Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bork 'Em 2001

FROM THE ARCHIVES, Jan. 15 - This originally appeared on, 1/15/01.

This Saturday's inauguration ends the 74 day post-election waiting period for my Nader button. The somber Helvetica "Ralph" will officially switch over from proper noun to more appropriate, finger-down-the-throat exclamation. This is the lonesome trail taken by the word "Bork" fourteen years ago, another rare name-to-verb political conversion (Charles Boycott made the same trip a hundred years earlier). Robert Bork the man - denied his cushy Supreme Court post after hostile Senate confirmation hearings - became Bork the action. "Borking" now means something; the partisan attack of conservatives by liberals. Use of the word generally implies a deep contempt for the rudeness of any political process that dares question rabidly right wing political appointees. Papa Bush's man John Tower got his ass Borked two years later (although his undoing was less overtly political than for being a crumpled, womanizing sot who resembled a perfect cross between WC Fields and Benny Hill). The ghost of Bork hung over the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991. The word has fallen on hard times during the Clinton years... Borking, by definition, seems to be a misfortune that can only befall conservatives. So it with great relief that I can announce the opening of the first Borking season of the new century with tomorrow's congressional hearings of Attorney General candidate John Ashcroft. Ashcroft's from the old school of leathery, hardbitten sons of bitches and is himself expected to tack Borkward - that is, to not back down from any statements or stances and generally dish up the red meat for his right wing buddies. Chances are he'll make it where Bork got Borked; as of Saturday, Republicans will again hold the tiebreaking vote in the Senate.

But Borking has deeper, cultural overtones, and on this front much ground has been lost by conservatives. The country is a far ruder place than the one the Bushes last controlled. In 1990, 2 Live Crew was the most controversial band on a major label. Barbara Bush's complaints about the incivility of "The Simpsons" only ten years ago stands out as the baroque prattle of a former century. Last week the highbrow New York Times forum on "Borking Ashcroft" received postings about "Borking" Brittney Spears. The publisher of the New York Times recently attended a Halloween party in a "penis nose" disguise. America has become a giant Spencer's Gifts. Who could have imagined, at the start of the 90's, that Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole would end the decade as a boner pill salesman? That stores cautiously carrying Ren & Stimpy puppets with euphemistically named "underleg noise" would be doing brisk business in plush turd dolls by '99? That characters could say "shit" on prime time TV? Or general citizens would wear "Fuck You" t-shirts (I saw this one last fall) in airports ? Or that cum shots would get worked into R-rated movies?

A lot of these milestones can be blamed on the vague fog of "culture wars", but the last cannot. Monica Lewinsky's stained dress was documented before the films "Happiness" or "There's Something About Mary" were released, and it was the Starr Report that alerted third graders to the existence of adult fluids. Republicans have been churning out the anti-Clinton, Reno-as-lesbian, Hillary-as-castrating-bitch kitsch for the last eight years, and as of Saturday the horrific genie of cultural depravity that they themselves helped loose will have a new cast of targets.

Bork the man emerged a twisted old troll from Bork the experience. His 1997 book Slouching Towards Gomorrah rails against a "degenerate" America with too much freedom on its hands. In various chapters he calls for "law based on morality", blasts popular culture, "radical individualism" and "radical egalitarianism" and even questions the legitimacy of the same Supreme Court who admissions test he flunked a decade earlier. How beautiful is it, then, that this man's surname will live long after him as the sexually suggestive code word for the defeat of all he holds dear? The time has come to beat up all these old bastards up with their own last names! Bork ahoy!