At this point, you should not have to be a woman to understand why Anita F. Hill is feeling abused. The University of Oklahoma law professor, sought out by Senate probers checking up on Judge Clarence Thomas, tried by all accounts to keep her story quiet. She did not leak the secret FBI report about her alleged ensnarement in Judge Thomas' sexual fantasies and probably does not know who did. She has little to gain and much to lose by incurring the wrath of the White House. Yet some of the most powerful men in American politics have lambasted her, not her alleged harasser.
Let's take this from the top.
Clarence Thomas, a born-again opponent of effective remedies against the broad-pattern discrimination he once knew, is neither a fit nor proper replacement for Thurgood Marshall. Many observers, including myself, have said that and still believe it. The last thing we expected was to see Judge Thomas tripped up by a rampant libido, but the allegation is out there.
The fact that the Senate Judiciary Committee knew about Professor Hill's allegations, but declined to air them fully, is devastating. Should Professor Hill pay for that, after being spotlighted by news leaks, or should the senators who failed to react properly? Go to the famous Thomas family outhouse if you don't have a clue.
The full Senate, faced with these disclosures, should have moved forthrightly to look into them. It finally did decide to do so, but that was only after angry women from the House of Representatives stormed through the Capitol demanding better sensitivity. By that time, everybody was disgusted.
Missouri Sen. John Danforth, Judge Thomas' chief sponsor, seems outraged that his candidate's opponents subjected Judge Thomas to 100 days of minute examination of his speeches, writings and legal moves and now demand more time to inspect his alleged peccadilloes. All due respect to the gentleman from Missouri, but Clarence Thomas is vying for a life appointment to the highest court in the land. A few days more under the lights cannot be too big an imposition.
Other senators, some of whom had opposed Judge Thomas' anti-civil rights, anti-compassionate posturing, are sounding belabored, too. That's because they are feeling heat for being insensitive. In defending the bootstrapped wonderfulness of Clarence Thomas and decrying the unwholesome position in which these charges place him, they really are defending themselves.
It won't wash.
NTC Listen closely to the questions tossed at Professor Hill. Her credibility is at least as good as Judge Thomas' and her bootstraps are every bit as honorable. But her very ordinary behavior in seeking to avoid controversy and in trying get past the incidents troubling her memories has been seen as a critical lapse.
Why didn't she speak up before? Maybe she just didn't want a fight with a man who could ruin her career.
Why ''follow'' Clarence Thomas from the Office of Civil Rights to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after his alleged lewd tales and suggestions? Could it be that she thought it was a pretty good career move for herself, especially if she felt she could keep her slavering boss from getting too far out of bounds?
Why did she ask Mr. Thomas for a recommendation for that Oral Roberts law school job? Perhaps because not asking the person who best knew her performance would have looked shaky. She didn't have a lot of other experience.
Why have breakfast with Clarence Thomas after he spoke at her school, then drive him to the Tulsa airport? Oh, come on. If you are trying to avoid a fight with a powerful man, do you do things to make it publicly clear you hate his guts?
It could even be that Anita Hill actually did not hate his guts. Perhaps she even retained some measure of respect for Clarence Thomas as a lawyer even if she did think his sexual attentions were odious. She wouldn't have wanted to run afoul of his connections, especially since in her new academic career they could help her.
Her bottom line, however, was that his interest in her was foul. The Judiciary Committee has now set out to examine in detail the working out of that interest, and Judge Thomas has got his chance to ''look the nation in the eye.'' He's already done that on every other difficult issue, bobbing and weaving at every hard question.
One thing is sure. His grandfather can't get him out of this one.