Muted cheers, groans greet Senate vote

October 16, 1991|By Lynda Robinson Sandy Banisky, Thom Loverro, Joel McCord, John Rivera, C. Fraser Smith, Ginger Thompson and William F. Zorzi Jr. of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.

The cheers and groans were muted, as if people across Maryland were growing a little tired of it all. But many still watched intently last night as the Senate put aside accusations of sexual harassment and confirmed Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court.


At Ray's Tavern in Dundalk, two people played pool and another a video game as the vote began. But a half-dozen patrons watched the television mounted above the jukebox as bar owner Ray Bandura, 58, made his prediction: "He ought to win this hands down."

His wife, Jackie, clapped when the vote for Judge Thomas went over the top.

"He won. He should win," said Mr. Bandura, who added that the whole process smacked of hypocrisy.

"Every day you read about the senators themselves. They're no angels themselves, so what right do they have to crucify him?" he said. "Two-thirds of them up there are no angels, and they're trying to crucify a man who might be an angel."


But the owner of the Charles Theatre in Baltimore was not so certain of Judge Thomas' innocence. After the vote was over, a single sentence appeared on the theater's marquee. It read: "Watch out Sandra" -- a warning for the Supreme Court's lone female justice, Sandra Day O'Connor.


Sitting beside her mother's bed at Sinai Hospital, Helen Schmuckner glared at the television screen as the Senate announced the vote. She shook her head in disgust.

"I can't believe they didn't come to the same conclusions I did," said Ms. Schmuckner, who works at the Pikesville branch of the Baltimore County Public Library. "Men just don't get it."

"They say things have changed over the last 10 years," she added. "But this goes to show you they really haven't."

On a different floor, ballet dancer Ginny Becker watched from her bed as the man she supports received the blessing of the Senate.

"It's going to be tough for him because whether or not he sexually harassed her, the whole country knows about these charges and will probably have little confidence in him," she said. "But the president has confidence in him, and I really believe that [the president] wants what's best for our country."


At an airport lounge, the usual bar noise quieted as the vote was broadcast live on two television sets.

"Man, it's really close," whispered one man who was leaning back in a caramel-colored chair near the large-screen TV set.

Nearby, Jane Rissler of Greenbelt slouched in her chair, propping her head in her hands. "It's certainly not a surprise," she said as the outcome was announced. "There are too many old boys in the U.S. Senate."

Ms. Rissler, who opposed Judge Thomas even before the charges of sexual harassment, criticized the "wimpiness" of Democrats who hold a clear majority in the Senate but did not stop the nomination.

"Well," sighed a man at a nearby table, "it's the system we got, and we gotta deal with it."


At happy hour in Ally's Restaurant on West Patrick Street in Frederick, the loud radio music was lowered to let customers watch the spectacle.

Jane Macht, a Baltimore native who now lives in Washington, was disturbed by the outcome of the vote, calling Judge Thomas' confirmation "unbelievably offensive. It's disgusting, one of the most disturbing events in American history."

She said the argument put forth by many Thomas supporters of having to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt was a faulty one.

"I think proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not the proper standard in this situation," Ms. Macht said. "He is not in any danger of losing any freedoms because of the charges. He has no entitlement to the Supreme Court.

"If the charges are true, the consequences for the country are much greater than if he were not confirmed and the charges were false," she said.

Judy Catterton of Silver Spring was also dismayed by the vote. "If we were talking about a presidential candidate, everyone would be troubled by these sort of allegations," she said.

"A Supreme Court justice can have a lot more impact on our lives than a presidential candidate. He could be on the court for 30 years, and he'll have enormous power," she added.


At the New Haven Restaurant and Lounge in the Northwood Shopping Center, one patron could be heard saying, almost to himself, "All right. All right."

Barmaid Diana D. Banks clapped quietly as the newest Supreme Court justice was confirmed.

Ms. Banks viewed the vote as Judge Thomas' triumph over Ms. Hill's allegations last week -- not of the 100-plus days of confirmation hearings the nominee had endured.

"I wanted the man to win," she said. "This man had gone all the way to the top shelf, and she's trying to pull him back down."

Roland "Yogi" Edmonds, an electronics specialist at Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point, expected Judge Thomas to be confirmed.

"There's not a soul in America who's surprised that he won," Mr. Edmonds said. "I'm waiting for the movie."


Their beer mugs were empty, and their train back to Philadelphia was leaving in 15 minutes. But Richard Bowering and Warren Isom, two insurance underwriters from Philadelphia, perched on their stools to watch the vote in the Whistle Stop's cramped, dark bar.

Mr. Bowering, 44, clapped when Judge Thomas won Senate approval.

"Oh, good, he made it," said Mr. Bowering, who admired the way Judge Thomas handled the accusations. "I think he came across as an intelligent and sincere guy. He really impressed me."

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