BOSTON -- By the time Robert Bork walked out of the Senate chambers, I'd had a change of heart. The movement to Dump Bork is all wrong. What we need is a much more sympathetic approach to his problem: a movement to Free Bork.
When Bork was a mere youth, he got into the wrong line of work. It happens all the time. He has spent much too much of his life suffering from a conflict between his personal sense of what's good and his professional sense of what's legal. The man is utterly ripe for a midcareer liberation.
What I learned from Bork's testimony is that if you spend enough time splitting hairs, pretty soon you have a split personality. In Bork's life, moral rights continually wrestled with institutional rights -- and lost.
Think about what Bork could have been if he hadn't misspent his youth, not to mention his midlife, as a jurist. To begin with, there is his attitude toward the poll taxes that once thwarted black voters. Bork the man doesn't think that the old poll taxes were right: ''I don't like them myself.'' But Bork the jurist doesn't think the ruling that struck down these taxes was right either: ''I just don't see the legal judgment there.''
Then there is his attitude toward sterilization. Citizen Bork knows the state of Oklahoma had no business sterilizing criminals. ''There is no scientific evidence . . . that criminality is really genetically carried,'' he said. But lawyer Bork doesn't think the court had any business striking this law down ''. . . on the grounds stated there.''
The double bind -- personal and legal -- also applies to birth control. The modern man facing the senators surely doesn't approve the banning of birth control for married couples. He calls the old Connecticut law ''nutty.'' But the nominee for the Supreme Court wouldn't have joined the majority in cracking that nut. It's a matter of principle, legal principle.
It's enough to make you feel sorry for the man who got lost in the voluminous trappings of the black robe. In the opening days of the hearings, senators like Edward Kennedy and Dennis DeConcini talked about such lofty things as individual liberty and equality, while Bork wandered about in the footnotes of arcane and convoluted ''principle.'' It was the Saturday Night Massacre all over again. In what Bork refers to as ''the events of Oct. 20,'' Elliot Richardson and William Ruckels-haus were the ones who quit on moral grounds, while Bork stayed on technical grounds.
There is something almost perverse in the Bork story. One of the senators wished for a psychiatrist to predict Bork's decisions on the bench. I wished for a psychiatrist to analyze his intellectual destruction of his own moral principles.
If the man is being sincere and not slippery about his real opinions on race, sex and privacy, the former professor has been trapped by tortured legal reasoning into reversing himself.
Other judges, particularly Supreme Court judges, have found in the Constitution a basis for individual justice, but Bork has often found the opposite. In his case, judicial restraint is a pair of moral handcuffs.
I was particularly struck by Bork's spirited defense of his views on sexual equality. Bork did admit to worrying about unisex toilets, but I'm sure he isn't in favor of sexual harassment. At the same time, he can't rule it out. Again and again, he finds no principle for his principles.
In Bork's narrow view, all sorts of change should come from the legislature, not the judiciary. If you want to move beyond the original intent of the Framers, he insists, don't do it with interpretation -- go to the legislature.
Is there a hint in all this? A subconscious desire for a new career? As chair of the Free Bork movement, I think we should immediately liberate the man from his paralyzing judicial restraints. Emancipate the professor and jurist from the conflicts he fabricates between moral principle and legal principle. Send him where he sees the power.
As a legislator, the Bork we met at the hearings might turn into one of the great defenders of privacy and civil liberties. As a Supreme Court justice, he's likely to be a great threat to them. The solution is simple. Stop the hearings. This isn't time for a court change; it's time for a career change.
Robert Bork for Congress.