A Perversion of Justice

By Hughes, John | The Christian Science Monitor, October 17, 1991 | Go to article overview

A Perversion of Justice


Hughes, John, The Christian Science Monitor


IN the end it was not a triumph for truth, but a victory for bad taste and the politics of sleaze.

The country will survive the grotesque Senate confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas, but Americans deserve better than the perversion of justice that has just taken place before their embarrassed gaze.

In sessions stripped of the respect and dignity that should surround the appointment of a Supreme Court justice, political Washington has just staged a spectacle that ranged in character from the infamous excesses of Britain's 17th century Star Chamber to a seamy peep-show.

Public disapproval of the Senate's handling of the Thomas hearings surged in the polls to 60 percent, which tells us what we already knew: that the public often has better judgment than the politicians.

Coming on top of revelations about unmonitored bank overdrafts for some congressmen, fixed parking tickets, and questionable perks, dare we hope that the debacle of the Thomas hearings will engender enough shame on Capitol Hill to spark some kind of reform movement and a return to principle and decency?

As one attempts to draw up a balance sheet of pluses and minuses on the hearings, that would be one of the few developments to include in a slender list of positives. Another plus may be heightened awareness of the problem of sexual harassment, although, in an unfairly ironic twist, even this may be offset in practice by a new male wariness; some male employers, for fear of incurring harassment suits, may find it safer to hire men than women.

The negatives from the Thomas hearings are many.

The aides of Democratic senators opposed to Judge Thomas perverted a legitimate investigative process by deliberately looking for scandal that would upset his candidacy for the Supreme Court. This was not an open-minded inquiry, but a partisan vendetta.

They convinced Anita Hill, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma and a former colleague of Judge Thomas, that she could make her 10-year-old accusations, perhaps causing the Thomas nomination to fail, without disclosing to the public the identity of the accuser. Professor Hill was tragically misled. …

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