WASHINGTON (Aug. 26)
Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns told a group of rabbis Wednesday that opposition within the Jewish community and elsewhere to Judge Robert Bork is based on “misinformation” about President Reagan’s nominee to the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
A “false” image of Bork has been presented by “some people, “who want “to achieve political goals of their own,” wholly unrelated to the nomination, Burns said at a luncheon for 28 Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis from 13 states, sponsored by the National Jewish Coalition. The luncheon was part of a day-long series of briefings for the rabbis by members of the Administration.
Burns, the second highest ranking official in the Justice Department and a member of the National Jewish Coalition, said a “fictional” Bork has been portrayed who is an extremist, opposed to civil rights, labor unions and women’s rights, among other things. He said the “real” Bork believes that “a judge’s views on what is a desirable matter of policy has no place in a judge’s decision,” that decisions must be based on interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and what Congress had in mind when it passed a particular law.
He noted that in his five years on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, Bork has participated in over 400 majority opinions, none of which were reversed by the Supreme Court.
Burns did not mention church-state issues during his talk, but when he was asked later by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about Bork’s opinions in this area of concern to the Jewish community, Burns said he did not know Bork’s views since he had never ruled on this issue on the Court of Appeals.
But Burns added that he was “confident” that on this issue, as on others, Bork’s decisions will be based on his interpretation of the Constitution and not on ideology. “Bork has demonstrated that he has an open mind,” he stressed.
When a rabbi asked about Bork’s views on abortion, Burns replied that it was “wholly irrelevant” to his nomination to the Supreme Court. He said Bork has said he is “bound by decided cases” and accepts Roe v. Wade which legalized abortions. However, he conceded that if a new abortion case came to the Supreme Court the decision could be reversed.
While most of the briefings Wednesday was closed to the press, Burns speech was open, apparently in an effort to counter the growing opposition to the Bork nomination in the Jewish community. Public opposition has already been expressed by the Jewish War Veterans, the American Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith Women, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the New Jewish Agenda.
At the luncheon Richard Fox, chairman of the National Jewish Coalition, noted that it was “unique” to have the participation and exchange of views from rabbis representing all movements in Judaism. “It ought to happen on a regular basis,” he said.
Fox said that the National Coalition, through its participation in Reagan’s election, has had an “impact” on the Administration’s policy in matters of Jewish concern. “We believe we’ve made a difference,” he said. “I believe it’s an important difference.”