Con­ser­va­tive icon:

He fired Water­gate pros­e­cu­tor, failed to get on high court.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Sherman and Matthew Barakat

Robert H. Bork,whose 1980s nom­i­na­tion to the Supreme Court was re­jected 58-42 by the Se­nate, dies at 85.

MCLEAN, VA. — Robert H. Bork, who stepped in to fire the Water­gate pros­e­cu­tor at Richard Nixon’s be­hest and whose failed 1980s nom­i­na­tion to the Supreme Court helped draw the mod­ern bound­aries of cul­tural fights over abor­tion, civil rights and other is­sues, has died. He was 85.

Son Robert H. Bork Jr. con­firmed his fa­ther died Wed­nes­day at Vir­ginia Hospi­tal Cen­ter in Ar­ling­ton, Va. The son said Bork died from com­pli­ca­tions of heart ail­ments.

Robert Heron Bork had a long ca­reer in pol­i­tics and the law that took him from re­spected aca­demic to a totem of con­ser­va­tive griev­ance. Along the way, Bork was ac­cused of be­ing a hatchet man for Nixon when, as the thir­drank­ing of­fi­cial at the Jus­tice De­part­ment, he fired Water­gate spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor Archibald Cox in the Satur­day Night Mas­sacre of 1973. At­tor­ney Gen­eral El­liot Richard­son re­signed rather than fire Cox. The next in line, Wil­liam Ruck­elshaus, re­fused to fire Cox and was fired.

Bork’s drub­bing dur­ing the 1987 Se­nate nom­i­na­tion hear­ings made him a hero to the right.

The Se­nate ex­pe­ri­ence em­bit­tered Bork and hard­ened many of his con­ser­va­tive po­si­tions, even as it gave him promi­nence as an au­thor and long pop­u­lar­ity on the con­ser­va­tive speak­ing cir­cuit.

“Robert Bork was a gi­ant, a bril­liant and fear­less le­gal scholar, and a gen­tle­man whose in­cred­i­ble wit and eru­di­tion made him a won­der­ful Hud­son col­league,” said Ken­neth We­in­stein, head of the Washington think­tank Hud­son In­sti­tute where Bork was a distin­guished fel­low.

Known be­fore his Supreme Court nom­i­na­tion as one of the fore­most na­tional ex­perts on an­titrust law, Bork be­came much more widely known as a con­ser­va­tive cul­tural critic in the years that fol­lowed.

His 1996 book, “Slouch­ing To­wards Go­mor­rah: Mod­ern Lib­er­al­ism and Amer­i­can De­cline,” was an acid in­dict­ment of what Bork viewed as the crum­bling ethics of mod­ern so­ci­ety and the morally bank­rupt pol­i­tics of the left.

Bork, known un­til his death as “Judge Bork,” served a rel­a­tively short ten­ure on the bench.

He was a fed­eral judge on the na­tion’s most pres­ti­gious ap­pel­late panel, the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the D.C. Cir­cuit, from 1982 un­til 1988, when he re­signed in the wake of the bit­ter Supreme Court nom­i­na­tion fight.

Long men­tioned as a pos­si­ble Supreme Court nom­i­nee, Bork got his chance to­ward the end of Ron­ald Rea­gan’s sec­ond term.

He was nom­i­nated July 1, 1987, to fill the seat va­cated by Jus­tice Lewis F. Pow­ell.

Nearly four months later the Se­nate voted 5842 to de­feat him, af­ter the first na­tional po­lit­i­cal and lob­by­ing of­fen­sive mounted against a ju­di­cial nom­i­nee. It was the largest neg­a­tive vote ever recorded for a Supreme Court nom­i­nee.


Judge Robert Bork, nom­i­nated by Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan to the Supreme Court, is sworn in at his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing on Capi­tol Hill in 1987.

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