WASHINGTON – Anita Hill’s truthfulness was brutally questioned. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., accused her of “flat-out perjury.” So was her sanity. I recall a fevered phone call from a White House adviser peddling the notion that Hill suffered from “erotomania,” a psychiatric disorder involving romantic delusions. So was her character. “A little bit nutty and a little bit slutty,” was the contemptuous assessment of then-conservative, now-liberal activist David Brock.
Most fundamentally, the all-male panel of senators grilling the Oklahoma law professor about her sexual harassment allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, demonstrated repeatedly, floridly, how much they just didn’t get it.
They preened about taking such conduct oh so seriously, then failed, time after time, to demonstrate any grasp of real-world workplace power imbalances. How could Hill have failed to speak out about this alleged mistreatment at the time? If Thomas had behaved as abominably as Hill claimed, they kept asking, how could she have followed him from one job to another?
And here we go again, with Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and the unavoidable question: In 27 years, has nothing changed? The temptation will be to lament the persistence of cluelessness. And, yes, the evidence piles up daily, dumb remark after dumb remark, to support that depressing assessment.