Updated: Mar 20, 2021
Before Laurence Silberman slithered into government, he was a senior bankster at crooked Crocker National (since bought, appropriately enough, by Wells Fargo). He became a nationally-known figure in the Reagan foreign policy establishment for several reasons: he was involved with the successful plot to persuade Iran to not release the American hostages until after Reagan was elected. He was also thought to be a player in Iran-Contra. He was a controversial figure on the right-wing fringe all during the 1970s and until 1985 when Reagan appointed him to the US Court of Appeals in DC. He's 85 now and as truculent and deranged as ever.
Charles Pierce also remembers Judge Silberman from the bad old days when he was a big shot in the right-wing goon squad. "Those of us," he wrote yesterday for Esquire who have followed the underground conservative campaign against the Clintons-- which may never end, by the way—are familiar with Laurence Silberman, a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington. Back in the day, before David Brock came to Jesus, Silberman was one of his mentors among the 'elves,' the cabal of right-wing lawyers dedicated to destroying the Clinton presidency... In 2004, writing in Salon, Michelle Goldberg gave us the rundown on him.
Silberman's sojourn in the world of political scandal began during the run-up to the 1980 presidential election when, as a member of Ronald Reagan's campaign staff, he, along with Robert C. McFarlane, a former staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Richard V. Allen, Reagan's chief foreign policy representative, met with a man claiming to be an Iranian government emissary. The Iranian offered to delay the release of the 52 American hostages being held in Tehran until after the election-- thus contributing to Carter's defeat-- in exchange for arms. A controversy continues to rage over whether the Reagan team made a bargain with the Iranians, as alleged by Gary Sick, a former National Security Council aide in the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations who now teaches at Columbia University. Yet no one denies that the meeting Silberman was at took place, and although Silberman has said the Iranian's offer was immediately rejected, none of the three Reagan operatives ever told the Carter administration what had happened. McFarlane, Allen and Silberman have all since insisted that they don't know the name of the Iranian man they met with.
"The man," continued Pierce, "has been a dedicated…er…activist for decades. And, on Friday, in a dissent in the case of Tah and McClain v. Global Witness, Silberman simply went full Hannity. You never go full Hannity, people. The case was a run-of-the-mill defamation suit brought by a couple of Liberian citizens against a human-rights group called Global Witness. Employing the standards set in the 1964 landmark Sullivan v. New York Times decision of the Supreme Court, by a 2-1 vote, the Appeals Court determined that Global Witness had not acted with 'actual malice' when it accused the two Liberian officials of corruption. Silberman was the lone vote against Global Witness, and his dissenting opinion was a true banana farm. First of all, Silberman wants Sullivan overturned-- by any standard, a radical position in the area of press freedom."
Nevertheless, I recognize how difficult it will be to persuade the Supreme Court to overrule such a “landmark” decision. After all, doing so would incur the wrath of press and media. See Martin Tolchin, Press is Condemned by a Federal Judge for Court Coverage, New York Times A13 (June 15, 1992) (discussing the “Greenhouse effect”). But new considerations have arisen over the last 50 years that make the New York Times decision (which I believe I have faithfully applied in my dissent) a threat to American Democracy. It must go…I recognized, however, that convincing the Court to overrule these precedents would be an uphill battle. As I wrote, the Court has committed itself to a constitutional Brezhnev doctrine.
...Although the bias against the Republican Party-- not just controversial individuals-- is rather shocking today, this is not new; it is a long-term, secular trend going back at least to the ’70s…Two of the three most influential papers (at least historically), the New York Times and the Washington Post, are virtually Democratic Party broadsheets. And the news section of the Wall Street Journal leans in the same direction. The orientation of these three papers is followed by The Associated Press and most large papers across the country (such as the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, and Boston Globe). Nearly all television—network and cable—is a Democratic Party trumpet. Even the government-supported National Public Radio follows along.
...As has become apparent, Silicon Valley also has an enormous influence over the distribution of news. And it similarly filters news delivery in ways favorable to the Democratic Party. See Kaitlyn Tiffany, Twitter Goofed It, The Atlantic (2020) (“Within a few hours, Facebook announced that it would limit [a New York Post] story’s spread on its platform while its third-party fact-checkers somehow investigated the information.
Time to say goodbye? I'm almost sure Biden would appoint a good judge and 100% certain he would appoint a better judge than Silberman.