Saturday, October 23, 2010

Creating conditions, taking responsibility and double standards

An episode of the classic television situation comedy "All in the Family" featured Edith slapping Archie over his playing the horses and Archie demanding an apology in the process. She gave him one, all right -- one that he had written to her years previously repenting of a gambling habit that cost them their car that he ended up signing again.

I was reminded of that when the news broke that Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence, had left a message for Anita Hill, who had testified during his confirmation hearings that Thomas has sexually harassed her when he was her boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, demanding an apology for giving him the business. (Hill, who said that one would not be forthcoming, called the Federal Bureau of Investigation.)

It's a mystery why Mrs. Thomas even made that call, after his 19 years on the bench -- because it turns out that Hill wasn't the only person who made that accusation. A segment of ABC News "Nightline" identified three other women to whom he had made lewd comments. Recently, a woman Mr. Thomas had previously dated came forward with additional information. Going further, the Wall Street Journal published a front-page article, "Strange Justice," that was so detailed that, according to David Brock's book "Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative," it caused Ricky Silberman, one of his patrons and wife of right-wing activist judge Laurence Silberman, to freak out, roaring, "He did it, didn't he?"

Contrast that to Bill Clinton, whose sexual peccadilloes while president caused his enemies to impeach him. What was the difference? Well, for openers, Clinton knew that no meant no; when Paula Jones turned down his request for oral sex, she said no and -- as far as he was concerned -- that was the end of it. (In fact, it later came out that she was possibly interested in being his paramour.) Let's also remember that his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky was consensual. Anyway, for what it's worth, Clinton apparently sought counseling for his inappropriate actions and hasn't been in trouble since.

Don't you find it interesting that Clarence Thomas complained about a "high-tech lynching" while never addressing the allegations against him? Perhaps he was trying to rally folks, especially the African-American community that he basically had abandoned, to his side; as it was, he was confirmed as an associate justice by what I think was the closest vote ever. But his wife's action, just like Archie's, spoke of entitlement, that there's a different set of rules for her side of the political fence. That won't fly.

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