…since Joe Biden flunked it so spectacularly way back when, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. From the New York Times of October 11, 1991:
In a telephone interview Wednesday night, Mr. Biden made it clear that he viewed the problem before him as how to walk the fine line between guaranteeing that a person who sexually harassed a colleague did not acquire a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court and fairly treating both Mr. Thomas and Ms. Hill.Really? Consider this then:
"I must start off with a presumption of giving the person accused the benefit of the doubt," he said. "I must seek the truth and I must ask straightforward and tough questions and in my heart I know if that woman is telling the truth it will be almost unfair to her. On the other hand, if I don't ask legitimate questions, then I am doing a great injustice to someone who might be totally innocent. It's a horrible dilemma because you have two lives at stake here."
…Mr. Biden told reporters today that if he had to conduct the hearings again, he would not change the decisions he made.
Nearly two decades after Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his fractious Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it remains unclear who was lying… Lillian McEwen, a retired administrative law judge who said she dated Clarence Thomas from 1979 through the mid-1980s, told The Washington Post: “The Clarence I know was certainly capable of not only doing the things that Anita Hill said he did, but it would be totally consistent with the way he lived his personal life then…”And at least two other women waited in the wings to testify against Judge Thomas, but Biden never called them. Not that they would have been needed actually. Not in a fair trial.
Anybody with an ounce of common sense had to know that the liar in the room was not Anita Hill. And no senator could have believed Clarence Thomas for a minute. The judge, after all, had flat-out flunked the Pubic Hair Test, which was first described in the literature by me in January of 2001 and which I now repost as a public service:
Fans of political theater will recall that Professor Anita Hill had charged her former boss with a pattern of sexual harassment which included showing her a Coke can with a pubic hair sticking to it. Judge Thomas swore that he had never in his life done such an ungentlemanly thing.
How could we, the millions of spectators at this morality play, know what to think? Was it the future Supreme Court justice who was telling the truth, or was it the demure law professor? How could anybody possibly know? Could common sense help, maybe?
Was there anything in Professor Hill’s much-investigated background to suggest that she was a pathological liar? Even if she was, why would she had come up with such a peculiar lie? Did she suffer from hallucinations? Was she “creative?” Perhaps even an aspiring screen writer?
But even if she were, why would she have dreamed up such an unlikely scenario? Would the Coke can business be more destructive to her presumed harasser than any other lie she could just as easily have dreamed up?
No to the first question. Professor Hill seemed depressingly literal and humorless. It was hard to imagine her engaged in a flight of fancy. And no to the second. The tale of the pubic hair and the Coke can was so meaningless and bizarre that even the most simple-minded of senators would have realized that it was too weird not to be true. A competent liar would have stuck to such old standbys as indecent exposure, groping, and dirty pictures.
The Pubic Hair Test therefore indicated with zero probability of error that this particular woman could not and did not invent such a senseless, incomprehensible story. It had to be true.
God knows whose pubic hair that was, or what the future Supreme Court justice thought its presence on a Coke can signified, or what made him imagine that his weird performance might be seductive, but the incident plainly happened pretty much the way Professor Hill said it did.