Still Crying After All These Years
We couldn't take our eyes off the television.
I lived in Amherst, New Hampshire. My wife, our three girls and I often climbed in the station wagon and drove to Kennebunkport, Maine, just below President Bush's massive estate out at the end of the long spit behind the fortified gates, the Coast Guard always patrolling off-shore.
The girls would play in the tidal pools and pick up sea shells, getting massively soaked and covered in sand. My wife and I ate lobster rolls and dreamed of ruling the world.
As the day drew old we'd wrap tired wet sandy girls in towels, pack them into their seats, buckle-up, and drive the several hours back home. Politics (well, sex & money first) were the usual topic. Who was going to win the next year (we hadn't even heard of Bill Clinton I don't think; well, I had of course, having lived in Arkansas, but not as a Presidential candidate). And now, this Clarence Thomas guy.
His nomination was tied 7-7 out of committee to the floor, till something strange happened. A woman named Anita Hill came forward and said she'd been harassed by Thomas. I stayed home and watched on television. No money coming in... but I had to know. Best soap opera since Watergate.
Thomas made it in. Barely.
Justice Thomas recently released his autobiography.
abc newsOh yeah... That's what happened to him.
"The mob I now faced carried no ropes or guns," Thomas wrote. "Its weapons were smooth-tongued lies spoken into microphones and printed on the front pages of America's newspapers. It no longer sought to break the bodies of its victims. Instead it devastated their reputations and drained away their hope.
"But it was a mob all the same, and its purpose — to keep the black man in his place — was unchanged." Thomas wrote. "Strip away the fancy talk and you were left with the same old story: You can't trust black men around women. This one may be a big-city judge with a law degree from Yale, but when you get right down to it, he's just like the rest of them. They all do that sort of thing whenever they get the chance, and no woman would ever lie about it."
As he describes his emotions, his words of rage literally leap of the page. When he enters the hearing room and takes his seat, he levels his own assault.
"This is a circus. It is a national disgrace," his voice in tightly focused anger. "And from my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I am concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that, unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you, you will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree."Four days later, the Senate voted to confirm Thomas to the Supreme Court, by the narrowest margin in history, 52-48. Thomas was home when the Senate voted, and Virginia asked if he wanted to listen to the roll call. "Absolutely not," he responded. "I don't care what they do."
He decided to take a long hot bath to relax, and he was in the tub when Virginia's assistant called. Virginia hung up the phone, went into the bathroom and told Thomas he had been confirmed.
"'Whoop-dee-damn-doo,' I said, sliding deeper into the comforting water," Thomas wrote of the conversation. "Mere confirmation, even to the Supreme Court, seemed pitifully small compensation for what had been done to me."
I'm forty-eight years old, this all happened sixteen years ago, but even I can remember it didn't go down that way.
Fortunately Professor Anita Hill of Brandeis University straightens us.
New York TimesThat's what I saw on television sixteen years ago. A dignified woman, laying everything she had on the line to battle a man who refused to tell the truth.
I stand by my testimony.
Justice Thomas has every right to present himself as he wishes in his new memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son.” He may even be entitled to feel abused by the confirmation process that led to his appointment to the Supreme Court.
But I will not stand by silently and allow him, in his anger, to reinvent me.Justice Thomas offers a litany of unsubstantiated representations and outright smears ... A number of independent authors have shown those attacks to be baseless. What’s more, their reports draw on the experiences of others who were familiar with Mr. Thomas’s behavior, and who came forward after the hearings. It’s no longer my word against his.
Justice Thomas’s characterization of me is also hobbled by blatant inconsistencies. He claims, for instance, that I was a mediocre employee who had a job in the federal government only because he had “given it” to me. He ignores the reality: I was fully qualified to work in the government, having graduated from Yale Law School (his alma mater, which he calls one of the finest in the country), and passed the District of Columbia Bar exam, one of the toughest in the nation.
Fortunately, we have made progress since 1991. Today, when employees complain of abuse in the workplace, investigators and judges are more likely to examine all the evidence and less likely to simply accept as true the word of those in power. But that could change. Our legal system will suffer if a sitting justice’s vitriolic pursuit of personal vindication discourages others from standing up for their rights.
Justice Thomas -- Mr. Thomas then -- lied during his conformation also.
Stare decisis is a fancy Latin term that stands for a bedrock proposition of U.S. law: that the Supreme Court will uphold precedent and not disturb settled law without special justification. As Justice Thurgood Marshall explained for the court in 1986, stare decisis is the "means by which we ensure that the law will not merely change erratically, but will develop in a principled and intelligible fashion."
Four years ago, Rehnquist echoed Marshall in a case that reaffirmed the Miranda warning given before police interrogations, stating that stare decisis "carries such persuasive force that we have always required a departure from precedent to be supported by some 'special justification.' "
Stare decisis is not and should not be an ironclad rule -- otherwise Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld segregation, would still be on the books. But almost everyone agrees that respect for the doctrine is indispensable for a Supreme Court justice. As Thomas himself explained at his confirmation hearing, "stare decisis provides continuity to our system, it provides predictability, and in our process of case-by-case decision making, I think it is a very important and critical concept."
Huffington PostAnd so we have a man in the highest court of the land who abused a woman and refused to tell the truth, is willing to twist the Constitution he's sworn to protect every direction the law be damned, and lied about that as well.
It turns out, of course, that the alarming character traits Anita Hill observed in her boss Clarence Thomas were nothing compared to the nutcase judicial temperament he has since revealed. At his confirmation hearing, Thomas -- like Marshall before him, and Roberts and Alito after him -- paid tribute to stare decisis, the importance of precedent in guiding Supreme Court decisions. But no less an authority than arch-conservative fellow Associate Justice Antonin Scalia told Thomas' biographer, Ken Foskett, that Thomas "doesn't believe in stare decisis, period." If you think nutcase is too strong a word to summarize that view, listen again to Scalia, as quoted in this Terry Gross interview with Jeff Toobin about his new Supreme Court book, The Nine:Mr. TOOBIN: Clarence Thomas is not just the most conservative member of the Rehnquist court or the Roberts court. He's the most conservative justice to serve on the court since the 1930s. If you take what Thomas says seriously, if you read his opinions, particularly about issues like the scope of the federal government, he basically thinks that the entire work of the New Deal is unconstitutional. He really believes in a conception of the federal government that hasn't been supported by the justices since Franklin Roosevelt made his appointments to the court. You know, I went to a speech that Justice Scalia gave at a synagogue here in New York a couple of years ago, and someone asked him, `What's the difference between your judicial philosophy and Justice Thomas?' I thought a very good question. And Scalia talked for a while and he said, `Look, I'm a conservative. I'm a texturalist. I'm an originalist. But I'm not a nut.' And I thought that...The Roberts-Scalia-Thomas-Alito-and-sometimes-Kennedy fivesome on the Court today is the closest the country has come to the domination of the third branch of government by the same ideology that gave us the Bush administration and its Congressional and Fourth Estate enablers.
GROSS: Meaning that he thinks Thomas is one.
Mr. TOOBIN: Well, that was certainly the implication.
Mr. TOOBIN: It was pretty amazing. I mean, Thomas is well outside the mainstream, even of the conservatives on the court.
And now he comes out with a whiny, complaining, moaning, sorry excuse of an autobiography which says, "I'm an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and all of these bad things... You're making me do them." No wonder he gets along so goddamn well with the Bush administration.
The abuser becomes the, well, a bigger abuser. Victim. Liar. Crybaby.
And oh yeah... Loser.