It’s uncanny how closely the Democrats are following the Anita Hill playbook as they try to “Anita” Brett Kavanaugh, looking to prevent his confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice. Like Hill, Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford is a professor who made her accusation in the expectation of anonymity, never dreaming that newspapers from coast to coast would blazon her name across Page One. Hill had received assurances from a Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee staffer that, in all likelihood, Clarence Thomas would quietly withdraw his name from consideration, to spare himself and his family embarrassment. After all, Hill’s friend, administrative law judge Susan Hoerchner, had reportedly sprung a similar surprise on a fellow judge, with complete success, and it may well have been she who urged Hill to try the same tactic with Thomas. But there’s nothing leakier than a politician’s office, and Senate Democrats plainly considered Hill as a mere tool to derail Thomas’s confirmation without any concern about what would happen to her.
I didn’t believe Hill’s accusations back then, and now, having a clear picture of Justice Thomas’s sterling character, and having just reread the transcript of the Hill-Thomas hearings, I believe them still less. What, then, would have been her motivation in accusing the judge? her supporters ask. Though Hoerchner and many of Hill’s allies wanted to bar Thomas from the High Court to ward off any threat to the Roe v. Wade abortion decision, Hill’s own motive may have been her strong disagreement with Thomas’s opposition to affirmative action, about which the Supreme Court would have much to say in the years ahead. Also, those who believe her ask, how would such a prim-seeming young lady know some of the very concrete salacious details of what she claimed Thomas had said to her a decade earlier? The answer: the most graphic detail, complete with photograph, is in a federal appellate case whose transcript was in the library of the federal agency where Hill had worked as a Thomas employee. The other lurid detail comes from The Exorcist, a bestselling book and hit movie during the 1970s. But even supposing that Hill was telling the truth—which I do not—the most you could say, as Judiciary Committee member Orrin Hatch commented, is that Thomas talked dirty to her. He never touched her.
Having watched Kavanaugh’s testimony and having heard the encomia on his character from the many women whose careers he has fostered as a judge and professor, as well as from his colleagues, I strongly doubt that he did what Ford alleges, and what her allegation suggests was a rape attempt was, by her own description, nothing of the kind—though, following the Hill playbook, she has already taken a lie-detector test and hired a well-known lawyer. But again, supposing it were true—as I do not suppose—he was 17 years old at the time. Do the Democrats really think that a single teenage indiscretion should have a place in confirmation hearings?
But ever since their savaging of Robert Bork, no dirty trick is too dirty for the Democrats when it comes to the Supreme Court. After all, so many of the policy victories they have won in the past half-century have been won from the Court, in its era of interpreting the fictitious “living Constitution,” with all its “emanations, formed by penumbras.” So dedicated were they to preserving what they called “settled law” during the Thomas hearings that they didn’t even blush to have committee member Edward Kennedy—responsible for the gruesome death of a young woman staffer when he was allegedly driving drunk—question Thomas about this charge of sexual harassment.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley should treat this character assassination with the contempt it deserves and hold the committee vote this week, as planned. As even Karl Marx knew, history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.
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