A sorry chapter in the history of the Senate


October 16, 1991|By ROGER SIMON

WASHINGTON -- And so the Senate, 98 percent male, having listened to the hearings of its judiciary committee, 100 percent male, decided to believe the man and not the woman.

Gee, what a cliffhanger.

With its vote yesterday to confirm Clarence Thomas to the

Supreme Court, the U.S. Senate brought to a close one of the sorriest chapters in its history.

And just so nobody is confused, I will state for the record how I feel about the testimony of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill:

I think Anita Hill told the truth.

I think Clarence Thomas lied.

I believe this for a number of reasons. Here is just one small one: I do not find it credible that an innocent man would refuse to watch the testimony of his accuser.

An innocent man would watch such testimony to look for lies and discrepancies that he could use to discredit his accuser's story.

A guilty man, however, might be too filled with shame and embarrassment to watch such testimony.

And I believe that Thomas' thundering denunciations of everything and everybody are characterized best by what H. L. Mencken once said: "Injustice is relatively easy to bear, what stings is justice."

Many of you disagree with me. Many of you think Hill is the liar and Thomas is the teller of truth.

And I can respect those of you who think that. This is an issue upon which reasonable people may differ.

I have no respect, however, for those in the Senate who said they could not tell who was lying and who was telling the truth and therefore they had to vote to place Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court.

They must think the confirmation process is a baseball game in which the tie goes to the runner.

It is not. It is a lifetime appointment to one of the nation's most revered and important institutions.

Yet there were those like Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., who said: "I came to the conclusion that it [i.e. the hearing] was inconclusive." And, therefore, he said, he had to vote for Clarence Thomas.

But let us look at what that means:

It means that Clarence Thomas might be innocent of all accusations. It means that Clarence Thomas might be guilty of all accusations.

And either way he must be placed on the court.

This makes no sense. This is wrong.

If, in judging the next nominee, we cannot be sure that he is not a rapist, a murderer, an armed robber or a traitor, does that mean we must place him also on the Supreme Court?

This was not a trial in which Thomas faced prison or a conviction of any kind. He did not even face losing his federal judgeship.

He faced, instead, a great, shining, lifetime reward.

And I believe that if you cannot be sure a person deserves such hTC a reward, then you deny him that reward.

If a nominee is accused and that accusation is found to be not credible, then you appoint him to the court. But if a nominee is accused and you cannot tell if the accusation is credible or not, then you must deny him that appointment.

That is the only way our court and our nation can be protected.

But why didn't Anita Hill prove that Clarence Thomas was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? (And many senators would have demanded that she prove it beyond any doubt whatsoever.)

How was she to do that? Tell me what fiber test she could have presented? What fingerprints? What swabs and smears?

She took a lie detector test. And most senators laughed at it.

And if Hill did, indeed, have to prove her charges beyond a reasonable doubt, who was prosecuting on her behalf? I saw no one.

I saw senators question her harshly and closely -- and that was fair.

I saw senators try to break her down -- and that was fair.

I saw senators try to shake and rattle her -- and that was fair.

But I saw nobody treat Clarence Thomas that way -- and that was not fair.

Anita Hill got the jackboots.

Clarence Thomas got the kid gloves.

Senator after senator found it impossible to believe that Clarence Thomas could lie to them.

He told them he had no opinion on Roe vs. Wade and never had had an opinion on Roe vs. Wade, but they found it impossible to believe that Clarence Thomas could lie to them.

He could not lie and Anita Hill did not present "decisive proof" of Thomas' wrongdoing. That is what it came down to.

So, women, I give you fair warning: Carry tape recorders with you to the workplace. Better yet, carry videotape recorders. Because that is the only kind of "decisive proof" that will satisfy some men that harassment is a real thing that happens to real women in real and not "fantasy" life.

When these hearings first began, I said they might help women by raising consciousness about sexual harassment. Today, I am not so sure.

I think they might teach women that if they dare accuse a powerful man of anything, they will be be knocked down, dragged out and beaten up.

Still, some women will persist. They may fail as Anita Hill failed, they may be attacked as Anita Hill was attacked, but still they will persist. They may get beaten up, but they will not be kept down.

And that is the only ray of hope I can find in this whole sad and savage affair.

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