MOLLY IVINS COLUMN ON THOMAS HEARINGS (Appearing 9/15/91)

From:    Coeta Mills
Subject: Molly Ivins / Thomas Hearing

MOLLY IVINS COLUMN ON THOMAS HEARINGS (Appearing 9/15/91)

Easily the most moving moment during the confirmation hearings of
Clarence Thomas came on the first day, when Thomas quoted his
grandfather, who raised him. Thomas spoke briefly about the decent,
hardworking old man and then paused before quoting him -- Thomas is
a well-spoken man who obviously could have made his granddaddy sound
like Barbara Jordan if he'd wanted to -- but he quoted the old man
in Southern, black dialect, just the way he must have sounded --
"Y'all gone have mo' of a chance than me."

And there's a grandson, up for confirmation to the Supreme Court of
the United States. Enough to bring a lump to one's throat. No one
has ever claimed there was much science to selecting Supreme Court
justices. Ol' Earl warren, the subject of innumerable impeachment
billboards in my childhood (at one time, one cold not drive across
this state without seeing "Impeach Earl Warren" signs every 20
miles), was appointed by the impeccably Republican Dwight
Eisenhower. Nixon, entirely by accident, added a couple of justices
who are now considered liberals.

OK, so no one except Jeanne Dixon is in a position to forecast how
Thomas will vote as a Supreme. Fact remains, the oldest rule in the
political book is still, "Look at the record, and then look at the
record again." And Clarence Thomas's record is grim for both civil
rights and civil liberties. Thomas has been duckin' his record in
these hearings.

Great honor is due those who, like Clarence Thomas, scale the walls
of prejudice and poverty that impede black Americans in this
country. Listening to Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah smarmily recounting
how he, too, had been born into a family that had no indoor plumbing
when he was young, one was tempted to reply, "Yeah, but you were
never black, Jack." Isn't it amazing how many white Americans still
think that because they have known poverty, they have experienced
what it is to be black in America?

The larger question about Thomas is not whether he has made it
against the odds -- he clearly has, with a lot of help from Thurgood
Marshall, Martin Luther King, et al -- the question is whether he
stands ready to help dismantle those hurdles that still tower in the
way of the others who will come after him.

In this instance, I am 90% sure Thomas will be put on the Supreme
Court no matter what we do, and 99% sure he will vote to reverse Roe
vs Wade when he makes it. I have never been the kind of feminist who
thought men were the enemy -- I'm very fond of the dears, personally
-- but I must confess to real resentment listening to the Thomas
hearings. Everyone involved in these hearings is male. There's not a
damn one of them [that] will ever get pregnant!

Early on in the Thomas proceedings, it seemed slightly comical that
we would all stand around in solemn debate trying to figure out how
the man would vote on abortion -- he trained to be a Catholic
priest, give me a break -- who thinks there's a question here?

During the colloquy between Biden and Thomas concerning a woman's
right to appeal against sex discrimination, the discussion indeed
became theological in the sense that it concerned no scientifically
observable phenomenon. Like medieval church academics debating how
many angels can dance on the head of a pin, those gents had at it
over an issue that is in reality a dead letter -- you can't find a
lawyer who will take a sex discrimination case anymore because so
many recent court rulings have made it impossible to win no matter
what the facts are. There is no practical recourse against sex
discrimination.

An entire generation of young American women is now faced with the
prospect of watching eight men plus Sandra Day O'Connor decide
whether and whose children they will have to bear. My feeling is
that there will be hell's own backlash when it finally sinks in. One
young woman listening to hearings on television asked in
bewilderment if she was actually understanding this correctly --
were they sitting there debating whether single adults have a right
to use contraceptives? Yes, they were. Welcome to the feminist
movement!

As for Judge, soon to be Justice Thomas, he sounds as though he will
turn out to be a judicial clone of Scalia, that terrifying legacy of
the worst of Reaganism. But one never knows for certain in these
cases. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were all wrong and one day
Justice Thomas were to look at the poor black children of Pin Point,
Ga., and say, "Y'all gone have mo' of a chance than me."


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