The Clarence Thomas interview on "60 Minutes" seems to have smoked Anita Hill out of the woodwork--and not to her credit. She continues to stick to her ridiculous charges of some 16 years ago and to no good purpose. At the time of the charges I remember finding them ridiculous. Of course, a superior who demands favors or implies that the giving of them will advance one’s career, has something to answer for. But Hill’s testimony never amounted to more than a suggestion of crude or tawdry banter. It may say something about me to divulge that I was not particularly shocked by any of it--but if it does, I guess I’ll take the criticism. Beyond that, however, I might further suggest that a woman who is shocked by such banter will find it easy enough to avoid it or put an end to it without Senate hearings or legislation on the matter. But that’s not really my point here. All talk of "sexual harassment" is and was mere distraction and diversion. Debating "sexual harassment" was a way for those forces who had it in for Thomas to move the discussion away from the real (and uncomfortable) questions his nomination brought to the fore.
What is more important here (for purposes of this discussion) is that I do not believe--and don’t think any sane person should believe--that any of what Hill described happened as she said it did. Why? The difference in the demeanors of Hill and Thomas says everything to me. Hill says: "[Thomas’ approach] is really so typical of people accused of wrongdoing. They trash their accusers." Now, if she were accusing Bill Clinton of harassment, she may have a point. That is exactly what Clinton and any other man who was less a man than Thomas would have done. A lesser man than Thomas would not have spared her the condemnation she may deserve (and public opinion might now tolerate) when giving that interview. But Thomas did not ask himself what public opinion would tolerate about Anita Hill--either in responding to the charges initially, or in reflecting on them in this recent interview and book. Thomas rightly restrained himself; seeing--not only that she deserved some charity due to her own lack of judgment--but that the real culprit in what happened to him was not Ms. Hill, but a coarsening manipulation of partisan politics that requires a much more thoughtful and directed attack. He did not waste his bullets. The worst thing he had to say about Anita Hill in that interview was that she was a "mediocre" employee. Beyond that, he showed her pity. And that, I think, was the rub all along for Ms. Hill. Perhaps Thomas’s great sin--in Anita’s but never the Public’s eyes--was in being a better man than she deserves and her keen awareness of her own mediocrity combined with his generous pity. At least that’s what it looks like to me.