Opinion Lasting Tragedy and Trauma for the Country; Can He Now Serve? Oct. 15, 1991

Harvey Wasserman’s letter to the Editor on Clarence Thomas, NYT

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To the Editor:
The wrong question is being asked
about Judge Clarence Thomas. The Senate was
never designed to pass legal judgment on a
sexual harassment case, nor should it. The
question is whether Clarence Thomas can now
serve as an objective, dispassionate justice of
the United States Supreme Court for the next 40
Based on his bitter attacks on unnamed
conspirators who allegedly used Anita Hill to
“kill” him, based on his unwillingness even to
watch her testimony, and based on his traumatic
experience with the issue of sexual harassment,
it would be hard for even Judge Thomas’s most
adamant supporters to argue that he can now
serve as an evenhanded interpreter of the United
States Constitution.
Because this is a clearly political issue, senators
are now almost certainly making their decisions
on the perceived guilt or innocence of Clarence
Thomas. But that is not the issue, and that is not
their role.
This appointment is not a referendum on a single
individual’s guilt or innocence in a sexual
harassment case. Those are questions to be
answered ultimately in a court of law, by a jury of
But the question of who should take the ninth
seat on the Supreme Court is something entirely
separate. Judge Thomas’s performance in his
defense was riveting and quite possibly as
therapeutic for the country on questions of racial
prejudice as was Anita Hill’s on the question of
sexual harassment.
But ultimately it was also a thoroughly
convincing argument as to why Clarence
Thomas must not spend the next 40 years
passing judgment from the highest court in the
land. Whether he was a victim of the
confirmation process or not, he now seems far
too embittered to serve as an impartial
adjudicator on the most sensitive legal
questions that are bound to arise in the next
century. HARVEY WASSERMAN Columbus, Ohio,
Oct. 13, 1991

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 15, 1991, Section A, Page 24 of the
National edition with the headline: Lasting Tragedy and Trauma for the Country; Can He
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