In the wacky coda to one of the most searing chapters in American history, everyone remained true to form.
Anita Hill reacted with starchy disgust.
Ginni Thomas came across like a spiritually addled nut.
Clarence Thomas was mute, no doubt privately raging about the trouble women have caused him.
And now into the circus comes Lillian McEwen, an old girlfriend of Thomas’s.
Looking to shop a memoir, the 65-year-old McEwen used the occasion of Ginni’s weird phone message to Anita — asking her to “consider an apology” and “pray about this” and “O.K., have a good day!” — to open up to reporters.
If “the real Clarence” had been revealed at the time, he probably wouldn’t have ascended to the court, McEwen told The Times’s Ashley Parker. Especially since the real Clarence denied ever using the “grotesque” argot of the porn movies he regularly rented at a D.C. video store.
In her interviews, McEwen confirmed Thomas’s obsession with women with “huge, huge breasts,” with scouting the women he worked with as possible partners, and with talking about porn at work — while he was head of the federal agency that polices sexual harassment.
Years later, some of the Democrats on that all-male, all-white Senate Judiciary Committee told me they assumed there must have been a consensual romance between the boss and his subordinate. McEwen assumed so, too, because Clarence took Anita with him when he changed agencies. Hill has made it clear she felt no reciprocal attraction.
Joe Biden, the senator who ran those hearings, was leery of the liberal groups eager to use Hill as a pawn to checkmate Thomas. He circumscribed the testimony of women who could have corroborated Hill’s unappetizing portrait of a power-abusing predator.
For the written record, Biden allowed negative accounts only from women who had worked with Thomas. He also ruled out testimony from women who simply had personal relationships with Thomas, and did not respond to a note from McEwen — a former assistant U.S. attorney who had once worked as a counsel for Biden’s committee — reminding him of her long relationship with Thomas.
It’s too late to relitigate the shameful Thomas-Hill hearings. We’re stuck with a justice-for-life who lied his way onto the bench with the help of bullying Republicans and cowed Democrats.
We don’t know why Ginni Thomas, who was once in the thrall of a cultish self-help group called Lifespring, made that odd call to Hill at 7:30 on a Saturday morning. But we do know that the Thomases show supremely bad judgment. Mrs. Thomas, a queen of the Tea Party, is the founder of a new nonprofit group, Liberty Central, which she boasts will be bigger than the Tea Party. She sports and sells those foam Statue of Liberty-style crowns as she makes her case against the “tyranny” of President Obama and Congressional Democrats, who, she charges, are hurting the “core founding principles” of America.
As The Times’s Jackie Calmes wrote, Mrs. Thomas started her nonprofit in late 2009 with two gifts of $500,000 and $50,000, and additional sums this year that we don’t know about yet. She does not have to disclose the donors, whose money makes possible the compensation she brings into the Thomas household.
There is no way to tell if her donors have cases before the Supreme Court or whether her husband knows their identities. And she never would have to disclose them if her husband had his way.
The 5-to-4 Citizens United decision last January gave corporations, foreign contributors, unions, Big Energy, Big Oil and superrich conservatives a green light to surreptitiously funnel in as much money as they want, whenever they want to elect or unelect candidates. As if that weren’t enough to breed corruption, Thomas was the only justice — in a rare case of detaching his hip from Antonin Scalia’s — to write a separate opinion calling for an end to donor disclosures.
In Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court chose the Republican president. In Citizens United, the court may return Republicans to control of Congress. So much for conservatives’ professed disdain of judicial activism. And so much for the public’s long-held trust in the impartiality of the nation’s highest court.
Justice Stephen Breyer recently rejected the image of the high court as “nine junior varsity politicians.” But it’s even worse than that. The court has gone beyond mere politicization. Its liberals are moderate and reasonable, while the conservatives are dug in, guzzling Tea.
Thomas and Scalia have flouted ethics rules by attending seminars sponsored by Koch Industries, an energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by billionaire brothers that has donated more than $100 million to far-right causes.
Christine O’Donnell may not believe in the separation of church and state, but the Supreme Court does not believe in the separation of powers.
O.K., have a good day!