Robert Bork the staunch conservative Yale law professor, constitutional purist, and Supreme Court nominee has died at the age of 85. Bork was an antitrust scholar and was nominated by President Reagan in 1987 for a seat on the Supreme Court. He was a solicitor general, acting attorney general, and judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Many conservatives have opined that the court would be very different if Bork had been confirmed. They suggest that Roe v. Wade would have been overturned and the Affordable Care Act would have been deemed unconstitutional, if Bork was on the Supreme Court.
Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court was strongly opposed by civil and women’s groups. The late Senator Edward Kennedy led the Senate opposition to his confirmation. Eventually, after heated debate and rhetoric, the Senate voted to reject Bork’s confirmation, 58 to 42. The opposition to Bork’s nomination was so strong that “to bork” a confirmation was added to the American lexicon. Columnist William Safire was the first to use it as a verb and in March 2002, it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. The dictionary entry defines bork as political slang meaning, “To defame or vilify (a person) systematically, esp. in the mass media, usually with the aim of preventing his or her appointment to public office.”
Bork was a prolific writer and speaker. He has written two best-selling books and his work was widely published in many scholarly periodicals. Bork was a strong proponent for Second Amendment rights but was not a blanket supporter. Bork felt that the Second Amendment only granted the right to join a government militia and that right did not extend to dangerous weaponry like Teflon-coated bullets.
Bork’s best known work was Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline. Bork’s thesis in the book was that Western culture, in particular America, was in sharp decline since the 1960’s, brought on by modern liberalism. Bork cited affirmative action, the legalization of abortion, feminism, and the increasing instance of violence and sex in the media as examples of a social and cultural experiences contributing to the decline of America.
Bork was an influential adviser in multiple Republican administrations. He served as solicitor general in the Nixon administration and was responsible for issuing the dismissal orders for those caught up in the Watergate scandal.
Although Bork had a successful and lucrative private sector career, many felt that he never recovered from being snubbed for the Supreme Court. Andrew Frey, a longtime friend said, “He was not well treated, and partly as a result of that he did become more conservative.”