Time To End The Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill Debate

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen argues that it's time to put the debate over the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill mess to rest. He's right.

Reacting mostly to last week’s Washington Post interview with a former girlfriend purporting to corroborate the claims that Anita Hill made about Clarence Thomas some two decades about, Richard Cohen argues that it’s time for both sides to leave the he said-she said debate behind:

[Thomas’s] latest accuser is an old flame of his, Lillian McEwen — lawyer, prosecutor, administrative judge and, some desperate publisher willing, author of a manuscript detailing time kept with Thomas way back in the 1980s, a bit before the modern era. The revelations — so banal as to comprise a virtual exoneration — are that Thomas was obsessed with women, likes them big-breasted, and indulged in a critical viewing of pornography. For this, The Post gave McEwen some 1,500 words, which, in this day and age, is a veritable king’s ransom of words — about two of my standard op-ed columns. I am, understandably enough, mortified.

McEwen’s remembrances are at least two decades old and have no bearing whatsoever on the present-day Clarence Thomas and how he conducts himself on the High Court.

In fact, they have nothing to do with anything — unless it is to prove that nothing about Thomas and his initial accuser, Anita Hill, makes any sense. Her charges fell somewhat short of blatant, coercive, sexual harassment — or, if they didn’t, then why did she follow her abuser, Thomas, from one job to the next? A black, female Yale Law School graduate was not lacking in employment opportunities.

I long ago despaired of getting to the bottom of this case, and I long ago gave up wanting to. I concluded that Thomas as the product of a very small town — the aptly- named Pin Point, Ga. — who was the lone African American in a school full of whites, a racially-isolated kid who lacked the normal interactions and did not learn the requisite social graces. As for Hill, she, too, lacked a certain sophistication or judgment. If she was perplexed by him, he was perplexed by her.

I think Cohen, who is a liberal and no fan of Thomas’s, has it right.

As the comment thread that erupted in the wake of my post about Ginny Thomas’s still inexplicable phone call to Anita Hill two weeks ago shows, the passions over this issue seem to be as red hot as they were nineteen years ago. I’ll admit to being one of those people who had strong opinions about the issue back during the hearings. Even with McEwen’s statements, it’s still not possible to say that one side or the other is definitively right or definitively wrong, and this still  boils down to a he-said/she-said debate that has more to do with how one feels about Clarence Thomas politically than anything else.

So, let’s close the book on this, well, affair. At some point, history will make it’s own judgment about what happened, but it’s still pretty clear that the issue is still far too partisan to be resolved with any degree of objectivity.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. JimmyCracksCapricorns says:

    Objectivity? How about DIGNITY…does this nation have any?




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  2. mantis says:

    Maybe if you weren’t so ready to disparage Ms. Hill and call her a liar, your protestations that everyone just drop it would be more convincing or logically consistent.




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  3. ponce says:

    So, let’s close the book on this, well, affair…as long as Thomas recuses himself from any case involving women.




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  4. Modulo Myself says:

    History has passed judgment already. He was a liar and a perjurer. End of story. If you think history is going to provide more concrete facts beyond what we have, or give you some sort of out with a painless truth, you are simply lying to yourself.




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  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    I think Thomas is a godawful justice. But if we are going to disqualify every guy who likes women and prefers large breasts we are really cutting into the potential pool for his eventual replacement.

    For those who have just arrived on this planet: most men like women. Most men makes asses out of themselves at some point in their pursuit of women. Obviously they have to obey the rules, neverthless men will continue to like women and their tatas and they will continue to say stupid things in pursuit of same.




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  6. schooner says:

    Whatever Richard Cohen is it ain’t liberal.




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  7. c.red says:

    Other than pretty much agreeing with Michael Reynold’s assessment (only not being as confident and blunt, I would probably try to word it more diplomatically), I have no real opinion on Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill.

    But I have to say going back and looking at that thread; that was not your finest hour.




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  8. Steve Verdon says:

    Wow Clarence Thomas, a male by all appearances, likes porn. Who’d have thought!?!?!? I mean it isn’t like the primary thing guys use their computers and internet connections for isn’t porn. If I were to out and google various sexual acts I’m quite sure I’d find very few websites….wait a minute….uhhhh…..I’ll be back in 15 to 20 minutes.




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  9. Steve Plunk says:

    I ended it years ago. No proof of anything and certainly no proof of a law being broken. The confirmation hearing is over.




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  10. Davebo says:

    Wait a minute…

    Why exactly is the Thomas/Hill situation in the news again?

    Are you suggesting we off Clarence’s wife or just take away her phone privileges?

    And can we assume you agree with Cohen that this is all Hill’s fault for not quitting?

    Seriously?




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  11. Davebo says:

    ” I mean it isn’t like the primary thing guys use their computers and internet connections for isn’t porn.”

    Not in my case. But if you’d care to elaborate….




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  12. Tano says:

    Wow. Doug. You got it bad buddy. You are trying to grasp on to Richard Cohen as your (hopefully) last refuge in this debate?

    “I think Cohen, who is a liberal …”

    No he is not.

    “…and no fan of Thomas’s, has it right.”

    When he says, what – “McEwen’s remembrances are at least two decades old and have no bearing whatsoever on the present-day Clarence Thomas”

    Who said they did? Thomas’s wife brought the issue to the fore, when she basically reopened the case by calling Hill a liar and suggesting an apology. Mrs. Thomas may be totally innocently blinded by her love of her husband, but if she puts out crap like that in the public arena, she deserves all the pushback she gets.

    “…nothing about Thomas and his initial accuser, Anita Hill, makes any sense. ”

    No Richard. No Doug. It is not so very complicated. What is there that doesn’t make sense? Clarance Thomas is a pig toward women – like a considerable percentage of men in this world. Suddenly, in what was surely as much a surprise to him as anyone else. he gets thrust onto the national stage as a nominee for one of the most exalted positions in our nation – one which the public likes to think is in the domain of people who act in a more respectful manner towards others. And his past catches up to him – he is revealed for who he is. And unfortunately for him it comes at just the time when women, who had been moving into the workforce in droves for the previous two decades, had both accumulated two decades worth of harassment stories that very much needed venting, and had also reached positions of prominence and started to feel that “glass ceiling”, such that the sexual harassment they endured on the job became defined as one of the environmental factors that were keeping them from full equality.

    “Her charges fell somewhat short of blatant, coercive, sexual harassment”

    This from a man who was himself charged with sexual harassment in the workplace. GEe, I wonder why he has this take on things.

    “I long ago despaired of getting to the bottom of this case,…”

    In the grand scheme of things, this is one of the least complicated stories of the thousands of stories that political commentators address over the years. It is really not hard to figure this one out. When you hear someone like Cohen, or Doug, make claims like this, I think it fair to conclude that they really can see pretty clearly what the “bottom of this case” really is, but they just do not want, for whatever strange reason, to admit it.

    “I’ll admit to being one of those people who had strong opinions about the issue back during the hearings. ”

    I think that is obvious. And you were wrong.
    Welcome to the club.
    You don’t end up losing any serious points for being wrong, even passionately wrong. There is no one alive who has ever been passionate who has not been passionately wrong.
    The issue is how you deal with it.

    “Even with McEwen’s statements, it’s still not possible to say that one side or the other is definitively right or definitively wrong,”

    BS. This is not the way to deal with being wrong.

    “..this still boils down to a he-said/she-said debate that has more to do with how one feels about Clarence Thomas politically than anything else.”

    More BS. Just blatant ridiculous BS. You are using the “political” charge as a cover for avoiding the issue. I get the sense from you sometimes that you take pride in a certain independence – that you look disdainfully at the political hacks or rigid ideologues who seem to always come down in predictable ways on an issue.

    But you have fully embraced one of their prime strategies here. When faced with overwhelming evidence that your position was wrong, you try to claim – oh, its all political- therefore I can ignore all the evidence in front of my eyes, because those who are urging me to look at it have political agendas.

    Facts are facts. If your worst enemy, or the person you respect the least in the world, points you to a true fact, then their character, or your opinion of them, does not change the truth content of the fact.




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  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    Not that he is or was but what in the !!!!!!GREAT DO WHAT THOU WILTING HELL!!!!!! do liberals have against perverts again!?!?!?!?!?!?? Oh ya, I forgot Christians and conservatives can’t ever sin and don’t you dare hit on a militant lesbian if you a man……..




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  14. Tano says:

    Chill out GA. Christians and conservatives can sin. The question is – do you want to put a man in the most exalted judicial position in the nation – a justice on the Supreme Court, if that man is disrespectful and harassing to the women at his work? Maybe it is not a big deal to you – it is a very big deal to others, and the issue certainly deserves to be on the table. For goodness sakes, every candidate for elected office, or every appointee to some executive office is routinely put through the shredder by the opposition party – it is the way vetting is done in our system. Here you have a lifetime appointment to the most powerful Court in the land, and you shy away from exploring the character of the nominee as seen by those who worked with him?

    Would you really be objecting if Thomas were a liberal judge exposed by a conservative Senate?




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  15. HankP says:

    HA! So after saying that you believed Thomas and not Hill 20 years ago, now that evidence comes out corroborating Hill you say “Let’s put this behind us”. Yes, I’m sure you’d like to.




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  16. tom p says:

    yawn….




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  17. Andre Kenji says:

    PArt of the problem is precisely that´s the kind of ghost that no one can get rid off. When David Boren resigned from his US Senate position in 1994 the same rumors where reitered. That shadow of doubt is not good.




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  18. Don L says:

    in a sane world, she would have been jailed for stalking him.




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  19. Thomas: “In the early days of the Republic, it would have been unthinkable that Congress could prohibit the local cultivation, possession, and consumption of marijuana…[i]f the Federal Government can regulate growing a half-dozen cannabis plants for personal consumption (not because it is interstate commerce, but because it is inextricably bound up with interstate commerce), then Congress’ Article I powers — as expanded by the Necessary and Proper Clause — have no meaningful limits. Whether Congress aims at the possession of drugs, guns, or any number of other items, it may continue to ‘appropria[te] state police powers under the guise of regulating commerce.'”

    Yes. Godawful. I, for one, long for more godawful justices like that.




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