Justice Uncle Thomas' Coming Out Party
 by Maureen Dowd

Whore City —There is nothing like stealing a presidential election to put a little wind in a guy's sails.

After 10 years in the shadows, after a mute decade on the bench, Clarence Thomas had a
black-tie coming-out party last night.

The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank here, honored Justice
Thomas with an award as 1,600 guests munched on red meat at the Washington Hilton.

It was the capital's new power grid: Lynne and Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Antonin Scalia,
Kenneth Starr, Dick Armey and a bevy of veteran Clinton-bashers. Introducing Justice
Thomas, Robert Bork said that while he thought the majority five-justice opinion in Bush v.
Gore might be debatable, he deemed the "concurrent opinion" of three justices, including
Justice Thomas, to be on "very solid ground."

The Garbo of the Supreme Court talked. And talked. And talked. And what Justice Thomas
said was pretty bellicose. Rejecting the president's call for compromise and harmony, he said,
"Today there is much talk about moderation," but there is an "overemphasis on civility."

"Civility cannot be a governing principle of citizenship or leadership," he said, adding that
"though the war in which we are engaged is cultural, not civil," one should not let principles be "cannibalized."

The hourlong speech was so self- pitying and self-aggrandizing that it evoked comparison to Bill Clinton's
defense for pardoning Marc Rich, when he said that it was easy to say no and took courage to say yes.

Yesterday was bracketed with celebrations of two men who had history's most humiliating
Senate hearings over tangles with female subordinates and sex-harassment charges.

One of these Southerners is renowned for talking, one for not talking. But both nurse
bitterness at ideological critics and the news media, and both crave respect.

As Bill Clinton went to Harlem seeking validation from a mostly black crowd, Clarence
Thomas went to the Hilton seeking validation from a mostly white crowd.

Many of the whites who crowded around Clarence can't stand Bill.
And many of the blacks who crowded around Bill can't stand Clarence.

Many blacks regard the sax-playing Elvis of politics, taking the A train to Harlem to work amid
the hair-braiding salons, creole and soul food restaurants and jazz clubs, as one of their own.
"He's black, he's blue, he's just the best of all time," Chris Rock told Larry King Monday.
They see Bill as a victim of the white G.O.P. establishment, even as they see Clarence as a pawn of it.

As Ebony magazine recently wrote of Justice Thomas: "Why does it appear that he consistently votes
for issues supported by racists and archconservatives, and opposed by . . . almost all blacks?"

Bill and Hillary took up the cause of Anita Hill in '92. But W. is going to make sure that the
man his father defended through that ugliness gets treated warmly. He said during his
campaign that Justices Thomas and Scalia were his favorites.

When John Ashcroft had barely been confirmed as attorney general, he asked Justice
Thomas to hurriedly swear him in. The two were junior lawyers in the Missouri attorney
general's office under John Danforth, Justice Thomas's Senate sponsor and most loyal
defender during the "high-tech lynching."

W., still smarting from charges that Mr. Ashcroft has been insensitive on race, plans to
appoint a Thomas intimate, Larry Thompson, as deputy attorney general.

Mr. Thompson, a black conservative pal of Justice Thomas, played a particularly unsavory
role during the Senate hearings as the member of the Thomas defense team designated
to bolster the ludicrous notion that Ms. Hill may have suffered from a rare mental disorder
known as erotomania —the "nutty and slutty" defense.

"Strange Justice," by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, reports that, to rebut Ms. Hill's
success taking a polygraph, Senator Alan Simpson, a Bush buddy, read a statement into
the record from Mr. Thompson, identifying him only as a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta,
not as a member of the Thomas team. The statement asserted "that if a person suffers
from a delusional disorder, he or she may pass a polygraph test."

As the justice emerges, the former president retreats —looking for yet one more redemption,
this time not for the sin of lust but for the sin of greed. It's showtime at the Apollo.

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