This is from an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times by Jeffrey Rosen, an intern on the Senate Judiciary Committee when Joe Biden was chairman:
His performance during the Thomas hearings in 1991 was just as restrained. He focused his opposition on Judge Thomas’s radical views on property rights and limitations on federal power. When Anita Hill’s charges of sexual harassment began to circulate in private, Senator Biden angered liberal interest groups by insisting that the Judiciary Committee handle the accusations confidentially.
After the charges were leaked to the press, Mr. Biden insisted that they did not justify postponing the Senate vote on the nomination. Even after finally bowing to the public pressure to allow Ms. Hill to testify, Mr. Biden still refused to call three additional witnesses who were ready to corroborate her charges about his interest in pornography.
Although, in his recent memoir, Justice Thomas rages against Mr. Biden’s unfairness, the reality is that, by insisting that no further witnesses be called, Mr. Biden ensured his confirmation. Mr. Biden later observed that he could have “decimated” Judge Thomas by allowing more testimony about pornography, but “it would have been wrong.”
Rosen clearly approves of Biden’s gentlemanly restraint, but let’s think about this.
At issue was the credibility of two witnesses at the hearing: Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. She accused him of sexual harassment. He denied it. One of them was lying. Lying to Congress is a crime, pure and simple. Many people, less tolerant than Joe Biden of mankind’s little foibles, feel that criminals should not serve on the United States Supreme Court.
The one who was lying, as proven beyond a doubt by the Pubic Hair Test, was Clarence Thomas. But since the PHT is not widely understood by U.S. Senators, it became not merely relevant but crucial to determine by other means whether the nominee was a criminal liar.
One obvious path was to explore Thomas’s denial to the committee of Hill’s charges that he was fond of pornography. Additional witnesses could have made her charges stick — would in fact, have kept this pathetic, self-loathing racist toady off the Supreme Court.
And would that have been so “wrong?” Oh, I don’t know. Let’s ask Al Gore.