Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

INTERVIEW A Senator Judges Himself

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

INTERVIEW A Senator Judges Himself

Article excerpt

Sexual harassment is often "an inherently unprovable thing one way or another," Sen. John Danforth says during an interview.

As Clarence Thomas's staunchest defender from the beginning, the Republican senator from Missouri refuses to engage in discussions about the guilt or innocence of his longtime friend.

Yet Senator Danforth says he felt impelled to write "Resurrection: The Confirmation of Clarence Thomas" to share the lessons he learned from the experience.

"I wanted to portray as clearly and as graphically as I could what the consequences are of an effort to destroy a human being - to dig up the dirt on a person and to humiliate a person," the tall, easy-going senator says.

The Clarence Thomas case is not unique, Danforth argues. "It's the worst case I've ever seen, but it's not the only time that a person has been under this kind of personal attack."

The best antidote, Danforth argues, is "the sense of public revulsion" resulting from a reexamination of the events.

Throughout the book, Danforth judges himself as harshly as his Democratic colleagues, faulting himself for joining in the frenzied attack mentality. "When there's a total breakdown of rules and due process," he says, "what you're left with amounts to an alley fight. Everyone is picking up rocks and throwing them."

Danforth admits that he engaged in rock-throwing along with the rest of them. "I was attempting to do to Anita Hill what other people were attempting to do to Clarence Thomas," he says. "Namely, put things into the public record that had not been tested."

One of the prime motivations for writing the book was "to see if this could bring about a change" in the confirmation process, Danforth says. He has seen little progress in the three intervening years but holds out hope for the future.

Danforth's decision to retire from the Senate at the end of this year had nothing to do with the Thomas-Hill case, he says.

And, unlike many of his retiring colleagues, Danforth has refused to "dump on" the Senate and bad-mouth Congress as he leaves.

"The decision {to retire} was made over six years ago," he says, "and it was basically that I wanted to come home. …

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