Friday, January 28, 2011

Clarence Thomas Revisited

Clarence Thomas in an unwise almost suicidal move has written his memoirs thus reopening the controversy over his sworn confirmation testimony regarding sexual harassment of Anita Hill. In the book My Grandfather's Son he characterizes Hill as a "mediocre employee who was used by political opponents to make claims she had been sexually harassed." CNN has rushed into the fray and Anita Hill has written an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times in which she calmly repeats her allegations. Can our nation endure a perjurer as Chief of the US Supreme Court? We cannot. We must reopen the Thomas-Hill case

A Judge's Lies

Next to a dirty cop there is nothing as repulsive as a lying judge. Yet, amazingly, there sits on the bench of the highest court of the land a man who, in 1991, achieved that position by twice lying under oath; Clarence Thomas.

Short of having a confession on his part, the evidence against him in the case of Anita Hill is overwhelming:

She was a 26 year old recent graduate from Yale with a JD, a conservative from a rural Baptist background when she worked for Thomas.

She was 35 years old and a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, nine years later, when she accused him of harassment. Few people remember the details of his nomination hearings. Plain and simple, when Thomas was nominated, Anita Hill reluctantly, only because she was asked by the US Senate, accused him of having sexually harassed her during 1981-83 while he was her boss at the US Department of Education and then at the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

Her testimony, under oath, was simple and straightforward: “He harassed me sexually and this is how he did it.” He had talked to her about pornographic films, group sex, about women having sex with animals, about sexual positions, about the size of his penis and his prowess at oral sex. He did, according to Hill, never touch her.

(see for the full record of her testimony.)

There is other corroborating evidence but her testimony is sufficiently convincing. He, also under oath, “unequivocally, categorically” asserted that he had never “had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill.” On the basis of this denial he was confirmed. Please note: under oath and never

In addition, even though he similarly denied, again under oath, ever discussing Roe v. Wade--an issue on which he protested neutrality-- the evidence is that he did discuss it with at least three separate individuals.

Pure Feminist Dementia?

About Hill it was said that she was suffering of “pure feminist dementia,” probably psychotic and that she had hallucinated Thomas’ harassment and honestly believed it to be true. From a psychiatric point of view this is completely implausible. If she did actually completely manufacture these accusations (and persist in believing them for twenty years,) she would had been suffering from a pathology without parallel in psychiatric history. A serious, devoted, totally sane, high achieving professional who imagines, reports to friends and then harbors fantasies of harassment for five years before she reported them at the cost of endangering her successful career is simply not a credible story.

There is no possible motive or known form of mental derangement that could explain such actions. She was a fully functioning law professor before her accusations, has continued as a respected lecturer on sexual harassment and Supreme Court issues and continues to teach la--now at Brandies University--in the seventeen years since.

The other rather more lame explanations that were offered for her behavior, on the assumption that Thomas was innocent of her accusations, were that:

1. She was an incompetent lawyer and was jealous of Thomas’ success.

2. She made the accusations to propel herself to national fame.

3. She was in love with Thomas and was taking revenge because he rebuffed her.

On the other hand, it is virtually certain that Thomas harassed her to some extent as so many men have harassed women at the workplace before and since. But in a classic liar's nightmare Thomas gambled his appointment on the acceptance of his initial denial to Senate investigators. As the investigation proliferated Thomas's lies proliferated as well; he found himself eventually lying to his wife, his family, his fellow politicians and eventually hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The Tide Turns.

At the time of the hearings in 1991 the majority of blacks, whites men and women believed Thomas. No wonder, given the barrage of anti-Hill propaganda that was unleashed by the Republicans. Within one year as the dust settled the situation became clear and the polls reversed and most people believed Hill. Then in 1992, David Brock thoroughly smeared her with a string of anonymous and unconfirmed anecdotes of rampant sexuality in The Real Anita Hill; a book that became a instant best seller. Brock now recants and regrets having written, describing it as “a cruel smear disguised as a thorough investigation”.

Now that Thomas has reopened the issue in his memoirs, she is reasserting her accusation exactly as she made them then. Anyone who sees her reassertion will agree that she is thoroughly credible and not at all demented.

Thomas sits on the bench for life and votes and argues in the most radical manner clearly poised to vote down Roe vs. Wade, if and when it comes up. And the question never asked by anyone—Anita Hill, David Brock, or any politician--is: “Can our nation endure a perjurer as Chief of the US Supreme Court?”

An “Impeach Thomas” movement seems fundamentally important but just to point out and repeat that Thomas is very likely perjurer is bracing enough. Working women and feminists would rediscover common cause with this issue. It’s a great Internet, blog, MoveOn, Truth Out issue. Lots of information and data need to be unearthed and evaluated.

While attacking a black man was in 1991 a problematic act and probably the reason he was confirmed in a 48-52 vote, today with OJ behind us, it might not arouse African-American ire. The Clinton case is also instructive in this respect; the likelihood that Thomas will be impeached is small but questioning his competence as a Supreme Court judge seems a worthwhile goal.

Anita Hill is the one human being that knows for certain that Thomas lied under oath. Yet in her interviews she avoids making that statement: “Judge Clarence Thomas sits on the Supreme Court today based on his perjured testimony at his confirmation hearings." Stated in that bold manner it should be instant front page news at this time, and catastrophic for Thomas. But she declines to make it.

Perhaps Thomas will eventually not be able to look at himself in the mirror and voluntarily resign. Dream on...

Claude Steiner

This letter was sent to the New Yorker though not published:

In his book review (Nov 12, 2007) titled "Unforgiven," Jeffrey Toobin asks " Why is Clarence Thomas so angry?"

I would argue Thomas’ anger reflects his tortured state of mind as he daily confronts the suspicions of perjury he almost certainly committed in 1992 in order to attain his seat on the highest court.

Anita Hill's allegations have become increasingly credible. After fifteen years of utterly stable respectability there is no clinical scenario that permits the possibility that she was insane or demented by sexual passion as was Thomas' defense. Nor could she, a conservative, modest Republican, have been politically motivated when, five years prior to the nomination, she bitterly complained to a confidant about being sexually harassed at work. Furthermore, Toobin points out, others have come forward with similar allegations about him. The preponderance of the evidence, clinical knowledge, common sense, and public opinion all point to the credibility of Hill's accusation.

Do we lack the imagination to consider what it must have felt like to be enticed by Senator Danford and his partisan committee cohorts to commit perjury—for he was under oath when making his defense—so as to categorically deny any and all of Anita Hill's allegations? This after having been selected by the white Right Wing as a token, black conservative, and in an inexplicable short time chosen and led, like a sacrificial bull, into the blinding arena of a Supreme Court nomination battle. No wonder he described as a lynching!

Why is the likelihood that he lied under oath never openly considered by Toobin nor in the media? Is it because lying to Congress under oath equals perjury, and the presence of a perjurer on the Supreme Court simply boggles the collective mind?

I suspect it tortures Thomas daily as he furiously contemplates the unforgiving price that his high position has exacted from his conscience. The white elites that conspired to thrust him into the Court must be proud of themselves and his performance. Thomas and the American people are left to suffer the consequences.

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