When a white leftist senator smeared a black conservative Supreme Court nominee.
Even with help from Yuri Andropov’s Soviet Union, the Democrats could not defeat Ronald Reagan in 1984. Led by Ted Kennedy, who had sought aid from the Soviets, the Democrats smeared Reagan’s nominee Robert Bork, who failed to gain a seat on the high court. In 1991, when George Bush nominated black conservative Clarence Thomas, the smear artist Kennedy took a back seat to Howard Metzenbaum, a man well suited for the task.
The Ohio Democrat could boast strong leftist credentials and had been a consort of the Communist Party. Metzenbaum served as secretary for the National Lawyers Guild, a CPUSA front, and treasurer of the Ohio School of Social Science, a CPUSA training operation. Metzenbaum never served in the U.S. armed forces but in 1974 he charged that challenger John Glenn never “met a payroll,” and that Glenn’s military and NASA experience did not even qualify as a job. Glenn replied:
“I spent 23 years in the United States Marine Corps. I lived through two wars. I flew 149 missions. My plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire on twelve different occasions. I was in the space program. It wasn’t my checkbook, it was my life that was on the line. It was not a nine-to-five job where I took time off to take the daily cash receipts to the bank.
I ask you to go with me, as I went the other day, to a Veterans Hospital and look those men, with their mangled bodies, in the eye and tell them they didn’t hold a job. You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and tell her that her son did not hold a job.
“You go with me to the space program, and go as I have gone to the widows and orphans of Ed White and Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee, and you look those kids in the eye and tell them that their Dad didn’t hold a job.
“You go with me on Memorial Day coming up and you stand in Arlington National Cemetery, where I have more friends than I’d like to remember, and you watch those waving flags. You stand there, and you think about this nation, and you tell me that those people didn’t have a job.
“I’ll tell you, Howard Metzenbaum, you should be on your knees every day of your life thanking God that there were some men – some men – who held a job. And they required a dedication to purpose and a love of country and a dedication to duty that was more important than life itself. And their self-sacrifice is what made this country possible.
I have held a job, Howard.”
Undaunted by his loss, Metzenbaum gained a Senate seat in 1976. In the 1991 Thomas hearings the aging white leftist grilled the much younger black man, and that made for some fascinating optics. Metzenbaum believed he was intellectually superior to Thomas, but as the nominee showed, the reverse was true.
When the Ohio Democrat tried to lure the nominee into a discussion of natural law, Thomas asked the senator if he would consider having a human-being sandwich for lunch instead of a turkey sandwich. As that illustrated, all law is based on some sense of moral principles inherent in the nature of human beings, which any astute college student would have understood. Metzenbaum didn’t get it and quickly changed the subject. The black conservative made the white liberal look a fool.
It was likely the enraged Metzenbaum who leaked Anita Hill’s story to Nina Totenburg at National Public Radio and pushed hard on the sexual harassment allegations. Black businessman John Doggett testified in favor of Thomas and Metzenbaum charged that Doggett was also guilty of sexual harassment. For those who missed it, here is Thomas facing off with white liberal Joe Biden, then-chairman of the judiciary committee:
“Senator, I would like to start by saying unequivocally, uncategorically, that 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.
“A second, and I think more important point. I think that this today is a travesty. I think that it is disgusting. I think that this hearing should never occur in America. This is a case in which this sleaze, this dirt, was searched for by staffers of members of this committee, was then leaked to the media, and this committee and this body validated it and displayed it at prime time over our entire nation. How would any member on this committee, any person in this room, or any person in this country, would like sleaze said about him or her in this fashion? Or this dirt dredged up and this gossip and these lies displayed in this manner? How would any person like it?
“The Supreme Court is not worth it. No job is worth it. I am not here for that. I am here for my name, my family, my life, and my integrity. I think something is dreadfully wrong with this country when any person, any person in this free country would be subjected to this.
“This is not a closed room. There was an FBI investigation. This is not an opportunity to talk about difficult matters privately or in a closed environment. This is a circus. It’s a national disgrace.
“And from my standpoint as a black American, as far as I’m concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.”
Thomas’ “high-tech lynching” charge enraged West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, a former Ku Klucker who voted against Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice. Byrd also voted against Clarence Thomas, as did Senators Ted Kennedy and Howard Metzenbaum. The slime failed to stick and the highly qualified black man gained confirmation 58-42.
In 1994 Howard Metzenbaum did not run for reelection and when he passed away in 2008 the Washington Post obituary cited Ted Kennedy’s praise of the Ohio Democrat as “the conscience of the Senate.” John Glenn, the astronaut and Marine Corps veteran Metzenbaum said never held a job, passed away on December 8, 2016 at the age of 95.
Clarence Thomas who survived Metzenbaum’s “high-tech lynching,” remains on the Supreme Court.
Like Clarence Thomas, the erudite Neil Gorsuch could easily show up his accusers as fools. The Trump nominee stands a good chance of being confirmed but as Thomas can tell him, the false accusations will not end there.
Last October, with the presidential election approaching, a woman named Moira Smith claimed that Thomas groped her at a party in 1999. As it turns out, Smith is a longtime partisan Democrat and her accusation came 25 years after the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. Racism may have been involved but the bogus charge was surely an opening salvo against anyone Donald Trump chose to nominate.
Legions of Ted Kennedy and Howard Metzenbaum impersonators are now mounting a surge against Neil Gorsuch. Before Trump even put him on the list, the nominee may be sure, the Democrats were auditioning new Anita Hills and Moira Smiths. Look for them to appear before Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Part Trois opens on C-SPAN.