Paul Greenberg

Bork, v., trans., "To defame or vilify (a person) systematically, esp. in the mass media, usually with the aim of preventing his or her appointment to public office; to obstruct or thwart (a person) in this way."

--Oxford English Dictionary in an entry dated March 1992.

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"We're going to bork him. We're going to kill him politically. ... This little creep, where did he come from?"

--Florynce Kennedy, addressing a conference of the National Organization for Women in July 1991 on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court of the United States.

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It may be a distinction to become a verb, but not necessarily a welcome one. Look under Boycott, Captain Charles C. A land agent, he found himself shunned -- boycotted -- after he attempted to raise the rents of Irish tenant farmers who worked the fields of an absentee English lord. Or see Crapper, Thomas. He held at least three patents on improvements to the flush toilet, a useful and sanitary innovation that revolutionized plumbing systems worldwide.

And then there is Bork, Robert H., whose name has been transformed into a verb that may forever vindicate him. For it indicates how unfairly, indeed viciously, he was treated when Ronald Reagan nominated him for a seat on this country's highest court in 1987.

The most notable, the most elaborate, indeed the most unforgettable smear of a whole, well-orchestrated campaign of them directed against Judge Bork would come from the late Ted Kennedy, U.S. senator and demagogue of the first water -- whose own scandalous behavior a couple of decades earlier had faded by then. (Does anybody else remember the name Mary Jo Kopechne?)

It took the sainted senator from Massachusetts less than an hour after Robert Bork's nomination to the court had been announced to deliver a diatribe that is still quoted in the annals of American vilification. Indeed, no honest newspaper failed to include a snippet or two of that performance in Sen. Kennedy's obituary -- just to lend a little balance to all the exaggerated eulogies delivered on his passing. To quote the high point, or rather low point, of the senator's virtuoso performance at the art of misrepresentation:

"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 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...."

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.