Biden Not Tough Enough on Thomas, Not Nice Enough to Anita Hill?

Was Sen. Joe Biden, Obama's choice for running mate, truly not tough enough on Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas during those infamous hearings in 1991? The Times' online political editor Kate Phillips seems to think so, judging from the tone of "Biden and Anita Hill, Revisited." In a long, 1,500-word blog postfrom Saturday, Phillips suggested that Biden was too soft on Clarence Thomas, even though he forced Anita Hill and her 10-year old unsubstantiated allegations on Thomas during the hearings.

....while the Delaware Democrat ultimately voted against confirming Mr. Thomas, he was widely criticized by liberal legal advocates and women's groups as having mismanaged the allegations of sexual harassment made by Ms. Hill against her former employer, Mr. Thomas, at the Department of Education and at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, at those hearings....Some women, invariably of Senator Clinton's age, who were actively involved in opposing Mr. Thomas's confirmation in 1991 recall the narrow vote (52-48 in favor) as "a day of shame for the Senate and a day of shame for women," as one lawyer said this week. The episode in time evoked strong reactions from women across the country, who viewed the judiciary panel as 14 white men who too easily dismissed Ms. Hill's accusations and who did not allow the testimony of other women who might have corroborated or helped buttress her account to prove a case of sexual harassment....the backlash sentiment among women voters, whose refrain about the Senate at the time, (and men in general) became "they just don't get it," may have become influential in propelling the first President George Bush to sign the 1991 civil rights bill. And in electing Bill Clinton to the presidency afterward.

No comment from Phillips on how electing Bill Clinton was somehow a red-letter day in the fight against sexual harassment.

Phillips found a feminist law professor who said Biden treated Thomas too fairly because of the "racially charged nature of the hearings." She even cited 1994's "Strange Justice," a biased anti-Thomas book by two reporters (one of whom is now managing editor for news at the Times) to make her case, while conveniently smearing Thomas all over again with old attacks:

Over the years, Mr. Biden has defended his role in the hearings. In "Strange Justice," a book about the Clarence Thomas confirmation, authors Jill Abramson (managing editor for news here at The Times) and Jane Mayer, author of "The Dark Side" and a writer for the New Yorker, extensively document the internal and external machinations surrounding the hearings and interviewed Senator Biden several times.

He made decisions, they wrote, based on his views of respect for a person's privacy about what and wouldn't be let into the hearings - including the pornography rentals and Mr. Thomas's thin legal record....In one interview, the two wrote that Mr. Biden said later that he had tried to be a statesman, to uphold decency standards. In the end, however, he conceded that his motivations might have been "misplaced." On excluding the pornography issue alone, they quoted Mr. Biden as saying that he acted, "in fairness to Thomas, which in retrospect he didn't deserve."

Phillips sounded a pro-Hillary feminist note later while suggesting the hearings had been flawed and that Hill had not been given a fair chance to represent herself:

Another pivotal player from those years said she was told by a friend the other day, in mentioning Mr. Biden's actions during that era, that she needed to "get over it."

In the last few days, as we tried to reach out to people involved in the Thomas hearings, we kept hearing the same thing. Mr. Biden's role in the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas saga was so long ago as to not be relevant. It was a long time ago.

Funny how that phrase, though, "get over it" keeps coming back. It's the one Mr. Obama used in a meeting with supporters of Senator Clinton about how women, once they really learned what Senator John McCain represented on their issues, would "get over it."

Last year, when Mr. Thomas published his memoir, Anita Hill wrote an Op-Ed in The Times, basically saying well, she wasn't over it.