'Grandfather' strategy works for Judge Thomas

Mike Royko

October 09, 1991|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

JUDGE THOMAS, a former assistant has said that you subjected her to sexual harassment. Would you please respond to these allegations."

"Senator, I recall my grandfather once saying to me, 'Clarence,' -- you see he always called me Clarence, since that was my name -- he said, 'Clarence, why did you pull that girl's pigtails?' "

"Excuse me, Judge, but I'm not sure I understand what you're talking about."

"I was talking about my grandfather, a poor but proud man, of little formal education but great wisdom and insight into the human condition."

"Yes, we are aware of that, Judge Thomas, and we have all repeatedly expressed our deepest admiration for your grandfather, but we are asking about allegations of sexual harassment. This woman says that you made overtures to her and talked about dirty movies in graphic detail. I don't know what your grandfather has to do with that."

"Senator, my grandfather would have had nothing to do with something like that, and I regret that you would suggest that he might. He was a poor but upstanding man of the highest moral values."

"I'm sure he was, Judge Thomas, and I meant no offense, but I'm somewhat confused as to why you began talking to us about him and some girl's pigtails."

"Senator, as I said, a girl who lived nearby in our wretchedly impoverished community made allegations to her mother that I had pulled her pigtails. These allegations were relayed to my grandmother, a woman of great dignity, despite our lack of social standing and financial wherewithal. And she in turn felt obligated to relate them to my grandfather, who confronted me with them, but not in an accusatory manner, since he believed, as do I, that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, even a young, poor minority lad, trying to pull himself up by the frayed straps of his boots, as I was in those early days of my legendary and inspirational life."

"Judge Thomas, we are simply trying to get a truthful answer from you."

"Senator, my grandfather often said that the truth is sometimes found at the far end of a long and difficult road, filled with bumpy potholes and ruts, as most of the unpaved roads in our poor and neglected community were, but that this long, lonesome road must be traveled before the spring rains turn it to mud and ruin the boots and the straps you are trying to pull yourself up with."

"Judge Thomas, I'm sure that every senator would, if he could, pave your grandfather's road. But could you return to the issue at hand, the allegations of sexual harassment?"

"Senator, that is what I was doing. After the girl told her mother, and her mother told my grandmother, who told my grandfather, who gravely but fairly confronted me with the accusation, I presented him with my explanation about the pulled pigtails."

"And what was your explanation, Judge Thomas?"

"I told him that while walking behind this girl, on that bumpy, dusty, rural road, I saw two bees settle on her pigtails, and I was alarmed because I feared that they might sting her, and because in our proud but poor and humble community we could not afford the luxury of allergy tests, there was no way of knowing whether she might suffer a severe reaction to their venom. And knowing that we were denied adequate medical facilities, I realized immediate action was necessary. As my grandfather always said, do good fast and do wrong last. So I ran up behind her and pulled her pigtail to dislodge the bees. And that is what I told my grandfather, who listened with the solemn judicial bearing that he was known for, despite his lack of formal education."

"I see. Actually, I don't see, Judge Thomas. What does this have to do with the allegations made by your former aide?"

"That is what I was getting to, Senator. After I told my story, my grandfather thought for a while, rubbed his chin, and finally said: 'Two bees or not two bees, that is the question.' "

"He said what?"

"Two bees or not two bees, that is the question."

"That's what I thought you said he said."

"Yes, and I was amazed that this simple man could unwittingly duplicate, except for the plural usage of 'bee,' the words of William Shakespeare, the greatest writer in the history of Western civilization, a culture, incidentally, to which I owe unswerving loyalty. Two bees or not two bees, I shall never forget those words. It was then that I realized that if my humble and unlettered grandfather could say something like that, there were no limits to what I might accomplish if I applied myself and was diligent in doing the homework assigned to me by the wonderful nuns."

"Judge Thomas, that is a fascinating story, although I'm not sure I understand it, but could you possibly answer our questions?"

"Yes, Senator. My grandfather exonerated me of all charges. I shall never forget his words. He said: 'Hell, hath no fury like a l'il gal whose pigtails were pulled.' "

"Judge Thomas, I give up."

"I thought you might."

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