Roger Kimball writes that “he’s deeply grateful for the contribution” that Ted Kennedy made to his political education:
Until Kennedy delivered his intemperate tirade against Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in the summer of 1987, I hadn’t known that a United States Senator could brazenly lie to his colleagues and the American people and get away with it. I’m not talking about little fibs, or broken promises, or private dissimulations: all that I took as standard operating procedure in a fallen world. No, Ted Kennedy raised — that is to say, he dramatically lowered — the standard by standing up on the floor of the Senate and emitting one lie after the next against one of the finest legal minds America has ever produced. “Robert Bork’s America,” he said:
is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit down at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of democracy.
A breathtaking congeries of falsehoods that, were they not protected by the prerogatives of senatorial privilege, would have taken a conspicuous place in the annals of malicious slander and character assassination. In The Tempting of America, Judge Bork recounts his incredulity at this tissue of malign fabrication. “It had simply never occurred to me that anybody could misrepresent my career and views as Kennedy did.”
Which brings to mind John Huston’s line in Chinatown:
“See, Mr. Gittes, most people never have to face the fact that, at the right time and the right place, they’re capable of… anything.”
Teddy proved that axiom true at least twice in his life.