Robert Bork, in his posthumously published memoir, Saving Justice, claims that Richard Nixon promised to appoint him to the Supreme Court after Bork followed Nixon’s order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973. From the Associated Press:
Bork writes that he didn’t know if Nixon actually, though mistakenly, believed he still had the political clout to get someone confirmed to the Supreme Court or was just trying to secure Bork’s continued loyalty as his administration crumbled in the Watergate scandal.
I’d vote for the latter, if I had to choose one. It’s hard to imagine that Nixon could have believed that a Democratic-controlled Senate would confirm the man who carried out the Saturday Night Massacre. (Then again, maybe I’m just displaying the limits of my imagination.) But I have my doubts about the latter explanation too. Once you tackle a dirty job that the two people ahead of you at the Justice Department resigned rather than perform, it would seem that you’ve demonstrated loyalty that would not require payoffs to cement.
We could also have fun with the alternate-universe scenario, in which we never get the Great Confirmation Struggle of 1987 because Bork either (a) gets nominated and confirmed, or (b) gets nominated and rejected, thereby making him damaged goods when Lewis Powell leaves Reagan a pivotal vacancy to fill.