Monday, October 01, 2007

Did Thomas Lie Under Oath?

The 60 Minutes piece on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas last night has been described as a fluff piece. Part of the selling of Thomas's new memoir "My Grandfather's Son," as a heart-warming tour of his rags-to-riches life. (Riches indeed, he received a $1.5 million advance for his book.)

But, what came across in the interview was the bristling anger of the man. The dismissive arrogance toward the affirmative action advantages he received and the legal pinnacle he obtained.... the old scores to settle.

It was a "high-tech lynching" of Anita Hill, his sexual-harassment accuser during his Senate confirmation hearings in 1991 as 60 Minutes allowed Thomas to portray himself as the wronged and persecuted black man and Hill as his lying destroyer.

The Washington Post more truthfully describes his memoir as.... "scathingly condemning the media, the Democratic senators who opposed his nomination to the Supreme Court, and the 'mob' of liberal elites and activist groups that he says desecrated his life" But, especially Anita Hill.

Rather than rehash the she-said-he-said aspect of his confirmation hearings, let's visit one example of the genesis of the relentless Hill bashing in order to exonerate Thomas as recounted in another book, "Blinded by the Right" by David Brock, where Brock bared his conscience as an ex-conservative "Gingrichian ends-justify-the-means" radicalist.

Page 102, Brock writes: ".... in a matter of weeks, I had gone from believing Anita Hill... to portraying Hill as a deranged liar. After all, my career path rewarded party-line polemics, not independent thinking.... I had already shown an ability to sequester my conscience and sublimate my own values so that I could belong to the [conservative] movement, just as I now disregarded my own intuition that Hill was a credible witness. Seeking a channel for my ambition, I was a perfect -- and perfectly willing -- instrument for the wishes of others and for agendas I didn't share."

And that self-described ambition led Brock to write the scathing "The Real Anita Hill."

He describes the research for that book in this way: "I failed to weigh my findings against the fact that all of my sources were pro-Thomas partisans".... with no knowledge whatever of what evidence that might have been "gathered against Thomas that was not introduced in the hearing..... As for the traits ascribed to Hill that might have motivated her to lie -- ambitious, willful, and even vengeful -- they were culled by me from the Thomas camp. Everyone I spoke to hated the woman."

Insofar as his reference to the incriminating evidence against Thomas that might have been gathered.... it was gathered. In 1994 investigative journalists Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson wrote the best-selling "Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas."

They tracked down the other women Hill testified Thomas had harassed, several former female employees of Thomas's who said he had demanded dates from them and offered gleeful commentary on the size of women's breasts. They found a friend of Hill's to whom she had confided her own troubles with Thomas at the time. And, at the time Thomas ironically, or sadly, headed up the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

When it comes to heart-warming personal stories, as a successful black woman, Hill could offer hers. One of 13 children in Lone Tree, Oklahoma, she recalls the only things she could see from her house was the "yard, the field, the abandoned cars...." She came from poor farm people and rose to the top of her profession. As an educator, in 1997 Hill joined the faculty of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

Now, in investigative fairness 60 Minutes should do a laudatory piece on Hill so their audience can hear the rest of the Thomas hearings story. Although Hill probably wouldn't have much stomach for again stirring up the hatreds of the far right.

The question now is not about the gravity of the workplace dirty talk charges against Thomas at his Senate hearing for a seat on the Supreme Court. The real question is whether or not Thomas lied under oath in denying Hill's accusations. Or is an angry, bitter, scores-to-settle conservative black Supreme Court Justice above the law.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How does a Supreme Court Justice, having been elevated to that lofty office after just one year of experience on the bench, possess the gall to describe ANY other government employee as "mediocre?" Talk about bad faith -- Haven't Thomas's perjurious statements during his confirmation hearing since been sufficiently documented to convince him that Ms. Hill's allegations were more than a mere political attack?