Nomination of Kavanaugh similar to that of Thomas in 1991

Published 6:19 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Most political pundits last week would have placed their bets on Brett Kavanaugh ultimately being confirmed as our next Supreme Court Justice. But that was last week. That was before Christine Blasey Ford entered the picture accusing him of a sexual assault when the two were in high school. As a matter of record, the accusation had been floating around the media for the past few weeks as having originated from an anonymous source. But this week, we have a face to the allegation, and although some political pundits believe that Ms. Ford, personally coming forward with the accusation, strengthens the possibility that the confirmation will be derailed, I am not so certain.  Political commentators and observers see similarities between the Kavanaugh nomination and that of Clarence Thomas in 1991. I agree.

It is true that Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination looks much different after Ford came forward in a Washington Post interview and said that he attempted to sexually assault her when they were younger. Realistically, I believe that Republicans will go on with their schedule and vote to confirm Kavanaugh as this country’s next Supreme Court Justice in spite of Ford’s revelations.

The ultimate 1991 confirmation of Thomas to the court was just as contentious. During the confirmation hearings, Anita Hill, a former colleague of Thomas, came forth and reported her allegation of sexual harassment by Thomas. He was nominated to the court by former president, George H.W. Bush. The nomination of Thomas was opposed by major civil rights organizations, including the NAACP. The Standing Committee for the Federal Judiciary of the American Bar Association, went as far as to even consider him unqualified. Hill gave her eight-hour testimony, one month into Thomas’ confirmation hearing, before the Judiciary Committee led by former vice president, Joe Biden.

Hill, a law professor, testified that Thomas would frequently make inappropriate comments and unwanted advances directed at her when they worked together at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where Thomas had been her supervisor. Thomas refused to admit to any such behavior in the few days of testimony that followed, and finally declared that he would not answer any more questions, calling the hearings “a high-tech lynching.” 

He became so incensed at what he thought was disrespect to him during the confirmation hearings that when Senator Orrin Hatch asked Thomas if he wanted to withdraw his name from nomination, Thomas answered, “I would rather die than withdraw. If they’re going to kill me, they’re going to kill me.” Thomas was ultimately confirmed to the Supreme Court by a narrow margin of 52 to 48.

From the time former president H. W. Bush nominated Thomas to his ultimate confirmation, more than 100 days passed. It was one of the longest confirmation hearings for a justice in the history of the court.

Kavanaugh has some difficult days ahead, but he too, will probably be confirmed as this country’s next Supreme Court Justice.