During his confirmation hearings in 1991, I recall saying that Clarence Thomas, who was nominated in 1991 by President Bush (senior) to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, would, by his own words, not be an impartial member of the U.S. Supreme Court. I suppose that I should feel lucky, in that Thomas at least never complained pettily that it was unfair for his fellow justices on the appellate court to criticize him for refusing to recuse himself from sitting in judgment over matters that directly affected his family, as another sitting U.S.S.C. Justice has done.
Part of the controversy over the confirmation hearings concerned the allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him by Anita Hill, the the absurdly low competency rating from the lawyers guild, and his allegations that the hearings were a "high-tech lynching."
The Thomas nomination was the first in recent history that showed just how unconcerned with acumen a proposed justice could be and how much ideology was the requirement, and the administration would twist arms to get the ideology rather than the competency (the Bork nomination hearings were a different matter -- Bork is extremely intelligent, but a nutcase on Constitutional matters).
Also of concern to me were simple matters of honesty -- as when Thomas declared he hadn't thought about the matter of abortion in a Constitutional setting, or when he was following the conservative line about affirmative action and set-asides when he never would have been admitted to law school except for minority set-asides.
Well, Thomas has a new memoir that has just been published ("My Grandfather's Son" - Harpers), and according to reports about the book he's still railing about how he was "lynched" and about how Hill was just "traitorous" to him. (one of the most telling facets for me that had me give credibility to Hill rather than Thomas was that Hill had nothing to gain by her testimony, and the certain knowledge that her testimony would be a cause of trouble for her in her future career.)
I didn't think he was qualified when he was confirmed, and I think it's even less complimentary for him to be bruiting about these sentiments when he's still a sitting Justice.
As an aside, I see that the right-wing noise tactics are not changing any -- if you look at the comments on Amazon, the description of one commentator who call Thomas a "liar" has just been painted as a "racist" based on that evidence alone. Just as Thomas himself is making the oblique charge of racism when he continues to call the confirmation hearings a "lynching."
I'll wait until I have a chance to see this from the library before I make a final determination about the worth of the book. I very much doubt that it will change my opinion of Thomas a a Supreme Court Justice however -- which feeling has been confirmed by his voting record and written opinions from the bench since his confirmation.
UPDATE: Anita Hill has responded to the smears in Thomas's book (OK, OK, I believe Hill, I don't believe Thomas. And that will affect my choice of phrase). In a piece in the NY Times Hill addresses some of Thomas's accusations against her. Among the comments she made in the Times article is:
Regrettably, since 1991, I have repeatedly seen this kind of character attack on women and men who complain of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. In efforts to assail their accusers’ credibility, detractors routinely diminish people’s professional contributions. Often the accused is a supervisor, in a position to describe the complaining employee’s work as “mediocre” or the employee as incompetent. Those accused of inappropriate behavior also often portray the individuals who complain as bizarre caricatures of themselves — oversensitive, even fanatical, and often immoral — even though they enjoy good and productive working relationships with their colleagues.
Finally, when attacks on the accusers’ credibility fail, those accused of workplace improprieties downgrade the level of harm that may have occurred. When sensing that others will believe their accusers’ versions of events, individuals confronted with their own bad behavior try to reduce legitimate concerns to the level of mere words or “slights” that should be dismissed without discussion.
Unfortunately, Hill thinks those tactics as a defense against sexual harassment are going away, when they really are still being used extensively. And they will continue to be used as long as that kind of deception is allowed, and that will continue as long as sexual harassment is viewed as a minor matter in the workplace.