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Radio Address to the Nation on Voluntarism and the Supreme Court Nomination of Robert H. Bork

October 03, 1987

My fellow Americans:

Today I'd like to give you some background you won't get from other Washington sources about a story that's been in the headlines. But first I'd like to take a minute and tell you about a story that hasn't been in the headlines but should be. In May of this year, a tornado ripped through the west Texas town of Saragosa, killing 30 people, injuring 120 more, and destroying two-thirds of the buildings.

Many believed that spring tornado would make a ghost town of Saragosa, but this past Labor Day, a private sector initiative proved the doomsayers wrong. Over the holiday weekend, 700 volunteers from all over our country, with mostly donated materials, built 15 new homes in a single weekend, and plans are underway for even more. Today the townspeople and volunteers join together to celebrate this fine example of the great American spirit of neighbor helping neighbor. On behalf of all Americans, I join in commending this noble effort.

Now I think most of you know that this sort of voluntarism is something the administration has worked hard to encourage during the past few years. It's been part of our policy of cutting back government while giving free markets and free people a chance to work their magic. And the results have been economic magic.

But strange as it seems, while most Americans are delighted by our growth, some people are embarrassed and even resentful. They're the folks who insisted that this administration's domestic program would lead to economic ruin for everyone, especially the poor. Instead, our program led to booming prosperity and a 3-year decline in the poverty rate. And these same folks also said our policy of being firm with the Soviets wouldn't work. But they were wrong again; our toughness stopped Soviet expansionism, restored America's stature, and moved us toward the first major arms reduction treaty in many years.

So, you see, America has prospered, and our foreign stature has grown. And this has happened because, on almost every single issue, we've done exactly the opposite of what the old-time liberals here in Washington recommended. But while these have been hard years for the Washington establishment, there was always one area they'd controlled so long they never thought they would have to give it up. They thought of it as a sort of private preserve—and that was appointments to the Federal courts. Many of them viewed the courts as a place to put judges who would further their agenda-even if it meant being soft on crime, interpreting the Constitution to please the special interests, and encouraging jurists to make laws that would never be passed by your elected representatives or approved by you, the people.

That's why, when a vacancy recently occurred on the United States Supreme Court, I nominated Judge Robert Bork, a man who would be faithful to the kind of judicial restraint envisioned by our Founding Fathers; a judiciary that was independent and strong, yes, but one whose power would also be confined within the boundaries of the Constitution and the laws of the land. For the Founding Fathers the issue was not: Will we have liberal or conservative courts? They knew that the courts, like the Constitution itself, must not be politicized; they knew that the question was, and is: Will we have government by the people? And that's why over the years both progressive and conservative judges have understood the importance of judicial restraint-the principle that says the highest exercise of judicial duty is to subordinate the judge's private views to what the law permits or determines.

But now liberal special interest groups seek to politicize the court system; to exercise a chilling effect on judges; to intimidate them into making decisions, not on the basis of the law or the merits of the case, but on the basis of a litmus test or a response to political pressure. These special interests are gravely concerned that Judge Bork's appointment will mean a Supreme Court that practices judicial restraint as our forefathers intended.

And that's why the nomination of Judge Bork, a distinguished jurist, has become a distorted, unseemly political campaign. Judge Bork deserves a careful, highly civil examination of his record, but he has been subjected to a constant litany of character assassination and intentional misrepresentation. They are determined to thwart the desire of the American people for judges who understand the real role of the judiciary; judges who seek to interpret the law, not make it; judges who will enforce the law and bring criminals to justice, not turn them loose and make our streets unsafe.

Well, don't let them do it. Tell your Senators to resist the politicization of our court system. Tell them you support the appointment of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on Voluntarism and the Supreme Court Nomination of Robert H. Bork Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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