It’s big of New York Times columnist Joe Nocera to admit that what he calls “the ugliness” (actually, left wing ugliness) started with the Bork Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Sorry, Joe. Unhinged left wing politics started much earlier.
I would date it to the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. Before November, 1963, most of the loony conspiracists resided on the right, notably the now obscure John Birch Society whose leader believed, among other craziness, that President Eisenhower was a communist.
As I have written previously in this space, the liberals of the early 60’s refused to believe that Kennedy had been murdered by a communist and besides Kennedy’s family and hagiographers wanted to give meaning to his assassination by turning him into a martyr for civil rights. On the positive side, the campaign to transform Kennedy from what he actually was (ambivalent toward the civil rights movement and unequivocally anti-communist) into a Lincoln-like martyr produced the passage of the civil rights bills which had been stalled by Southern Democrats.
On the negative side, the civil rights martyr campaign unleashed confusion and then paranoia over the identity of Kennedy’s murderers. How could a communist supporter of black civil rights have been responsible for the murder of a civil rights martyr? Lee Harvey Oswald, many were led to believe, had obviously been framed by racists and right wingers; otherwise, Kennedy’s death made no sense.
The result: Today, 57% of Americans reject the “lone gunman theory” described in the Warren Commission Report which is certainly responsible for a great deal of the unhinged nature of American politics. It has fueled the violence and “ugliness” of the anti-war movement (Hey, Hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill today?) and Watergate where Nixon irresponsibly responded in kind to home-grown anti-American, pro-communist provocations.
The Bork hearings were a symptom of the Kennedy assassination paranoia as were the Hill-Thomas insanity, the vicious attacks on George Bush, and ,yes, the Clinton impeachment where liberals saw one of its own hoisted on his own petard (Clinton lied under oath in a civil rights case in which he was accused of violating a sexual harassment statute which he signed into law!).
So thanks, Joe, for conceding the ugliness of the left’s campaign against Robert Bork. That’s a good start, but only a start. There is a lot more ugliness for which the left needs to answer.