Saturday, October 13, 2007

News Items

Justice Clarence Thomas's autobiography is now at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. A well-deserved honor.

Hugh Hewitt has a review of Justice Thomas's book. It includes this assessment:
Ask serious readers and writers who care about the issue of race in America since emancipation, and most will agree that certain books have to be read: Richard Wright's Native Son, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird among them.

Justice Thomas's memoir is now on that list.
And Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk -- a rare example of a fair-minded liberal -- has these remarks on the Anita Hill controversy when judged in light of Clinton's actions:
I came of age during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. As a feminist freshman at Yale, I scrutinized the photos depicting Anita Hill's sad and fatalistic resolve, and pondered how an accusation of sexual harassment could be "a high-tech lynching for uppity black folks," as Mr. Thomas called it.

Like many others I thought the main issue was whether or not you believed her story.
* * *

Comparing some liberals' harsh judgment of Justice Thomas with this light judgment of Mr. Clinton tells a story of cultural inconsistency. But liberals will surely say that the disparity is perfectly consistent: Justice Thomas subordinated a woman against her will, while Mr. Clinton merely engaged in sexual conduct with willing women.

So let's recall precisely what was alleged against each, bearing in mind that both denied most allegations. Justice Thomas was accused of repeatedly asking his employee on dates, which she declined, commenting on her attractiveness, and discussing sex in her presence. Mr. Clinton was accused of having state troopers escort Paula Jones, an employee of the state of which he was governor, to a hotel room where he touched her without consent and exposed his genitals. He also admitted to having sexual contact with a young intern working in his White House.

If the metric we are using is the abuse of power by male bosses against female employees, how is it that Justice Thomas has fared so badly while Mr. Clinton seems to have fared relatively well since he left office? According to that metric, is attempting to date and talking about sex to a fellow Yale-educated employee worse than touching, propositioning and exposing oneself to a nonconsenting, low-level state employee? As for the affair in the White House with Monica Lewinsky, the relationship may have been consensual. But one would expect that those subscribing to the prevailing workplace sexual-harassment orthodoxy would be troubled by the power disparity between the leader of the free world and an unpaid 22-year-old intern.

The point is that for too long we have allowed that dubious early 1990s judgment of Justice Thomas to remain a dominant feature of the discourse about him. Sure, he was confirmed, and President Clinton was impeached. In reality, partisan politics was likely more determinative than substantive views about sex and power.

Even today, it is extremely common to hear liberals talk about Justice Thomas as a sexual harasser who should not have been confirmed, and about President Clinton as a victim of our country's fanatical sexual morality.

One need not be soft on sexual harassment to realize, after 16 years, that our country put Clarence Thomas through hell on the basis of accusations that don't approach the sexual allegations that we have rightly allowed to recede into the background of Bill Clinton's distinguished career. The high-tech lynching didn't keep Justice Thomas off the Court, but it did plenty of damage that, on closer scrutiny today, doesn't look fair by our own standards.

No comments:

hits counter