His name has become a verb, one so crisp and eloquent that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary: if you've been blocked from appointment to public office, you've been "borked." The term's namesake is Robert Bork, whose path to the Supreme Court was derailed in 1987 by a hostile Senate. As Sonia Sotomayor braces for the same firing line, Bork, 82, sat down with NEWSWEEK for a rare interview. Excerpts:
President Obama has spoken of empathy as his key standard for choosing judicial nominees. What do you think of that approach?
I don't know exactly what empathy means. I suppose at a minimum it means you want a judge who will depart from the meaning of the constitution when a sympathetic case arises. It does seem to raise a warning that we're talking about a judge who does not follow the law.
And I take it that you don't approve?
You are quite correct.
What are your thoughts about Judge Sotomayor's nomination?
I think it was a bad mistake. Her comments about the wise Latina suggest identity-group jurisprudence. She also has a reputation for bullying counsel. And her record is not particularly distinguished. Far from it. And it is unusual to nominate somebody who states flatly that she was the beneficiary of affirmative action. But I can't believe she will be any worse than some recent white male appointees.
How have you been struck by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito since they were appointed?
My general impression of them is quite good. The justice up there who I most admire is Clarence Thomas. I notice that when he and Scalia differ—it's not that often, but when they do—I tend to agree with Thomas.