Chris Eisgruber, Princeton University, is guest blogging at Balkinization on the legacy of the Bork hearings. His first post begins: This month marks the 20th anniversary of the Senate vote rejecting the Bork nomination (for anybody who wants to celebrate—or mourn—the exact date is October 23). In a series of three postings, I will try to take stock of what has happened to the confirmation process since the Bork hearings, drawing on themes from my recently published book, The Next Justice: Repairing the Supreme Court Appointments Process (Princeton University Press, 2007). As anybody who watched them will remember, the Bork hearings were unforgettable political theater. They mixed hyperbole and scandal with sophisticated constitutional argument. Bork, unlike any nominee before or after him, spoke frankly about his controversial jurisprudential views. At the end of the day, the vote was not especially close: the nomination failed, 58-42.People divide about whether the hearings were a sordid debacle or a triumph of constitutional politics. I’m on the triumph side. The Senate rejected Bork for exactly the reasons that Ronald Reagan had nominated him.... Reagan might have defended Bork on the ground that he was an exceedingly able, and exceedingly pure, conservative—but he didn’t. Instead, Reagan described Bork as an “even handed and open-minded” successor to the moderate Lewis Powell. The Senate didn’t buy it.
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