There are two Democrats running at the top of the ticket this year, and only one of them is President Barack Obama. When Joe Biden’s name first came up, in 2008, as a possible running mate, I told everyone I knew that it would never happen. When Obama did choose Biden, I braced myself for disaster. But Biden turned out to be the right guy for the job. People don’t appreciate what a surprising outcome this is. My reasoning back in 2008 was grounded in observable fact.
The trouble Herman Cain is experiencing with Politico’s scoop on an alleged past settlement of sexual harassment charges—as well as his initial reaction to it—was, in many respects, predictable. Ever since the pizza executive’s improbable rise to the top of Republican presidential polls, there have been vague but menacing predictions that the new scrutiny he would face could quickly burst the bubble of his candidacy. Likewise, Cain’s pose as a victim of a politically, and perhaps racially, motivated smear was also predictable, but could prove remarkably effective.
[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner] Alec Macgillis has already weighed in on some parallels between the allegations against Herman Cain and those made twenty years ago against Clarence Thomas. From the moment I read the Politico report last night, I knew the rightwing would go apoplectic and attribute the story to a liberal media that despises non-white conservatives. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you see, racism does not exist in America.
When Anita Hill came forward during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings to accuse him of sexual harrassment, it created a stark partisan divide. Democrats and liberals believed her, and held up her experience as a common example of women demeaned in the workplace and then smeared as liars if they dared report their experience. Republicans and conservatives furiously disagreed, seeing Hill's claim as a sexual witch-hunt and a plot by liberals who couldn't stand to let a black conservative ascend to such a high position. I remember very clearly having withheld judgment.
Virginia Thomas is still upset at Anita Hill for testifying about her husband's sexual harrassment of her: A few days ago, Brandeis University professor Anita Hill received a message on her voice mail at work. “Good morning, Anita Hill, it's Ginny Thomas,” said the voice. “I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did.
Just over a year ago, Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak was seriously weighing a Senate bid in Pennsylvania against then-Republican Arlen Specter, but he wanted one last word of sage advice. So he called up his former boss, Bill Clinton, for whom he’d served as director for defense policy on the National Security Council, and, according to Sestak, “he invited me over to sit down with him over at his home in Georgetown.” But the meeting didn’t go exactly as planned. “Just as I walked in,” Sestak says, “an aide came up and said, ‘Did you hear?
For the better part of an hour, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been kicked back in the front cabin of Coast Guard One, the small but handsomely appointed plane on which she travels, chatting easily about the challenges of running the third-largest Cabinet department. En route back to Washington after three days of nonstop meetings in Mexico City--a whirlwind visit made more challenging by the fact that Napolitano broke her right ankle playing tennis last month and is still hobbling around on crutches--the secretary is in wind-down mode.
Gates-gate is the culmination of one of those occasional spates of race-related events that occur and flow into one another over a month or so. These spates are, in fact, precisely the “conversation” on race that Attorney General Eric Holder claims does not happen in America. What, after all, has all of this talk been from the Ricci decision through to the uproar over what happened on Henry Louis Gates’ front porch?
Clarence Thomas is back in the prints, and so is Anita Hill. Before you rush to Hill's corner, let me call your attention to the sympathetic review of a Ken Foskett's book, Judging Thomas: The Life and Times of Clarence Thomas, that appeared in the October 25, 2004 issue of TNR. The review was written by David J. Garrow, that great chronicler of the civil rights movement and the author of Bearing the Cross, a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. It surprised readers then, and it will surprise readers now.
At the Supreme Court arguments on Monday, January 13, in Clinton v. Jones, the justices seemed inclined to delay Paula Jones's sexual harassment suit until the president leaves office, because the president is a busy man. But even if President Clinton is temporarily spared the mortifying task of answering Jones's complaint, his trial in the court of popular opinion has already begun.