The Corner

Did Fred Karger Sink the Bork Nomination?

I was looking over some old pieces about that seminal fight. One of them I had no recollection of writing was this 1987 piece for National Review, “For Want of a Nail.” It focused on the Reagan administration’s inept defense of Judge Bork — when only one side fights, it will win was the theme.

The piece describes how the White House gave its blessing to a group called We the People to run a media campaign for Judge Bork. That group was being run by none other than my old buddy Fred Karger, who styles himself the first openly gay candidate for the GOP presidential nomination and likes to think of himself as chief nemesis of the National Organization for Marriage (which I helped found but no longer run).

Karger was unable to raise much money, and the money he had he spent running ads in two irrelevant places, Oregon and Massachusetts, before dumping the rest into that sinkhole, full-page ads in USA Today:

The Senate’s Southern Democrats were the key to the fight. But the Dolphin Group is a professional political consulting firm that specializes in doing statewide-proposition work.

So where did We the People place its first two ads? Massachusetts and Oregon, neither of them key states for Bork, but both states in which there are many potential clients for a firm with the Dolphin Group’s expertise.

“We kept Hatfield . . . that was a surprise,” said Karger when asked about the efficacy of his organization’s ad strategy, though no one I spoke with thought a media campaign was necessary to keep Hatfield (who is Republican and pro-life) in the fold. . . .With $12,000, they could have bought a pro-Bork ad in Alabama’s two largest cities. Alabama is the home of Senator Howell Heflin, whose vote against Bork probably sealed the judge’s fate.

Was it on purpose? Fred, do tell! Because I can think of few people happier Judge Bork is not on the Supreme Court than you would be!


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