Posted: 06/19/11 12:37 PM ET
Every Democrat from the White House down screamed loudly for New York Representative Anthony Weiner to resign, and he finally did. But it’s not a Democrat that’s breathing the biggest sigh of relief at Weiner’s downfall. It’s Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. There was much talk a year ago that Weiner would be the point man on the House Judiciary Committee if it decided to go after Thomas for his long trail of financial manipulations, abuse, and duplicity. Weiner gave some hope that he’d be the go-to guy against Thomas because he had been hammering him publicly on his dealings and demanding that he recuse himself from any high court deliberations and ruling on the constitutionality of the health care reform law that conservatives loathe.
Weiner certainly had a lot of ammunition to make Thomas’ misdoings a prima facie legal and political embarrassment for the GOP. This stemmed from Thomas’ wife, Ginni’s, mini-king ransom earnings she received from assorted right wing foundations and think tanks. The Heritage Foundation was a prominent funder of Ginni as well as the ultraconservative Koch brothers, the Coors family and Richard Mellon Scaife, all of which have a major interest in any number of Supreme Court rulings.
Thomas did disclose her earnings. He did not disclose speaking fees and perks he got from a bevy of the same conservative groups that his wife worked for and had close political ties to. And then he refused to acknowledge her involvement with Liberty Central.
Then there was the strong hint that Thomas perjured himself in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his court confirmation hearings in 1991 and that he compounded that by lying under oath to Congress during the hearings.
Thomas was asked directly by Utah senator Orrin Hatch during his confirmation hearings about Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct and whether he used sexually suggestive language. Thomas answered: “I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill, that I ever attempted to date her, that I ever had any personal sexual interest in her, or that I in any way ever harassed her.”
Thomas was emphatic, “If I used that kind of grotesque language with one person, it would seem to me that there would be traces of it throughout the employees who worked closely with me, or the other individuals who heard bits and pieces of it or various levels of it.” This was stated under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thomas’ sworn testimony was clearly contradicted even then in public statements by witnesses. The witnesses were not called to testify.
Two decades later Thomas’ apparent perjured testimony to Congress was back on the legal table when another Thomas intimate confirmed that he engaged in sexual harassment, was addicted to pornography, and talked incessantly and graphically about it and women.
It’s also clearly established that a public official — whether the president, presidential appointees or judges — can be punished for giving false information (and that’s any false information of any nature) to the House or Senate.
A close scrutiny by House Democrats of Thomas’ possible wrongdoing was taken off the Congressional table when the Republicans took back control of the House last November. And Thomas’s financial misdoings and dubious confirmation hearing testimony quickly fell from the news.
But with the 2012 elections nearing and the possibility that the Democrats could either win back control of the House or substantially boost their numbers there, Thomas’ financial double dealing and shadowy political ties could easily have been back on the political table. Weiner showed intense interest in Thomas’ doings, and his public hectoring of Thomas during the health care debate about his financial dealings sent a mild signal that Thomas at some point could be fair game for a probe. That would have done much to further expose the financial, legal and moral misdeeds by conservatives that the GOP routinely sweeps under the rug.
Now Thomas and the GOP doen’t have to worry about that. Thomas’ potential tormentor is out of the House and Democrats seem pretty much content to put the Weiner and the Thomas matter behind them. Thomas can now safely breathe a big sigh of relief at that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst and New America Media associate editor. He hosts nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk shows on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter.
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/earlhutchinson