Robert H. Bork, the one-time Supreme Court nominee whose prickly, conservative pronouncements have made him a beacon for right-leaning politicians and jurists, finds himself in an odd position of late, but not unhappily so.
Mr. Bork disagrees with one of his strongest supporters and ideological soul mates, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, on how the impeachment trial of President Clinton should be handled. In so doing, Mr. Bork has aligned himself with some of the President's supporters.
Mr. Hatch said this week that he and some fellow Republicans would like to see one Senate vote declaring that Mr. Clinton had given false and misleading testimony and hampered the search for truth about his relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky and a separate vote adjourning the Senate trial without a verdict.
In that way, Mr. Hatch argued in an Op-Ed article on Tuesday in The New York Times, Mr. Clinton would be denied the acquittal he seems certain to win in the Senate. Furthermore, Mr. Hatch said, "The House's vote to impeach President Clinton will stand as a rebuke forever, and the search for truth will have trumped political expediency."
No, Mr. Bork said.
"Orrin Hatch is a friend of mine, so I don't want to sound too harsh," Mr. Bork, a former Solicitor General and Federal appeals court judge, said in an interview, good-naturedly describing Mr. Hatch's idea as constitutionally dubious and unsatisfyingly ambiguous, assertions he made on Monday in an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Hatch, now chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was one of Mr. Bork's strongest backers in his unsuccessful fight for confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1987.
Mr. Bork said Mr. Hatch and his Republican colleagues "ought to face up to the fact that they're going to lose." Though Republicans have a 55-45 advantage in the Senate, no one suggests that Mr. Clinton's foes have the 67 votes needed to convict and remove him.
A Republican Senate aide said today that Mr. Hatch still felt strongly that an acquittal of Mr. Clinton, in the face of convincing evidence that he committed perjury and obstructed justice, would set a bad precedent.
Mr. Bork argued further, in an interview and in an Op-Ed article today in The New York Times, that indicting a sitting President would probably be unconstitutional and that bringing a sitting President to trial surely would.
Imagine the founding fathers, Mr. Bork said. Having spelled out the duties and powers of the President and the sole method for the President's removal (impeachment and conviction), would they want to see a President brought down by 12 people on a jury? he asked.