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Lessons from `Pogo' for the Bork debacle

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WALT KELLY'S ``Pogo'' cartoon correctly identified the problem when he said the enemy ``is us.'' He could have been talking about Judge Robert Bork and his cause. Something within Judge Bork kept him from providing sufficient assurances - at least, to his critics - that he, indeed, did care. The Washington Post, which was quite obviously anguishing in its effort to find a way to come out against the judge's confirmation, put it this way:

``What people like ourselves needed ... was a simple assurance that, in addition to the forensic brilliance, the personal integrity and the care for the law, Robert Bork's sensibility could be engaged with the question on which he had pronounced so forcefully, that in these great cases that were to have so profound and intimate an effect on people's lives, he had a feeling for justice, not just for the law ... He does not read the Constitution generously.''

The judge evidently felt that his decisions attested to his feeling for the downtrodden and for individual rights and liberties. For some it was not enough. And for others - probably most of those among the special interests who opposed him - he could never have said enough to calm their fears and stop their opposition.

But Mr. Bork's ``us'' problem extended to what would be called his natural constituency: the conservatives. They never got worked up to fighting pitch the way the anti-Bork forces did. Why? The very changes that Bork indicated had taken place in his thinking - after he went on the bench - tended to alienate conservatives. So we had here a nominee who wasn't able to soften his position enough to satisfy the liberals - but who was at the same time antagonizing his own people in that changing process.

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