Why Ginni Thomas made that weird phone call to Anita Hill.

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Oct. 20 2010 2:48 PM

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Why Ginni Thomas made that weird phone call to Anita Hill.

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It's also not clear why Ginni Thomas believes that re-arguing Thomas v. Hill 19 years later could possibly benefit Clarence Thomas. Yes, the Internet is buzzing today with claims that Prof. Hill, who never wanted to testify against Thomas in the first place and hasn't sought out any of these Desperate Housewives-style battles, is a liar and always was one. But the Washington Post has already found a former girlfriend of Justice Thomas' who claims that Hill's account of Thomas' behavior in the early 1980s is consistent with the Clarence Thomas she once dated. A new generation of Americans is being reminded of the fact that Hill took a polygraph test at the time of the hearings while Clarence Thomas did not. Anyone who ever read Strange Justice, by Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer, is recalling the exhaustive research they put into establishing that Anita Hill had been smeared.

There can be no doubt that the Thomases like American history a whole lot—whether it's Clarence Thomas' ideological vision of restoring the Constitution as originally written or Ginni Thomas' rhetorical longings for the golden days of the Framers. There's also little doubt that for each of them, what happened 19 years ago is still more urgent and relevant than anything that has happened since. The self-certainty inherent in Ginni Thomas' request that Hill "get past" the confirmation hearings by admitting to have lied about it is the same self-certainty that turned Thomas' autobiography into a painful taxonomy of insults, slurs, and slights.

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The cynic in me believes that there is no gender/race dispute the Tea Party is not willing to exploit for recruitment purposes, that reminding us all of the ugliest moment in American identity politics is no accident just two weeks before an election. The realist in me wonders whether Mrs. Thomas possibly believed this would stay private. She's a brilliant tactician and a superb communicator: She couldn't possibly have expected that ham-fisted attempt at reconciliation would have gone unreported.

But the depressive in me suspects that Ginni Thomas simply doesn't care what any of us think of her attempt to reach out and touch someone she hates. Why would she? She and her husband long ago passed a point at which they worry about how they will be portrayed in the mainstream press. They stopped reading it years ago. They both live in a world in which the facts of Hill v. Thomas don't matter. There are no facts. There are just "our" beliefs and "their" beliefs, just as there is "our" media and "theirs" and "our" Civil War history and "theirs." To criticize either Thomas has always been to join in the imagined conspiracy against them.

Why did Ginni Thomas make her strange call to Anita Hill? She may never explain it fully.  But those of us in the media who are pondering what she may have been trying to tell us should probably stop. This episode had nothing to do with us, and nothing to do with Hill, either. We are not in the Thomases' bubble, and we never will be.

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