The featured guest today, Sept. 22, on my MTL Washington Update radio show will be author and retired federal judge Lillian McEwen. She will amplify on her powerful memoir of overcoming an abusive childhood in the nation's capital to find happiness, including a tempestuous romance from the early to mid-1980s with future Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.
By coincidence, she served as counsel during her affair to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.), the future Vice President who in 1991 presided over the controversial Thomas confirmation hearings. By intention, Democratic and Republican senators alike arranged the schedule to leave Anita Hill's sexual harassment testimony largely unsupported on camera. This paved the way for Senate 52-48 approval of the nation's second black justice -- by the narrowest vote in a century.
Several important features of this interview persuade me to preview it for OpEd News in an exclusive post aside from a longer one, here, on my Justice Integrity Project site.
First, she is in a rare, if not unique position, to make news. And that's potential trouble, big trouble, for some who might otherwise seem above the fray after all these years. That includes Justice Thomas.
Second, this is an unusual opportunity for the thoughtful OpEd News readership to get involved in judicial affairs in a way that could actually make a difference. For some, that might mean asking McEwen a pointed question live on the show. Her segment begins at 12:17 (Eastern Time), and can be heard then also on archive. For others, it might be helping ensure that her perspectives, and those like it, are part of the court of public opinion that is the last bulwark of freedom against Supreme Court and other governmental abuse.
Here's a prediction, based on pre-show interviews and reading a half dozen books, including her memoir and those by Thomas (200&) and Hill (1997), and attending the confirmation hearings myself in 1991:
If the McEwen perspective proved credible to a wide audience Clarence Thomas and his backers would face more trouble than they could ever have believed possible after they thwarted Anita Hill's testimony in 1991 and then trashed her in a long-running smear campaign.
Ironically, however, Hill's supporters and academics alike have shown scant interest in featuring a new wild-card in their conferences planned this fall to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the notorious hearings.
Many seem to have adjusted to a status quo where Republicans get to win on the big issues and appointments, and progressives get to gripe from commentator posts, but without the resources and other institutional backing truly to rock the boat.
Enter retired federal judge, federal prosecutor, Senate counsel and law professor Lillian McEwen. In the spirit of Angela's Ashes author Frank McCourt, she published a memoir this year describing a horribly abusive childhood with parents of mixed racial background in then-segregated Washington, DC.
Her DC Unmasked and Undressed describes her sexual and professional awakening in stark detail through marriage, lovers and law school. Among her tales is accompanying Thomas to the New York City sex club Plato's Retreat. She says it was actually her suggestion, and so she's not playing a victim. In essence, her view is that when people do such things it's reasonable that the public should know.
This is hardly the standard view of either the powers-that-be or of the watchdog institutions in the nation's capital. But here is the publisher's description of her compelling book:
In a riveting, brutal, raw, sexually-driven memoir, retired Washington D.C. Federal Judge Lillian McEwen reveals the obsessions and vulnerabilities that drive us all. She disrobes Washington D.C. establishment and puts readers in bed with the men and women who make policy for the Unites States of America. With breathless courage, McEwen draws readers through a punishing childhood and through intoxicating layers of survival and a life lived. With grace and honesty, she reminds us all of the human condition and the reality that we cannot move through this world without being survivors of something.
Click here if you would like to listen to today's live dialogue with her and my co-host, Scott Draughon, founder of the My Technology Lawyer radio network that's syndicated our weekly public affairs show nationwide for more than five years. The show is available also at the same link by archive an hour after its end. (Advisory: Mac users must use Parallels.)
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