"Do you have anything you would like to say?"
It was an odd question coming from Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who knew very well that the man seated before him, Clarence Thomas, had a great deal he wished to say. For the preceding two weeks, the Supreme Court nominee had agonized as he watched his enemies lay waste to his reputation. Anyone who knew Thomas came to realize that reputation was everything to him- the work of art he had sculpted, the summit he had climbed, the treasure he had stored up from years of public service. Thomas often spoke of his life and reputation as one and the same. Concern about his reputation was also his hubris; that Thomas cared so much about what others thought of him was a flaw of character. He would suffer mightily for this shortcoming. For these two excruciating weeks, the prideful man had wept over the destruction of his good name like a farmer mourning the devastation of his crops by a flood or hailstorm.
His appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 11, 1991, was an opportunity to salvage what remained of this prized asset. Thomas blamed the committee—or at least the Democrats who dominated it—for his tribulations. As he calmly took his seat before them, he looked hard at the Democratic senators seated at the right half of the rostrum. A navy blue, two-piece suit, starkly white shirt and crimson paisley tie did their best to contain Thomas's stocky frame. His wife, Ginni, sat behind him to his right, in a black-and-white checkered jacket that seemed emblematic of their interracial marriage. Next to Ginni was Thomas's longtime patron, Senator John Danforth. They were seated literally front and center in the crowded Senate Caucus