But the scene was pure hokum designed by the Bush White House to quiet Thomas critics ASAP after the 52-48 Senate confirmation on Oct. 15 -- and to allow his backers to celebrate his lifetime appointment in grand style. In sum, this was stage-craft to fool the public about our most respected branch of government at one of its most solemn transitional landmarks.
The real ceremony was a tiny one in private on Oct. 23. Chief Justice William Rehnquist administered the oath after he pulled himself together following his wife's then-recent death. Thomas acknowledged this chronology in his 2007 autobiography, and other biographers confirm it.
Thus, the Thomas era on the court began with a fraud upon the public and has expanded into ongoing infamy.
We can now be confident beyond any reasonable doubt, for example, that Thomas was a porno fan who lied under oath about it during his Senate confirmation hearing.
Instead of admitting his interest, he claimed that his former staffer, Anita Hill, falsely testified that he described to her porn star Long Dong Silver.
Books and news reports for years after the hearing identified witnesses who could have exposed his deceptions about porn. His denial was a key part of his impassioned and otherwise effective defense. It persuaded many in his prime-time television audience into thinking he was yet-another black victim of what he piously called, "a high-tech lynching."
Retired federal judge, prosecutor and law professor Lillian McEwen this year adds to this previous evidence with DC Unmasked and Undressed,
her powerful memoir of enduring cruel parents in a segregated nation's
capital as a child of mixed race. She then found happiness in the law.
The former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee under Chairman
Joe Biden dated Thomas for years in the early 1980s, overlapping
entirely with her lover's time supervising Hill while he chaired the Reagan EEOC, the main federal agency to redress sex, race and other job bias. She later became an administrative law judge with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
In her book and in her recent interview on my public affairs radio show, Washington Update, McEwen described the future justice's keen interest in porn and other sex. This included, she says, his admiration for Long Dong Silver, their romps with multiple sex partners, and their visit to the sex club Plato's Retreat in New York City.
Thomas was and is, of course, entitled to entertain himself in private as he prefers.
But that was hardly the political or spiritual rationale for hundreds of ministers to come to Washington in 1991 to lobby for his confirmation. Neither was it the legal issue later in the 1990s when federal authorities spent millions of taxpayer dollars to investigate and impeach President Clinton over the language he used to describe his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a consensual partner and former intern at all relevant times of their sexual relationship.
Even more important than perjury is last year's ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. With Thomas in the 5-4 majority, the court held that the First Amendment protects corporate and union funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections.
The decision and similar radical changes in our election procedures
threaten to turn our future federal elections into make-believe
democracy. Cash-strapped ordinary voters -- from the Tea Party, Occupy
Wall Street or anywhere else -- are likely to try in vain to influence pols who are raking in
big-dollar contributions from giant groups while pretending to care
deeply about The Sheeple.
As background, the conservative group Citizens United in 1991 prepared for its own success by co-sponsoring with the Conservative Victory Committee a $100,000 TV ad campaign entitled, "Who Will Judge the Judge?"
This was to frighten Biden, shown below in a more recent photo, and
two other influential Democratic senators with TV reports about their
own past scandals. It was one of the key factors enabling the Thomas
appointment. Biden failed to call witnesses who could have supported
Hill's sexual harassment claims by describing Thomas propensities. Instead, Biden and other Democrats in the majority
consented to the rushed timetable demanded by Republicans.
The basic facts about the Citizens United ads are well-documented, including in a 1991 Time Magazine report. That reporting is amplified in relevant books, including The Real Anita Hill by
her former scourge, David Brock. He noted that Citizens United founder
Floyd Brown previously created the notorious Willie Horton ads used in
the 1988 Presidential campaign.