WASHINGTON -- Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a leading conservative supporter of President Reagan, Thursday accused Reagan of being 'asleep at the switch' and botching the handling of Robert Bork's Supreme Court nomination.
Grassley, in a press briefing, said that seeing 'the disaster of the Bork nomination' made him conclude that 'this administration has been terribly lucky for the last seven years' in such matters as the economy and foreign affairs.
With additional senators declaring against Bork Thursday, there were more than the required 51 needed to defeat the nomination. In recent days, Bork has been considering withdrawing his name before an expected Senate floor vote sometime next week.
Grassley is a leading Bork supporter and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that conducted Bork's confirmation hearings. He said he faulted the White House for not having a firm plan for countering anticipated liberal criticism of the nominee and for taking Southern Democratic senators for granted.
In recent days, a majority of Southern senators has come out in opposition to Bork, now a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge for the District of Columbia. Grassley said the White House didn't begin lobbying the Southerners until it was too late to win them over.
Grassley said Reagan had taken off 'the entire month of August,' a period when, he said, liberal organizations were gearing up advertisements and lobbying efforts to defeat Bork.
'Their plan came off to a 'T,'' said Grassley. 'The White House was asleep at the switch, not producing the way they should produce.'
The White House, he added, 'didn't take seriously the opposition to Judge Bork' which he said showed 'a cavalier attitude toward governing.'
His references to the White House, he said, meant Reagan because, 'In our constitutional government, the buck always stops at the president's desk.'
Meanwhile, one Senate Republican supporter of Bork acknowledged Thursday that there is now no chance of winning Bork's confirmation, but that he hoped Bork would stay in the fight for a vote on the Senate floor.
'Judge Bork has been going through a lot of turmoil,' said. Sen. Gordon Humphrey, R-N.H. 'He is concerned about his family and about the damage this has done to his reputation. We tried to make the point with him that the damage has already been done and that it's important historically to get this to the Senate floor.'
Humphrey said he and other Bork supporters realize the confirmation battle is lost, 'but it's important for the historical record, the official record, to have it reported who were the assassins who did in Judge Bork.'