Monday, February 15, 2016

Three decades is a short time in politics

The US conservative lamenting and fulminating in the aftermath of the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia makes frequent reference to how what happened to the nomination of Robert Bork in 1987 somehow justifies a particular course of action -- basically leaving the Court dysfunctional for a year -- now.

1987 was a really long time ago. The Joshua Tree was issued. Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered. Thankfully the principals in both of those, er, enterprises are still with us, but to look back at a listing of events in 1987 is to be reminded of what a different world it was. Among other things, it was a world in which Saddam Hussein could attack a US Navy ship, killing 37 sailors, and get just a wag of the finger. And a world in which a US president could admit illegal dealings with Iran and not get impeached.

But anyway, there's a pundit/operative elite for which the Bork nomination is remembered as if it were yesterday. Which, in the context of the law school oriented background of that elite makes sense: every case is a potential precedent that needs to be kept at the ready. Whether those are good principles for running a country is another question.

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