10 Unsuccessful Senate Confirmations


Robert Bork

Robert Bork.
Robert Bork.
Ron Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork carried on the long-standing tradition of Supreme Court nominees rejected by the Senate in the final year of a presidency. The Senate tends to be uncomfortable with an outgoing president installing an appointee into a lifelong position of great power, but Bork also broke new ground in the public realm. Both right-wing supporters and left-wing opponents launched publicity campaigns for and against Bork's nomination. It was a wrestling match to characterize Bork either as a raging conservative who would overturn flashpoint rulings like Roe v. Wade or as a wise and level-headed moderate. The left wing won.

A month before Bork's hearing, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, publicly said he planned on voting against the Bork nomination [source: Lamar, et al]. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who vehemently opposed Bork's nomination, said in a televised speech, "Robert Bork's America is a land where women will be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police would break down citizens doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution" [source: Tushnet]. It went downhill from there.

To his credit, Bork didn't withdraw his name. Instead, he endured a painful confirmation hearing before ultimately being rejected. Afterward he said he was "glad the debate took place" [source: Greenhouse]. He went on to become a political and judicial critic and commentator.