|THE BORK TAPES SAGA|
“The girls were joking about what a kick it would be to find out what he rents,” my friend said. Later he told me that as he spoke he could see a thought balloon forming over my head.
At the time, I was not covering the Supreme Court or anything remotely that exalted, but trying to stitch a writing career out of a day job on a newsletter about the health industry and a scantly-paid but busy off-hours sinecure with Washington City Paper, a scrappy off-the-floor weekly for which as a nominal staff writer I freelanced feature articles, book and music reviews, essays, humor, fiction, profiles, and whatever else I could convince editor Jack Shafer to buy. I was trying to pay for a house renovation, hone my reporting skills and writing style, and avoid pigeonholing myself by constantly changing pitch, tempo, and topic. One CP piece would be funny; the next grave; brief, then lengthy; natural history, then military science; sweet, then sour.
A fellow writer of more restrained bent once warned Shafer, “Watch out for that Dolan. He’ll write about anything.”
In the months before the Bork hearings, my main contributions had been a deadline novella, “Jimmy’s World, Part II,” and a profile, “Mr. Snyder’s Century.”
“Jimmy’s” was a fictional salvo of self-reference aimed at our local bastion of occasionally fictional self-reference, the Washington Post. In chapters written and published by the week, I tried to answer the question, raised sotto voce to Shafer by a Post staffer, “What if, while Post reporter Janet Cooke was confecting the fictional chronicle of a child junkie living in D.C. that would win and then lose the Pulitzer Prize, there had been in D.C. a child junkie who would grow up to be a baseball player trying out for the fictional Washington Senators being chronicled in a series by Post reporter Tony Kornheiser and published in the paper’s Sunday magazine? ” My spritz, which included an imaginary Kornheiser, prompted the celebrated Mister K to add a minor character named “Michael Dolan” into his series.
In contrast, “Mr. Snyder’s Century” was a factual profile of the old man down the street. Born in 1900 in the West Virginia hills, Melvin Snyder had come to D.C. in 1919 to live a life of stoic practicality, solid faith, and neighborliness, and, but for my personal and professional curiosity, never would have made any publication’s cover. “Mr. Snyder’s Century” was nostalgic, sentimental, and heartwarming.
Naturally, this put me in the mood to write something mean again.
Thus, “The Bork Tapes,” which I conceived as a poke at the judge, whose atrabiliousness gleamed like the expanse of jowl beneath his transparent beard – but also as a poke at the judge’s critics, who seemed to me to be derangedly zealous in their efforts to smear Bork with the ink of his own writings, including and especially a much-publicized opinion in re Griswold v. Connecticut that the U.S. Constitution guarantees no right to privacy.
As a strict constructionist and therefore blind to juridical shadows -- coincidentally, based on my own Constitutional studies under the great American historian Herman Belz, I held and hold the same position -- Judge Bork said that in dissecting the Founding Fathers’ intent and words, he found no penumbral protections for privacy.
Rather, Bork said, Americans enjoy only those privacy protections conferred by legislation.
Fort Lauderdale News/Sun-Sentinel
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