Term Paper: Clarence Thomas and Special Interest

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[. . .] Since the leaks happened just two days before the Senate was scheduled to vote on the nominee, they appeared to be politically motivated, specifically timed to derail the nomination. The leaks caused the Senate to delay their confirmation vote for one week, giving the committee time to look at the charges. The committee was also under attack for not having taken Hill's allegations seriously in the first place.

This was the first time during the process that the nomination seemed to be in real trouble (Boot, 1992).

Conservatives denounced the leaks vociferously, demanding a formal investigation and offering to pay a bounty of over $30,000 to anyone who could and would cast some light on the leaker. This was part of a long and cynical tradition of selective outrage over leaks. They argued that reporting the leak was unethical, because it would damage Hill, who had hoped for confidentiality. Eventually, Judiciary Committee Republicans accused Hill of making up her story and committing perjury. They eventually branded her as mentally unstable.

The intrusion on Hill's privacy seems somewhat justified, considering that most of the senators who were preparing to vote on Thomas were not even aware of that allegations had been made against him, when they most certainly should have been. Thomas's defenders suggested that reporters who took advantage of the leak were basically assassinating the federal judge's character on behalf of the Democrats. However, this was a serious matter that should be explored by the media. Since the Judiciary Committee had chosen to ignore it, the leak was essentially necessary to force the Senate into some sort of action. It is above all a reporter's responsibility to attempt to get to the bottom of things, not to cover them up simply in order to protect someone. What both the Phelps and Totenberg stories lacked was something that, without giving away the leakers' identities, could have suggested what might have prompted the disclosure at the time it occurred.

Another objection was that Phelps and Totenberg reported their leaks too quickly, recklessly jeopardizing Thomas's reputation before they had done enough investigating to truly justify their stories. Given the inevitable damage to Thomas's reputation that this disclosure could cause, Phelps and Totenberg should probably have held their stories until they had established that there actually had been some pattern of misbehavior, such as other women coming forward to claim he had been guilty of sexual misconduct with them.

Works Cited

African-American Women in Defense of Ourselves. Advertisement, New York Times, 17 Nov. 1991: A19.

Boot, William. "The Clarence Thomas Hearings; Why Everyone - Left, Right and Center - Found the Press Guilty as Charged." Columbia Journalism Review. 30(5): 1992.

Caldeira, Gregory A., Hojnacki, Marie and Wright, John R. The Informational Roles of Organized Interests in the Politics of Federal Judicial Nominations. Paper prepared for delivery at the 1996 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, 1996.

Carter, Stephen L. The Confirmation Mess: Cleaning Up the Federal Appointments Process. New York: Basic Books, 1994.

Ginsburg, Ruth Bader. 1988. "Confirming Supreme Court Justices: Thoughts on the Second Opinion Rendered by the Senate." University of Illinois Law Review 101 (1988): 115-17.

Gross, Leonard & Vieira, Norman. Supreme Court Appointments: Judge Bork and the Politicization of Senate Confirmations. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998.

Grossman, Joel B. Lawyers and Judges: The ABA and the Politics of Judicial Selection. New York: Wiley. 1965.

Herrnson, Paul S., Shaiko, Ronald G. & Wilcox, Clyde (eds). Interest Group Connection: Electioneering, Lobbying, and Policymaking in Washington. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House Publishers, 1998.

Women Tell The Truth: A Conference on Parity, Power and Sexual Harassment." New Directions for Women (1992).

Shaiko, Ronald G. 1994. "Le PAC, C'est Moi: Brent Bozell and the Conservative Victory Committee." Risky Business? PAC Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections. Eds. Robert Biersack, Paul S. Herrnson, and Clyde Wilcox. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1994. 181-95.

Simon, Paul. Advice & Consent: Clarence Thomas, Robert Bork, and the Intriguing History of the Supreme Court's Nomination Battles. Washington, D.C.: National Press Books, 1992.

Thomas, Andrew P. Clarence Thomas: A Biography. San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books, 2002.

Those fifteen groups are Alliance for Justice, American Bar Association, Americans for Democratic Action, the AFL-CIO, Center for Constitutional Rights, Concerned Women for America (a conservative group), International Association of Police Chiefs (generally a conservative group), NARAL, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, NOW and NOW LDF, National Women's Political Caucus, United States Justice Foundation, and the Women's Legal Defense Fund (see Herrsnson, etal., 1998).

The ABA rates potential Supreme Court justices as "Well Qualified," "Not Opposed (or Qualified)," or "Not Qualified." Votes of "Not Opposed" or "Not Qualified" are very rare, and generally are an indicator of potential trouble in the U.S. Senate (see Herrnson, etal., 1998).

This accusation "raised the question of whether the committee deserved a special role, different from that of other interest groups" (see Carter, 1994, p.163).

These anticipated opponents included Senators Edward Kennedy, Joseph Biden, and Alan Cranston (see Shaiko 1994).

Not to be outdone, liberal groups carefully orchestrated their own media campaigns against Clarence Thomas (see Simon, 1992).

Commentators across the political spectrum have commented upon "egregious example[s] of the misinformation" that such media campaigns often produce (see Ginsburg 1988).

Core was the chief counsel to a subcommittee on antitrust chaired by Senator Metzenbaum, although that specific subcommittee had… [END OF PREVIEW]

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