Friday, October 22, 2010

Ginni and Clarence. What a pair...

In my previous blog, I noted that the NYTimes had reported that the Koch brothers, owners of the energy giant Koch Industries, had invited rich GOPers to a confidential strategy session next January in Palm Springs.  In the invitational letter, as a kind of tempting lure, Charles Koch listed the names of some previous attendees.  Among the names he mentioned were Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, raising questions about possible future conflicts of interest and opening debate about not only conflicts of interest but also the practice of recusal on the High Bench. 
On top of this publicity, Ginni Thomas, Clarence’s wife, has refocused national attention on her husband and his 1991 Senate confirmation hearings with an early morning phone call to her husband’s accuser, Professor Anita Hill on October 9th.  (If you recall, Hill had accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.)  The large question that has hovered over this weird incident is the large question of why?  Why did Ginni Thomas make that phone call on an early Saturday morning almost twenty years after those confirmation hearings?
The most interesting theory involves the rash of publicity that Ginni Thomas herself  had received the day before the infamous phone call when  a major article about her activities appeared in the NYTimes, titled “Activism of Thomas’s Wife Could Raise Judicial Issues.” [Here]  The piece described Ms. Thomas’s role as a GOP lobbyist and recent founder of Liberty Central, a TeaParty/Conservative 501(c)(4) organization which can now accept huge contributions anonymously because of the Supreme Court’s narrowly decided Citizen United decision that her husband voted for.

Was Ginni’s phone call a diversion from the unwanted publicity that the Times article shone on both Ginni and Clarence?  Or was Ginni just plain giddy from all the attention?  Neither Thomas could have been pleased by the Times piece because the reporting wasn’t confined to Ginni and Liberty Central but raised reasonable and searching questions about Clarence’s conflicts of interest, judicial ethics (ahem) and Supreme Court recusal issues.  
Just the day before the Ginni Thomas article appeared in the Times, the paper ran an editorial, titled “Recusals and the Court,” which noted Elena Kagan’s recusal of 25 of 51 cases that the Court has accepted.  The editorial did not mention Thomas by name, although it did mention Justice Scalia’s refusal to recuse himself in a case involving Dick Cheney after he accepted a duck-hunting invitation from the Vice President.
Whatever Ginni Thomas’s motives were and are, her professional life and her singularly odd telephone call to an old adversary inviting her to apologize turned a national spotlight on both Thomases.
And then on Friday, The Washington Post increased the heat by publishing a fascinating interview of Lillian McEwen, [Here] a 65-year old former girl friend of Thomas whose association with him was described as “a steady relationship.”  McEwen was not originally called by Judicial Chair Biden because he confined the witness list to those who had “professional relationships” with Thomas.  
McEwen is now retired and is ready to talk.  And talk she did.  (She also has a book she is peddling and hopes that some interviews might help her to be published.)  She confirmed many of the things that we have heard about Thomas--his obsessive interest in pornography, his obsession about female breasts, including asking female employees their bra size, and his “Inappropriate comments” about and to the women he worked with.
Lillian McEwen is a former assistant U.S. attorney and Senate Judiciary Committee counsel who dated Thomas for years.  She was twice married and twice divorced with a grown daughter.  She has been quiet for years, fearing talking would harm her career, but she is now retired and shrugs, “I have nothing to be afraid of.” [Here]
The Post went through many of the old allegations and McEwen confirmed many of the charges that Hill had made.  As McEwen said: [Here]
 He was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners...It was a hobby of his. 
McEwen’s interview concludes with: [Here]
I have no hostility toward him... It is just that he has manufactured a different reality over time. That's the problem that he has. 
I think we would all agree that’s not the only problem Clarence Thomas has...

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