Supreme Court

Call the whole thing off
October 18, 1998

Last weekend was the hundredth anniversary of George Gershwin's birth, and, to commemorate the event, while seeking refuge from the obscene cd-rom containing the appendices of the Starr report, I put on the Brooklyn Academy of Music's terrific recording of Gershwin's greatest political operetta, Of Thee I Sing.

A Constitutional Crisis
October 05, 1998

"There is Substantial and Credible Information that President Clinton Committed Acts that May Constitute Grounds for an Impeachment," Kenneth Starr declares in his report to Congress. But the independent counsel does not explain how, precisely, he has decided to define "acts that may constitute grounds for an impeachment." Starr clearly believes that impeachable offenses are not limited to violations of criminal law, since he includes acts, ranging from bathroom trysts to more formal exercises of executive privilege, that not even he suggests are illegal.

Take the Fourth
September 07, 1998

After his appearance before Kenneth Starr's grand jury, President Clinton said that he had answered "questions about my private life, questions no American citizen would ever want to answer." But, "as to a very few highly intrusive questions," his lawyer, David Kendall, declared, "in order to preserve personal privacy and institutional dignity," the president "gave candid but not detailed answers." Clinton appears to have followed a version of the strategy proposed by Nathan Lewin, who urged him in The New York Times last week to decline to discuss the lurid details of his affair with Monica L

In Defense of Gender-Blindness
June 29, 1998

In Harm's Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings edited by Catharine A. MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin (Harvard, 496 pp., $24.95) Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism by Daphne Patai (Rowman & Littlefield, 288 pp., $22.95) I. In February, Yale Law School sponsored a conference to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Catharine MacKinnon's Sexual Harassment of Working Women.

Underprivileged
April 13, 1998

President Clinton inspired dark comparisons to Watergate last week when he invoked executive privilege to prevent his aides from testifying before Kenneth Starr's grand jury. His critics are treating the president's claim as proof that he has something to hide. "Not since Richard Nixon tried to withhold incriminating taped evidence--and was forced by the unanimous Supreme Court to respond to the subpoena of a grand jury--has a president presumed to wrap personal wrongdoing in the cloak of official business," William Safire thundered.

In Defense of Preference
April 06, 1998

  The battle over affirmative action today is a contest between a clear principle on the one hand and a clear reality on the other. The principle is that ability, qualifications, and merit, independent of race, national origin, or sex should prevail when one applies for a job or promotion, or for entry into selective institutions for higher education, or when one bids for contracts. The reality is that strict adherence to this principle would result in few African Americans getting jobs, admissions, and contracts. What makes the debate so confused is that the facts that make a compelling case

The End of Privacy
February 16, 1998

"It's not their business," Monica Lewinsky allegedly told Linda Tripp, explaining why she was inclined to lie to Paula Jones's lawyers about her relationship with President Clinton, as her friend's hidden tape recorder whirled. "It's not their business." And Lewinsky was, of course, correct.

America in Thick and Thin
January 05, 1998

Civic Ideals: Conflicting Views of Citizenship in U.S. History by Rogers M. Smith (Yale University Press, 719 pp., $35) A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Lorelyn Penero Miller v. Madeleine K. Albright, and some of the drama of the case is encapsulated in the petitioner's name. Twenty-seven years ago in the Philippines, Lorelyn Penero Miller was born out of wedlock.

Men Behaving Badly
December 29, 1997

At the Supreme Court last week, during the argument in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, the justices seemed skeptical of the shipping company's claim that same-sex harassment could never be illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Joseph Oncale, the oil-rig roustabout whose supervisor allegedly put his penis on Oncale's head, had sued for harassment, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that sexual harassment doesn't include men behaving badly with other men.

Lee's way
December 01, 1997

Senate Republicans have blocked Bill Lann Lee's nomination to be assistant attorney general for Civil Rights on the grounds that his views are "out of the mainstream." Lee's editorial supporters, including The New York Times, denounce this as a "gross misrepresentation," and before examining his writings, I was prepared to believe them. But based on Lee's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee and on his record as counsel to the naacp Legal Defense Fund, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Lee represents the least nuanced tendencies of liberal racialism.

Pages