean of Yale Law School. He and my father disagree on many legal and political issues. But Dean Calabresi is a fair man.
The special-interest groups are aware of many of these examples and many others where my father reached out personally and professionally to help people. But you don't hear them talking about these things. They know that the only way to kill his confirmation is to ignore the man, his sensitivity -- to obscure his record with lies and distortions and assassinate his character.
If truth, justice and common decency account for anything in the Senate, my father will win this fight in the end. Those who know him know that he is a compassionate, fair and open-minded man. I hope that the process of judging my father will be characterized as having been fair. Right now, I do not believe that it is. I remain hopeful.
The writer is an associate editor at U.S. News & World Report. He is on a leave of absence during his father's confirmation hearings.