WASHINGTON -- Supporters of Robert Bork's Supreme Court nomination renewed their attack today on liberal organizations for using 'the big lie' in bringing the nomination to the brink of defeat in the Senate.
Beginning the second day of floor debate, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, likened the liberal groups' lobbying and advertising campaigns against Bork's civil rights and civil liberties views to the 'dark era' of McCarthyism in the 1950s.
'The big lie is standard operating procedure for some of these groups,'Grassley said, in reiterating what has become the main GOP theme in the debate. 'All you have to do is repeat the same outrageous charges, and repeat them so often that people believe they are true.'
Bork's virtually doomed nomination received a boost today when Delaware Republican William Roth became the 41st senator to declare support for the nominee.
However, one other undeclared senator, Wisconsin Democrat William Proxmire, said he was disturbed by the fact that Bork had not received a unanimous favorable rating from the American Bar Association and that he is opposed by 40 percent of the nation's law professors.
Roth said Bork was well qualified for the court. He said the nominee had been victimized by a confirmation process that was like a political race with the Senate Judiciary Committee extracting 'campaign promises' from him.
'I'm very troubled that the committee's questioning was too specific and too detailed,' Roth said. The result, he said, is that Bork will be 'the first nominee to be denied confirmation ... because he declared opposition to judicial activism.'
Roth's announcement leaves just five senators who have not announced which way they would vote: Democrats Proxmire, Sam Nunn of Georgia and John Stennis of Mississippi and Republicans Frank Murkowski of Alaska and John Warner of Virginia.
Their decisions appeared moot, however; the debate began with Bork's defeat a virtual certainty because 54 of the 100 senators had voiced their opposition.
Arguments were scheduled to continue today, but after seven hours of opening debate Wednesday, Senate leaders said they hoped to wrap it up by week's end and shut down the bitter partisanship surrounding the nomination.
Setting the tone for Bork opponents Wednesday, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., offered this opening salvo: 'From the purchase of a home to the ballot box to the job site ... to the schools of the nation's capital, Robert Bork has made a career of opposing simple justice, and he does not deserve a new career on the Supreme Court of the United States.'
Kennedy, who announced his opposition to Bork as soon as the federal appeals judge was nominated July 1, said he based his criticism on the conservative's writings and speeches of the last quarter-century. In those statements, Bork has argued there is no constitutional basis for various Supreme Court rulings on privacy, on minority rights and on individual liberties.
Furthermore, said Kennedy, '(Bork) has been just as wrong on the rights of women. Three weeks before his nomination, he repeated his extremist view that 'the equal protection clause probably should have been kept to things like race and ethnicity,' thereby reading out of the Constitution all protection against sex discrimination.'
Leading the rally for Bork supporters, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, charged that the nomination was crushed because of 'a dirty tricks political campaign' and a 'smear campaign' of advertisements by groups such as People for the American Way, Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League.
Hatch held up three newspaper ads that he claimed had a total of 250 'slants, distortions and falsehoods.' Anti-Bork organizations have defended the ads as correct and well documented.
'The real issue in this whole debate is judicial restraint versus judicial activism,' Hatch said, referring to Bork's criticism of 'activist judges' who create rights that cannot be found in the Constitution.
Kennedy said efforts by President Reagan and conservative allies to portray opposition to Bork as 'politics' was 'preposterous and hypocritical' because Reagan politicized the high court with his calls during the 1986 Senate campaign for election of Republicans who would confirm his judicial nominees.
Sen. William Armstrong, R-Colo., took up Hatch's theme, calling the campaign against Bork 'white collar McCarthyism.' He blamed some senators for working with the anti-Bork groups and concluded, 'The debate outside the chamber has been determinative of the outcome.'
That drew an angry reaction from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., whose panel held three weeks of confirmations hearings for Bork and recommended by a 9-5 vote that the Senate reject his nomination.
Referring to an anti-Bork television ad featuring actor Gregory Peck, Biden asked, 'Are you telling me this is going to force the dean of the Harvard Law School to say Judge Bork shouldn't be on the court? ... Are you telling me 54 senators said, 'Oh my God, I heard from Gregory, don't put Judge Bork on the court'?'
Biden said he could not defend the advertising campaigns but 'the fact of the matter is, the essence of what was said is accurate.'
Bork, 60, was nominated by Reagan to replace the moderate retired Justice Lewis Powell. A former Yale Law School professor and former U.S. solicitor general, he now sits on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia -- a position for which a Republican-led Senate confirmed him in 1982.