Legal History

Bork Appeared 'Oddly Unprepared' for Nomination Battle, Journalist Recalls

Robert Bork seemed “oddly unprepared” for the opposition to his Supreme Court nomination in a 1987 interview before the hearings, according to the journalist who interviewed him.

Bork died early Wednesday from complications from heart disease. He was 85. A former federal appeals judge, law professor and solicitor general, Bork was defeated in a bruising nomination battle targeting his conservative views. Since then, Supreme Court nominations have become more political, presenting difficulties for any nominee with strong views.

Supreme Court journalist Tony Mauro says Bork did not do well in the interview. “One sign that it might not work out so well for Bork came when I asked him if he had changed legal positions over the years—refuting his image as an inflexible ideologue,” Mauro recalls in a story for the National Law Journal. “His answer came by rote, awkwardly delivered, and did not cite the kind of changes that would have made sense to a broad audience, such as readers of USA Today, where I worked at the time.

“As the interview went on, Bork seemed to clam up more and more,” Mauro continues. “He spoke expansively about his University of Chicago days, but refused to discuss his religion except to that that he was raised as a ‘generic Protestant.’ Further details were ‘more profound than I am able to discuss’ with the press, he added.”

Mauro says he felt somewhat sorry for Bork by the end of the interview.

In a Slate article, Judge Richard Posner of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals calls Bork “probably the best qualified nominee for the Supreme Court in the last 71 years.”

“Given his ability and experience, he would have raised the court’s quality,” Posner writes, “but I wouldn’t criticize people who believe that quality has to be traded off against social consequences of Supreme Court appointments.”

Hat tip to How Appealing.

Prior coverage: “Conservative Icon and Former Federal Judge Robert Bork Dies at 85”

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