GROVE CITY, PA., FEB. 8 -- Former federal appeals judge Robert H. Bork struck back tonight at opponents who defeated his Supreme Court nomination, accusing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) of leading an attack that "even for a political campaign set record lows for mendacity, brutality, and intellectual vulgarity."
Bork, in his first speech since leaving the bench Friday, said he and the administration were too slow in reacting to what he called a "long-planned and carefully calculated assault by a skillful politician."
Kennedy's claim that "I was hostile to black civil rights was a lie," Bork said, adding that that was only part of a campaign of "fury, reckless disregard for the facts and outright falsehoods" that truly angered him.
Bork's comments were made to an overwhelmingly favorable, overflow crowd of 2,500 students and teachers at Grove City College, an institution in northwestern Pennsylvania with a reputation for being conservative. Bork was given a standing ovation upon arrival and departure. He made a speech and took questions.
Bork, repeating but putting in sharper focus criticisms he has made in recent weeks, told his listeners that he feared his experience might signal a "politicization" of the judicial nominating process, in which the Senate might try to "micromanage" the judiciary in the same way it has intruded in foreign policy.
Bork, whose sense of humor often was on display in his confirmation hearings, told his audience tonight, "I can offer you a unique perspective. Who wouldn't like George Armstrong Custer's version of events at the Little Bighorn?"
Bork started the day less confrontationally at a news conference at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, where he will be a resident scholar.
Although he complained about distortions of his record during the debate over his nomination, he declined to single out for criticism any senators or organizations who opposed him.
Bork said he erred when he answered a question during his confirmation hearings about why he wanted to be on the high court by saying that he thought it would be "an intellectual feast."
Bork, whose nomination was defeated last October by the Senate, said he should have given a different answer, but "red, white and blue speeches do not come easily to me."
"I had about 15 litmus tests put to me by various senators," he said, "and I couldn't agree with all of them." Some news accounts reported he was angry, he said, but it was not so. He joked in response to one question that he was "probably in the process right now" of becoming a "has-been."