This evening the Senate will vote on Judge Clarence Thomas to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court. On Sept. 22 The Sun recommended his confirmation in what we conceded may have been "a triumph of hope over realistic assessment" of his judicial qualifications. Today we again recommend that he be confirmed, in what we must concede is the hope that he has not been guilty of sexual harassment and of lying about it.
Three days of hearings into the charges against Judge Thomas by a former aide, law professor Anita F. Hill, provided no grounds for a realistic assessment of the charges either way. We predicted that on Oct. 9. Senators are right back where they started. They know more details than they did last week. They have heard more character witnesses for both principals. They have heard witnesses and principals skillfully cross-examined. But they are no surer of the truth.
Even Thomas opponents admit the case against him was not proved. Some argue that nevertheless he should not be confirmed because a Supreme Court justice should not have to labor under a cloud of suspicion and notoriety. Judge Thomas' supporters agree he is under such a cloud. It is perhaps a permanent one, as he himself said.
However, the argument that he therefore be disqualified is revolting. Liberal Democrats and liberal special interest groups created this cloud (against the expressed wishes of Professor Hill, we would note, resulting in the creation of a cloud of suspected dishonesty over her). For these advocates then to suggest that he must be defeated because of the accusation against him is a call for validating a standard operating procedure that encourages character assassins and gives them veto power over nominees.
Ugly as the weekend spectacle was, in some ways Judge Thomas was a more attractive candidate than the first time around. In the first hearings several senators said they did not find in his bland, evasive, White House-prepared testimony "the real Clarence Thomas." This time, with "no handlers, no advisers," as he put it, a passionate, human Clarence Thomas was on view.
The real Clarence Thomas is still a movement conservative. He is still a black man from a poor, segregated background. He is still young, relatively inexperienced, relatively undistinguished. He is different from the Clarence Thomas we endorsed last month only FTC by having gone through this ordeal. The ordeal may have created a bitter, vindictive personality, which is the last thing a Supreme Court justice should be. It may have created a man with a more acute understanding of the pain of victimization and the horror of invasion of privacy, which would be valuable assets for a justice.
We hope that Judge Thomas has been made stronger and wiser by this weekend. So hoping, we recommend again that the Senate confirm him.