Friday, April 26, 2019

Member Of The Club

Huffington Post reports

Anita Hill, the law professor whose landmark testimony against now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is credited with transforming Americans’ understanding of sexual harassment, said Thursday that she is unsatisfied with Joe Biden’s apology to her.

The interview she gave to The New York Times was published the same day Biden announced his candidacy for the 2020 presidential nomination. In it, Hill says a phone call Biden made to her earlier this month did not address the consequences of how he handled her Senate Judiciary Committee testimony in 1991.

“I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I’m sorry for what happened to you,” she said. “I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose.”

Biden was serving as the committee chairman when Hill came forward with allegations that then-Supreme Court nominee Thomas had sexually harassed her at two different jobs. Biden has long faced criticism for mishandling how Hill’s testimony was presented to the senators before they ultimately voted to confirm Thomas, who denied all of her allegations.

“The focus on apology to me is one thing,” she continued. “But he needs to give an apology to the other women and to the American public because we know now how deeply disappointed Americans around the country were about what they saw. And not just women. There are women and men now who have just really lost confidence in our government to respond to the problem of gender violence.”

Specifically, Biden is blamed for not shielding Hill from Republican attacks during the hearing and for the way he structured the hearing. Notably, he allowed Thomas to testify before and after Hill, and he did not call upon three female witnesses who could have bolstered Hill’s testimony with accounts of their own experiences with Thomas.

The issue has cast a cloud over the former vice president’s political future for years and has only grown more damning as women have come forward in recent weeks to say he’d inappropriately touched them in the past.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), the first African American member of Congress from the state, endorsed Biden on Thursday. She said she took him at his word that he wished he could have done things differently back in 1991 and said she wanted voters to give him a chance to earn their vote.

“What I have seen over the course of the years, and as a result of that hearing, [is that he] has been introspective about it, has tried to actually dedicate his life to ensuring that issues like domestic violence, equal pay, issues even regarding the representation on the Judiciary Committee, are at the forefront,” she told HuffPost on Thursday.

However, Joe Biden's problem is not his stance on domestic violence, equal pay, or  quota issues, but rather that whenever in doubt- or not in doubt- he will defer to colleagues. Professor Hill recently stated that

she also faults Mr. Biden for letting the hearings get out of control — “The process went completely off track” — and for failing to restrain Republicans like former Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who brandished a copy of “The Exorcist” during the hearings, and former Senator John C. Danforth of Missouri, who while advising Judge Thomas enlisted the help of a forensic psychiatrist who suggested Ms. Hill suffered from “erotomania.”

In November, 2017 The Washington Post interviewed five female members, past or present, of Congress who have been strong supporters of Hill and critics of the manner in which the Delaware senator handled the hearings.  One of them noted

We went to see Biden, because we were so frustrated by it. And he literally kind of pointed his finger and said, you don’t understand how important one’s word was in the Senate, that he had given his word to John Danforth in the men’s gym that this would be a very quick hearing, and he had to get it out before Columbus Day.

This was not a matter of keeping one's word. As Democrat Jamie Raskin, US Representative from Maryland, noted this week "Biden’s chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee during the Thomas nomination reflected his sense of institutionalism a lot more than any sense of feminism."

Whatever change Ms. Rochester has seen in him, Biden has not changed fundamentally.  The democratic socialist magazine Jacobin explains

Nothing epitomizes Biden’s politics better than the speech he gave in 2011 at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, named after the Republican Senate Minority Leader who had at that point just finished up historically routing Biden and the administration he served. McConnell, who had candidly admitted his top goal was making sure Obama was “a one-term president” unless he did the GOP’s bidding, had turned a sixty-vote Democratic supermajority into an unavoidable necessity, stifling Obama’s legislative agenda and even slowing economic recovery to produce the Democrats’ “shellacking” in 2010. He then used this as leverage to get one of the most lopsided legislative “deals” in memory, trading the extension of unemployment insurance for the continuation of tax cuts for the rich, a markedly lower estate tax, and other giveaways that infuriated Democrats.

Joe Biden's apparent change of heart on women's issues does not reflect a new sensibility, but rather his enduring instinct to go along to get along. He has been a member of the boys club for a long time, and it is no different now that it is a boys and girls network. The gender composition is far more diverse, but he will still defer, suck up to power, and for the sake of collegiality and a sense of belonging consistently compromise any principles he may appear to have.

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