Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Virginia Thomas, not Anita Hill, owes us an apology

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We interrupt this election season to go back in time to a simpler time: 1991.

The name Anita Hill probably hasn’t been on your mind, but if can crawl a little bit inside Virginia Thomas’ mind, Anita Hill is still on her mind.

The story that came out that Thomas wants an apology from Hill, and went as far as leaving a voice mail message on Hill’s phone is as bizarre as they come.

For all you youngsters out there who don’t remember, when Clarence Thomas was up for the nomination for associate justice on the Supreme Court, Anita Hill had accused him of sexual harassment. If you Google “pubic hair” and “Coke can,” you can relive some of out memories of that time.

Despite Hill’s accusations, Thomas was confirmed. And some of those politicians suffered as a result in The Year of the Woman. Alan Dixon (D-IL) voted for Thomas, and lost to Carol Moseley Braun in the 1992 primary.

You would think that the Thomas couple, Clarence and Virginia, had the last laugh. Clarence — assuming good health — will have one of the longest stints on the court in its history, and Virginia has been a significant conservative activist enjoying the ties to a Supreme Court justice.

But Clarence Thomas will go down in history as being the least-curious justice in its history, being a standout for not asking questions when cases go before the court. To those who criticized his lack of experience (myself included), our fears were more than confirmed.

Regardless of party affiliation, Thomas has been an intellectual disappointment. If Thomas is a smart, vibrant judge, he has yet to show it in his 19 years on the court.

Virginia Thomas is right about one thing: an apology is in order. But not from Anita Hill — Virginia Thomas owes us the apology.

We are taught that in the world of justice, integrity is a core issue. Justices are supposed to lead lives where conflicts of interest aren’t an issue.

The Thomas family has lived lives as if conflicts of interest are as common to them as .

If the Thomas family believed in conflicts of interest being a problem for justice, Thomas wouldn’t hear a number of cases before the court. The number of cases where Thomas has recused himself is still zero.

You could cite Virginia Thomas’ current work  as a teabagger leader. You could cite Clarence Thomas’ work with Monsanto, yet heard cases involving Monsanto before the court.

But the largest conflict of interest still remains Bush v. Gore. Virginia Thomas was soliciting resumes for the Bush team, while her husband ruled in the majority of a case with no legal precedent and the advanced decreee that the decision couldn’t be cited in future cases.

Thomas and Antonin Scalia had direct conflicts in Bush v. Gore thanks to their relatives’ relationship with the case. Neither justice gave any serious consideration to withdrawing from the case.

The trade-off to being the spouse of a Supreme Court justice is that you do have to give up certain things as part of that life. Perhaps that is unfair. Perhaps Virginia Thomas would rather have a life where she gets to be a conservative activist, and Clarence Thomas gets to work in the private sector and make a lot of money.

And Virginia Thomas could have had that — in 1991. As soon as her husband was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, she lost the right to continue that line of work.

Just for the record, this would apply to any Supreme Court justice appointed by a Democratic president, or any that became less conservative over the years (e.g., John Paul Stevens).

We consider the Supreme Court justices to be the highest authority of the land. We consider them above the kinds of conflicts of interest that would get a case thrown out on the local level.

But Virginia Thomas wants her cake, other people’s cakes, and eat them and get to whine about how she has cake. So, Virginia Thomas, you owe us an apology and a cessation to your activities, effective immediately. Or Clarence Thomas could resign from the Supreme Court. This wouldn’t undo the damage you and your husband have done, but it would get us closer to a system where the Supreme Court can be respected once again as justice free of conflicts of interest.

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  1. Virginia Thomas, not Anita Hill, owes us an apology…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

    World Wide News Flash

    October 21, 2010 at 9:25 am


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