Will Ginsburg be Borked? If she has a Baird problem

Russell Baker

June 16, 1993|By Russell Baker

A DICTIONARY of Washington Eponymical Etymology:

TO BORK, verb. The act of scrutinizing to death a nominee for high public office. The word derives from Robert Bork, a Supreme Court nominee whose record was examined so minutely by the Senate Judiciary Committee that the rest of the Senate, assuming there must be something wrong with anyone who needed that much scrutiny, refused to confirm him. Usage examples: "Unless Clinton nominates people acceptable to Republicans, we will Bork them in the streets, we will Bork them in the hills, and we will Bork them on C-Span." (Winston Churchill, when asked what he would say if he were to return as Sen. Bob Dole.)

Slang: "Stick a fork in him; he's Borked."

A ZOE BAIRD PROBLEM, noun phrase. Discovery of past failure by a nominee for high office to make Social Security payments, withhold taxes and maintain federally required employment records for poorly paid domestic help, especially, though not necessarily, illegal aliens. Almost always fatal to the nominee's chance of federal employment, due to the Senate's Draconian insistence on the highest ethical, moral and legal standards, no matter how petty or commonplace the violation.

Usage example: "When the president asked me to parachute into the Balkans and restore peace to the entire region, I said I'd very much like to, but couldn't, as I have a Zoe Baird problem." (James Bond, AKA 007, upon being asked why he had dropped out of sight since the end of the Cold War.)

To NUNN, verb. To permit the president to retain such presidential duties as other senators find agreeable, in return for giving control of the military to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The word derives from Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, who in 1993, after taking over the Pentagon, permitted the president to continue as commander in chief of the Commerce, Interior and Labor departments, among others. Usage example: "I fired General MacArthur because the Constitution made me, not MacArthur, the commander in chief. You couldn't Nunn a president in those days because Senator Nunn hadn't been invented yet." (The late Harry Truman in an interview subsequently suppressed by David McCullough out of fear that the grocery tabloids would hound him so mercilessly to contact Elvis Presley and President Kennedy that his literary work would be seriously compromised.)

TO BOREN, verb. To permit the president to retain such presidential duties as other senators find agreeable, in return for giving each of the Senate's 100 members a veto over any tax proposal disliked by each senator's constituents, especially including his biggest campaign contributors. The word derives from Sen. David Boren of Oklahoma, who single-votedly killed President Clinton's tax program in the Finance Committee, thus compelling the president to place tax policy at the disposal of the nation's most skilled lobbyists. Usage example: "Were we Borened? Yes, we were Borened. But we still have a lot to be thankful for. General Grant let us keep our horses for the spring planting." (What Robert E. Lee would have told Oprah Winfrey had he not been notoriously close-mouthed, famously reluctant to make a spectacle of himself in public and pathetically credulous when told that television had been invented 100 years ahead of time.)

GERGENIZED, adjective. (Pronounced with both "g's" hard, as in "gurgle.") Describing a president whose alarm about the possibility of the Senate's also taking control of the Commerce, Interior and Labor departments has tempted him to wear a used image prosthesis originally built for the opposition party. The word derives from David Gergen, journalist and so-called "spin doctor" to various Republican presidents, who was hired by the Democratic White House in 1993 to aid the recovery of recently Nunned and Borened President Clinton.

Usage example: "When some of the states started seceding, some of the people said I ought to get Gergenized so everybody would think I wasn't going to make a big fuss about preserving the Union. I figured those were the same some of the people you can fool all of the time, and I wasn't going to get Gergenized just to gratify the gullible."

(A. Lincoln in a movie script already pitched but not yet green-lighted at Henry Miller's Cosmodemonic Studios.)

Russell Baker is a columnist for the New York Times.

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