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Meese Says Bork Was Target of ‘Perverse Campaign of Anti- Intellectualism’

February 20, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Attorney General Edwin Meese III says that rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork was the target of ″a perverse campaign of anti-intellectual ism and politically motivated character assassination.″

Meese, in a speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association, also was critical of Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., saying that the Senate confirmation process for Bork resulted in ″grave injustices″ being done ″to one of the foremost judicial thinkers of our time.″

The Senate Judiciary Committee that Biden chairs conducted the confirmation hearings on Bork and recommended rejection of the nomination. The Senate on Oct. 23 turned aside the nomination on a vote of 58-42.

Meese, in the speech delivered Thursday night, said that Bork was unfairly criticized during his confirmation hearings because he declined to take an expansive view of the role of the judiciary and of the Ninth Amendment dealing with rights not enumerated in the Constitution.

The attorney general said Biden suggested that ″the courts exist to discover and define our inalienable rights and to enforce them and implied that this was so whether or not they are found in the written texts of the supreme laws of our land.

″Such ideas not only represent a gross misunderstanding of the American political process and tradition but also ... if carried into effect would seriously threaten our liberties as a self-governing people,″ Meese said.

Biden is hospitalized while recovering from surgery to correct a blood vessel problem near his brain and is unable to comment, said his press secretary, Pat Baskette.

Meese said the courts have a role in protecting rights, but that the rights themselves, to be valid, must be derived from written legal documents.

″Most of us here agree that grave injustices were done to one of the foremost judicial thinkers of our time″ during Bork’s confirmation process, Meese said. ″He was the victim of a perverse campaigan of anti- intellectualism and politically motivated character assassination, that I hope will never bear a repeat performance in the future history of our country.″

Another unsuccessful Supreme Court nominee, Douglas Ginsburg, was in the audience for Meese’s speech and the two men spoke briefly after the attorney general’s remarks. Ginsburg’s nomination, which followed Bork’s, collapsed Nov. 7 after Ginsburg acknowledged that he had smoked marijuana while he was a law professor.

Reagan’s third nominee for the post, Anthony Kennedy, won swift Senate approval and was sworn in as a justice on Thursday.

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