Strange Justice: A Book on Clarence Thomas

In a new book, friends and colleagues assert that Clarence Thomas was not the saint his defenders made him out to be

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Larry Downing / Reuters

The Supreme Court justices gather for their group portrait, 2010

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There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits prospective Supreme Court Justices from decorating their apartments like a college dorm room. But it's not out of order to inquire into the frame of mind of a man accused of sexual harassment, especially when one of his chief lines of defense was that he was too much the straight arrow to have done such a thing. While a truckload of centerfolds would not make Thomas guilty of anything, other than a weakness for erotic redundancy, it might disqualify him as the plaster saint fashioned by his supporters.

Mayer and Abramson blame committee chairman Joseph Biden for the fact that the four women who came to Washington to corroborate Hill's story were never called to testify. In their view, Biden simply abdicated control of the hearings to Republican Senators intent on seeing Thomas confirmed. Yet the fact that the chief witness, Angela Wright, had been fired by Thomas might also have made it easy to dismiss her claims as sour grapes. What we know for certain is that Hill was left as the sole accuser, and Thomas was confirmed, 52 to 48, the narrowest vote for any 20th century Justice. "I'm going to be here for 40 years," Thomas recently told an invited gathering of African Americans. "For those who don't like it, get over it." Get over it? Not likely anytime soon. Not for him. Not for Hill. Not for us.

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