'We're Going to Kill Him Politically, This Little Creep'

October 13, 1994|By GEORGE F. WILL

Washington -- The day after President Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, the politically engaged General Synod of the United Church of Christ rushed to denounce Mr. Thomas as a ''severe opponent of civil rights and human rights.'' Obviously the rhetorical extravagance arose from study of Thomas' record. Two days later an official of the National Organization for Women said of Mr. Thomas, ''We're going to Bork him. We're going to kill him politically -- this little creep.'' Long before Anita Hill's 11th-hour unveiling of allegations from 10 years earlier, character assassination was the proclaimed aim of Mr. Thomas' opponents.

Now, three Octobers later, comes ''Resurrection: The Confirmation of Clarence Thomas,'' an extraordinary narrative of what the assault felt like to Mr. Thomas and his friends, one of whom is the author, Sen. Jack Danforth.

By 1991 he had known Mr. Thomas for 17 years. Senator Danforth is an Episcopal priest. Justice Thomas is a devout Christian. Mr. Danforth sees Mr. Thomas' ordeal through the prism of faith, as ''the most dramatic example I have seen of both weakness and strength, of the intensity of suffering and the power of God to make a new creation.''

In October 1991, the senator writes, ''I dreaded . . . seeing a human wreck who was my friend.'' Mr. Thomas' spirit broke:

''[Mr. Thomas' wife] Ginni told me no details about what happened that night. . . . These are matters that should remain private between a husband and a wife. . . . That a future justice of the Supreme Court was writhing on the floor is awful enough to tell. But it must be told, for this is the result when there are those who believe a cause justifies the destruction of a person. With Clarence in agony on the floor, the groups that sought to destroy him had reached the pinnacle of their success.''

Some people who today deplore the bitterness in Washington participated in the assault on Mr. Thomas (and on Robert Bork and John Tower before that). From them, silence would be seemly. And reading this book would be salutary.

For the faithful, Senator Danforth's story of the resurrection of Justice Thomas' spirit will confirm their faith. For all readers, the unsparing revisit to October 1991 will be a reminder of certain facts and a revelation of others.

Ms. Hill's allegations against Mr. Thomas, the last-gasp effort ''to kill him politically,'' came from a woman who, unlike most victims of sexual harassment, did not subsequently avoid her alleged harasser. Rather, she followed him from one job to another, and then repeatedly called him. (After dismissing the phone logs of those calls as ''garbage,'' she offered several inconsistent explanations of them.) Her most lurid details (about ''Long Dong Silver'' and pubic hair on a Coke can) replicate episodes in a court case and a novel, respectively.

Her principal corroborating witness first said that Ms. Hill had told her about being harassed before Ms. Hill worked for Mr. Thomas. This witness then consulted with one of Ms. Hill's attorneys, and then changed her story. Senator Danforth writes that this witness, who incited Ms. Hill to testify, was evasive and misleading when asked about her own sexual-harassment claim that destroyed the career of a California judge.

Most sexual harassment is part of an individual's pattern. None of the scores of women who worked with Mr. Thomas supported Ms. Hill's portrayal of him. Co-workers almost always know when a woman is being harassed. Ms. Hill's co-workers saw no evidence of harassment. On a party-line vote, Judiciary Committee Democrats blocked a subpoena that might have produced evidence harmful to Ms. Hill's credibility concerning why she left the law firm where she worked before working for Mr. Thomas. And some senators will be distressed by Senator Danforth's evidence that they lied.

When the hearings ended, the country believed Mr. Thomas by a two-to-one margin. Subsequently, the political movement that set out to ''kill him politically'' has tirelessly continued its assault. Mr. Danforth's 209 pages constitute a compelling refutation of this assault.

He notes that a number of psychiatrists independently suggested that Ms. Hill's testimony arose from ''erotomania, a rare delusion of some women that particular men in positions of power, such as supervisors or political figures, have romantic interests in them.'' Senator Danforth believes Ms. Hill ''lied or that she was deluded.'' There are reasons for believing each explanation. Mr. Danforth's book is powerful additional evidence for believing that, for whatever reason, she did not tell the truth.

9- George F. Will is a syndicated columnist.

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