After nomination by President George HW Bush, a quarter of a century ago Clarence Thomas became a Justice of the United States Supreme Court after a vote of 52 to 48. As Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy noted earlier this year, "In sharp contrast with what we're seeing today with the (Merrick) Garland nomination, with a Republican majority calling the shots, no one back then blocked Clarence Thomas from a hearing, from a committee vote, or from a floor vote." Significantly, Thomas' approval was facilitated by the chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee who currently is in another office and recently at the United State of Women Summit
called on men to speak out against misogynistic locker room talk and insisted that men who stay quiet about rape culture and sexual assaults are accomplices.
“You guys in the audience, we’ve gotta overcome this social discomfort of calling out the misogyny that happens when no women are present: the locker room talk, the bar banter, the rape jokes,” (Vice President Joseph) Biden said in a speech at the United State of Women Summit. “As a man, maybe it makes you uncomfortable, but if you let it pass because you wanna become of the one guys, you become an accomplice.”
Spare us your lecture, Joe. The late Senator Paul Simon once explained
After we were in the hearing for a while, it became apparent that we had something huge on our hands in terms of public attention. That played a role in the Thomas nomination, because on Friday, Anita Hill testified. Friday is a limited television audience. Saturday, Clarence Thomas testified - a much larger audience. People who saw only one of the two believed the one they saw, whichever one that was. I think that was a factor in public opinion being on his side - only one of the factors - and the public opinion being on his side I think was clearly a factor in some of the votes in the Senate.
The chairperson of the committee was responsible for the committee's schedule and chose not to call Angela Wright, a former employee of Thomas, who would have testified that Thomas often acted in a sexually intimidating manner. Former chairperson of the United States Commission on Civil Rights Mary Frances Berry says "The only thing I blame him for is that I think we should have called the witnesses." Otherwise, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
Republican members of the committee and Biden himself since have claimed that she voluntarily chose not to testify but Wright states
"The only reason I didn't testify is because I wasn't called to testify. I was there for for three days waiting with my attorneys for the judiciary committee to call me." Wright went on to say that she was eventually told her testimony wasn't needed, but that the judiciary committee wanted to "portray me as having cold feet and backing out."
This is not a case of "he said, she said" because
In 1994, Florence Graves cleared up those mysteries in The Washington Post, revealing the intricate — and bipartisan — behind-the-scenes maneuvering by several Senate Judiciary Committee members to discourage the testimony of Angela Wright, a woman whose information could have helped corroborate Anita Hill’s allegations against Clarence Thomas. The article uncovered a surprising unwritten agreement among top Republicans and Democrats not to call Wright, apparently because they feared either that her testimony would create even greater political chaos or that it would doom Thomas’ nomination. It also uncovered evidence suggesting that Thomas lied to the Committee.
Nonetheless, present-day Joe Biden, with no hint of irony, remarks
As I point out to these young men on college campuses — it’s a fraternity party, you see a co-ed that is absolutely stone drunk, you see one of your brothers walking her upstairs, if you don’t have the courage to walk up and say, ‘Hey, Jack, not in my house,’ you are an accomplice. You are an accomplice.
So says the accomplice of Senators Simpson, Hatch, and Specter and enabler of Clarence Thomas. Biden in remarks since those days seems to have been most concerned with keeping the nominee from being embarrassed during the hearings and maintiaining a role as a sort of impartial magistrate. Susan Deller Ross, described by The New York Times as "a Georgetown University law professor and expert in workplace sex discrimination," argues that the GOP senaors were "playing advocate" for the nominee and
“I’m sure you remember nobody played advocate for her. I don’t think he did well and he bears responsibility for Mr. Thomas being on the court.”
Ms. Ross, who was one of the lawyers assisting Ms. Hill, asserts that Mr. Biden treated Mr. Thomas too even-handedly because of the racially charged nature of the hearings. (Remember Justice Thomas’ charge that he had been subjected to a “high-tech lynching.”) Ms. Ross said that Mr. Biden “was accused of being labeled racist, so the Republicans were blackmailing him and he pushed the levers to make the case look like there wasn’t a case when there was.”
Senator Biden later was sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act and thrice secured re-authorization of the program. Penance, however, is not enough. Now he notes "men often don't call out their peers because they are worried men will judge them as not being manly enough." Joe Biden had his moment in the spotlight and was intimidated, worried other men would judge him as not being fair to a guy who equated questioning under oath with "a high-tech lynching."
Due in large measure to the then-Delaware senator, the supremely unqualified Clarence Thomas became a member of the United States Supreme Court, where he can choose to remain while obstructing the interests of women, workers, and others until his death. That should be as much a part of Joseph R. Biden's legacy as serving in the largely ceremonial post of Vice-President.