Writes Dave Wiegel, live-blogging the debate last night at 9:56.
Biden was alluding to what turned out to be the worst answer Robert Bork gave at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee (which Joe Biden chaired at the time, 20 years ago):
ALAN K. SIMPSON, Republican of Wyoming: And now I have one final question. Why do you want to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court?It was 20 years ago, that Biden led the fight that defeated Robert Bork. I note that, last night, Biden railed against law professors:
BORK: Senator, I guess the answer to that is that I have spent my life in the intellectual pursuits in the law. And since I've been a judge, I particularly like the courtroom. I like the courtroom as an advocate and I like the courtroom as a judge. And I enjoy the give-and-take and the intellectual effort involved. It is just a life and that's of course the Court that has the most interesting cases and issues and I think it would be an intellectual feast just to be there and to read the briefs and discuss things with counsel and discuss things with my colleagues. That's the first answer.
The second answer is, I would like to leave a reputation as a judge who understood constitutional governance and contributed his bit to maintaining it in the ways I have described before this committee. Our constitutional structure is the most important thing this nation has and I would like to help maintain it and to be remembered for that.
I have taken on those justices who, in fact, show no balance — they are ideologues. We have enough ideologues. We have enough professors on the bench. I want someone who ran for dog catcher. I want someone — literally, not a joke. When Hillary's husband asked me for his advice when he was appointing people, I wanted to go to people and so did he — we couldn't. Four people turned it down. We wanted to get someone who, in fact, knew what it was to live life.So... we got stuck with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.
Who are the 4 people who turned it down? According to Jeffrey Toobin's "The Nine," Mario Cuomo, George Mitchell, Richard Riley, Bruce Babbitt all said no, and Clinton finally — on the suggestion of Attorney General Janet Reno — turned to Ginsburg.
Someone ought to ask Joe Biden if he meant to say that Ginsburg and Breyer don't know knew what it is to live life. And why is he so sure that politicians like Mario Cuomo, George Mitchell, Richard Riley, Bruce Babbitt do? Because he's one?
Now, it may be a perfectly good idea to put a great lawyer with political experience on the Supreme Court, but Biden goes beyond that and disrespects two fine Supreme Court justices — Ginsburg and Breyer.