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Calling portions of Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings "a calculated political assassination," Judge Robert H. Bork warned a Salt Lake audience Friday night to protect its most important freedom: the freedom to govern ourselves democratically.

Receiving as many as three standing ovations for appearing Friday before about 2,800 spectators gathering in Symphony Hall, Bork told of his days as a Supreme Court nominee four years ago.Members of the U.S. Senate Judicial Committee try to pin down nominees on issues and to get campaign promises out of them, Bork said. But that is only part of a political strategy and has little to do with the actual issues, he added.

"Every nomination for the Supreme Court becomes a political struggle," Bork said. He noted that although the committee rejected his nomination, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was selected instead of Bork and took office in 1988, now votes "much the way I would."

Although politics are a major influence in decisions that affect Americans everyday-life, Bork said that "Congress doesn't live in the same world," which makes it difficult for judges "to help win this war of ideas."

Likewise, Bork attributes having ideas of his own was what prevented him from becoming nominated to the Supreme Court under the Reagan administration.

Legal opinions and books Bork had previously written became the basis of accusations against him. But Bork said "a judge looks inside himself and nowhere else" to find out what the law means and how to interpret it, especially when it concerns Constitutional law.

"My own episode wasn't important in and of itself," he said, "because judges serve for life, and their word is final."

An increase in legal decisions questioning old American values, such as the acceptance of believing in a supreme being and respect for the American flag, makes many wonder whether the Founding Fathers really intended such interpretations.

Bork speculated that decisions as far as school prayers and freedom of religion might soon lead to an America society that would be afraid to admit in public the existence of God, fearing that the courts would punish them for their statements.