Robert Novak

This verbal abuse has been heaped on a throwback to The Establishment's heyday, when prominent citizens sacrificed significant income to devote themselves to the nation. Silberman served as a Labor and Justice department official and ambassador to Yugoslavia before being named to the second highest federal court. He is a conservative Republican but stubbornly independent. At the Labor Department, he differed with the Nixon White House. He threatened to quit as deputy attorney general if the Justice Department did not pursue a corruption case against John B. Connally. His pro-choice views on abortion probably kept him from a Supreme Court nomination.

Silberman has six times been confirmed by the Senate without a dissenting senator, but those votes were cast in a very different institution than exists today. The current minority whip accepts the word of a journalist, whose veracity often has been challenged, over a distinguished public servant.

On Wednesday, Reid went on the Senate floor to repeat Brock's claim that the judge gave him "a specific tip involving the president's (Bill Clinton's) sex life to pursue." This allegation is totally false, Silberman said, adding that he knew nothing about Clinton's sex life. This, he said, is part of a book that is "laced with fiction."

"Here is a man," Reid told the Senate, "who is violating the canons of judicial ethics and responsibilities that judges have." Which canon? This column got no answer from the senator's office. There is no canon about judges expressing political opinions privately. They cannot talk politics publicly, and Silberman never has. Such nuances are lost as total war is waged in the Senate.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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