Informal Exchange With Reporters on the Supreme Court Nomination of Robert H. Bork

 

October 1, 1987

 

Q. Have you lost the Bork nomination?

 

The President. I don't think that's decided yet, and I'm working my head off to make sure that we don't lose it.

 

Q. The numbers are against you, sir, don't you think? The numbers seem to be going the other way.

 

The President. I don't think we have an accurate count yet because of the large number that claim to be undecided.

 

Q. Mr. President, there's a real perception on the Hill, sir, that this is headed downhill at an ever-increasing rate.

 

The President. Well, if it is, I'm going to try to interrupt it. But I haven't seen signs of that as yet. Frankly, I think it has been a disgraceful situation.

 

Q. Why? Why is that, sir?

 

The President. Because I think that the process of confirming a Supreme Court Justice has been reduced to a political, partisan struggle.

 

Q. But shouldn't you have just let Bork be Bork?

 

Q. But, Mr. President -- excuse me -- you've said that -- but people like Arlen Specter gave very legal explanations on the floor of the Senate today. He's not a part of this liberal, special interest lobby, is he?

 

The President. I don't know what his decision was based on, but I think that four former Attorneys General, a former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and their wholehearted endorsements of the qualifications of Robert Bork are something that should be heeded -- plus the fact that every national law enforcement group, such as the whole National Society of Police Chiefs and things of this kind, have all endorsed Robert Bork.

 

Q. Would you consider withdrawing him, sir? Would you consider withdrawing the nomination if it appears that he's going to be embarrassed or is going to lose badly?

 

The President. I don't think there's anything -- withdrawing, no. As I said, I'm spending my time working as hard as I can to see that he gets confirmed, as he deserves to be.

 

Q. Well, what are you going to do to save the nomination?

 

Q.  Why do you think he's really losing out? I mean, what has happened really that he seems to have really gone down the drain today?

 

The President.  Well, I don't seem to feel that way, and I haven't noticed him shedding any tears.

 

Q. Shouldn't you have let Bork be Bork, sir?

 

Q. How many are undecided, Mr. President?

 

Q.  Is this a referendum on your clout, sir?

 

The President.  I told you that I think that what is going on is strictly partisan.

 

Q. Shouldn't you let Bork be Bork instead of trying to paint him like some moderate? Shouldn't he have been presented as the strictly conservative, strict constructionist, that you nominated?

 

The President. I haven't painted him in any light. He happens to be a man who handed down some 400 decisions, none of which have ever been overthrown by an appeals court or the Supreme Court.

 

Q. But your strategists, sir, seemed to try to present him as if he were a moderate. Why not mobilize conservative support behind him?

 

The President. No, we were simply trying to respond to the charges, the raucous charges, from some that he was some kind of a radical.

 

Q. What's your reaction to Republican Specter's --  --

 

The President. What?

 

Q. What's your reaction to Senator Specter coming out -- a Republican on the Committee -- against Bork?

 

The President. You wouldn't want me to answer that now.

 

Q. Yes.

 

Q. Yes.

 

Q. Now's the time.

 

The President. Why, naturally, I am going to try to change his mind.

 

Q. Mr. Attorney General, about Wedtech, sir?

 

Q. Did you call Judge Bork himself?

 

Q. Did you talk to Bork today? You said he isn't shedding any tears.

 

The President. Well, I saw him briefly today.

 

Q. Today? What did he say? Fight?

 

The President. He just is waiting for the decision.

 

Q. Did you consider withdrawing it today? Did you discuss it?

 

The President. No.

 

Q. Does he want to withdraw, sir?

 

The President. He made no indication of anything of that kind.

 

Q. Are you compiling a list of people -- in case he doesn't make it -- that you would nominate in his stead?

 

The President. No, I haven't even thought of that.

 

Note: The exchange began at 5:06 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House.