Monday, February 19, 2018

Bad Job

In light of credible accusations of sexual misbehavior against numerous men as well as the repercussions some have faced, Jill Abramson considers anew the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearing of 1991. Co-author with Jane Mayer of the 1994 "Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas," Abramson recently recalled that in the course of their investigation

Among the corroborative stories — the potential #MeToos — that (Senate Judiciary Committee chairperson Joe) Biden knew about but was unwilling to use: those of Angela Wright; Rose Jourdain, another EEOC worker in whom Wright confided; and Sukari Hardnett, still another EEOC worker with relevant evidence. (“If you were young, black, female and reasonably attractive and worked directly for Clarence Thomas, you knew full well you were being inspected and auditioned as a female,” Hardnett wrote in a letter to the Judiciary Committee, contradicting Thomas’s claim “I do not and did not commingle my personal life with my work life” and supporting McEwen’s 2010 assertion that he “was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners” as “a hobby of his.”) Kaye Savage, a friend of Thomas’s and Hill’s, knew of his extensive collection of Playboy magazines; Fred Cooke, a Washington attorney, saw Thomas renting porn videos that match Hill’s descriptions, as did Barry Maddox, the owner of the video store that Thomas frequented. And at least some members of Biden’s staff would have known Lillian McEwen had relevant information.

Late last year, Abramson learned through a Washington lawyer of Nancy Montwieler, who covered the EEOC for BNA’s Daily Labor Report. She "confided that Thomas had also made weird, sexual comments to her, including describing porn and other things he found sexually enticing."

Even in 1991, Abramson recognizes, "The evidence that Thomas had perjured himself during the hearing was overwhelming." Nonetheless

Chairman Biden was outmaneuvered and bluffed by the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. He had plenty of witnesses who could have testified about Thomas’s inappropriate sexualized office behavior and easily proven interest in the kind of porn Hill referenced in her testimony, but had made a bargain with his Republican colleagues that sealed Hill’s fate: He agreed only to call witnesses who had information about Thomas’s workplace behavior. Thomas’s “private life,” especially his taste for porn — then considered more outrĂ© than it might be now — would be out of bounds, despite the fact that information confirming his habit of talking about it would have cast extreme doubt on Thomas’s denials.

Senator Biden's performance as chairperson has had devastating consequences, far beyond the scope of Abramson's article. Unfortunately, Thomas is will not be impeached and removed from the Supreme Court, nor will he fade into obscurity.

Clarence Thomas is not going anywhere, which cannot definitively be stated of former Vice-President Biden.  And so it is with some significance that Abramson believes

Late last year, in an interview with Teen Vogue, Biden finally apologized to Hill after all these years, admitting that he had not done enough to protect her interests during the hearings. He said he believed Hill at the time: “And my one regret is that I wasn’t able to tone down the attacks on her by some of my Republican friends. ”

Linking to that December piece by Britney Mcnamara, she writes

In an interview with Teen Vogue, Biden said that he believed Hill at the time. “And my one regret is that I wasn’t able to tone down the attacks on her by some of my Republican friends. I mean, they really went after her,” he said. “As much as I tried to intervene, I did not have the power to gavel them out of order. I tried to be like a judge and only allow a question that would be relevant to ask.

Biden continued "I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill. I owe her an apology," which may be the basis for Abramson's assumption of Biden's good intentions. However, a statement that one owes someone an apology does not in and of itself constitute an apology.  When coupled with "I wish I had been able to do more" he is claiming his hands were tied, which dovetails neatly with "I wasn't able to tone down the attacks..."

He was powerless, Biden pleads, because he "did not have the power to gavel them out of order," a questionable claim and, as Abramson's analysis suggests, nearly irrelevant.  He does not argue the attacks, made "by some of my Republican friends," were illegitimate.

There should be little fear that Biden is unsympathetic generally toward women's issues, and far less that he isn't sympathetic with the "Me Too" movement.  Instead, there must be serious doubt in an age in which Republicans stand stubbornly against  anything Democratic or even potentially bipartisan, that Joseph R. Biden Jr. has a backbone. That he served eight years as President Obama's sidekick and cheerleader should only deepen the doubts.

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