Monday, May. 04, 2009

Robert Bork

By 1987, President Ronald Reagan had already met with a fair amount of Supreme Court success — his nominations of Sandra Day O'Connor in 1981 and Antonin Scalia in 1986 had passed smoothly — and he was thus unprepared for the fury unleashed upon his nomination of Robert Bork.

The newly Democratic Senate found Bork's staunchly conservative views on abortion, the death penalty and civil rights unpalatable and, after 12 days of public hearings and debate, blocked his nomination to the court. Although Reagan presented Bork as a moderate, the nominee's judicial opinions and articles — such as a 1963 magazine article in which he denounced a civil rights bill that would require businesses to serve blacks and a 1984 court ruling in which he said that "private, consensual homosexual conduct is not constitutionally protected" — helped Democratic Senators argue otherwise.

But what made the Bork battle significant, aside from the idea that a nominee could be blocked from appointment over his judicial philosophy, was the breathtaking speed and breadth of the opposition to his candidacy. To this day, whenever a political nominee is defeated by an intense p.r. campaign, he or she is said to have been "Borked."