THE FIRST DAY of the Bork hearings was useful -- and promising. Once the morning formalities and speeches were concluded the members of the Judiciary Committee jumped in with the right kinds of questions, and Judge Bork gave straightforward and concise answers. Framing the questions and responses when the subject matter was, by and large, the minutiae of constitutional theory was not easy. But the discussion was informative, which is exactly what was wanted. Everybody seemed determined, even painfully determined, not to get into a rigid Irancontra-hearing-type confrontation.

The senators avoided categorizing Judge Bork's decisions on the court of appeals and making charges based on the number of times, in divided cases, he found in favor of certain classes of plaintiffs or certain business interests. Instead, the questions focused on his understanding of the role of courts in a democratic society and forced him to explain as best he could some of his more baffling and disturbing statements and writings. The nominee was forthright in discussing specific cases and also his philosophy in those areas that are still to be clarified by the SupremeCourt.

At the end of the day, some of these matters had been pursued better than others. Judge Bork, we believe, was pretty clear in explaining his positions on one-man, one-vote, the poll tax and the Fourteenth Amendment as it applies to women. Whether or not one agrees with those positions, the nominee's thinking and the reasoning behind his views were fairly well established, though on none was the last word spoken or the subject exhausted. On both the civil rights legislation of 1964 and the concept of privacy, the answers failed to satisfy, in that Judge Bork seems, thus far, almost unaware of what is troubling his serious critics. He has many more questions to answer on these and some as yet unexplored questions.