Monday 27 March 2017

Voicemail reignites justice's sex scandal

HOT POTATO: Michelle Obama tends the White House kitchen garden with schoolchildren in Washington last week
HOT POTATO: Michelle Obama tends the White House kitchen garden with schoolchildren in Washington last week

It's unclear if Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, intended her recent appeal to Anita Hill to recant her 1991 allegations of sexual harassment to be made public.

Nor can anybody know for sure that when she placed the call, just after 7.30am on October 9, Mrs Thomas had been galvanised into action after a front-page New York Times story suggested that solicitations of large, anonymous contributions for her Tea Party advocacy group, Liberty Central (specifically two gifts of $500,000 and $50,000 in 2009) could raise conflict-of-interest issues for her husband.

But in the six days since the transcript of Ginni's voice-mail hit the web, the respected 53-year-old conservative has watched her career implode, listened to calls for her husband to resign and, most ironically, fanned the flames of the 19-year-old scandal she was trying to wipe out with a call that has baffled friends and foes alike.

"Good morning, Anita Hill, it's Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband," Ginni says in the message to the woman she once compared to Glenn Close's character in Fatal Attraction. ("I always believed she was probably someone in love with my husband and never got what she wanted," Ginni told People magazine shortly after her husband was confirmed to the Supreme Court).

The message to Hill ends: "So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day."

While Anita Hill, who reported the call to security because she initially thought it was a hoax, will only say she stands by her testimony, another woman who dated Justice Thomas in the early Eighties has come forward for the first time to say his lewd behaviour, as detailed by Hill, didn't surprise her.

"The Clarence I know was certainly capable not only of doing the things that Anita Hill said he did, but it would be totally consistent with the way he lived his personal life then," Lillian McEwen, a former senate judiciary panel lawyer, told The Washington Post. Nor is McEwen, who is writing what now promises to be a most provocative memoir, surprised that Ginni made the phone call to Hill.

"He is married to a woman who is loyal to him and religious in a way he would like to be," she says. "This combination of religiosity and loyalty and belief that he is really the kind of person who he describes in his book would just about compel her to do something like that."

Mrs Thomas is no longer taking questions. In reply to interview requests, her publicist issued a statement explaining: "At this time, she is not doing any media on the issue and isn't commenting further. If that changes, I'll let you know."

Bill didn't always take the biscuit

Maybe it was the distraction of the Monica Lewinsky mess that first contributed to Bill Clinton mislaying the biscuit -- aka the top-secret nuclear codes.

The claims that the prez mislaid the codes in 2000 have made headlines since they were revealed in a memoir by General Hugh Shelton, who served as Clinton's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior).

"At one point during the Clinton administration the codes were actually missing for months. That's a big deal -- a gargantuan deal," writes Shelton, echoing a claim made by another senior military figure, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Patterson, that Clinton's chronic memory lapses caused chaos in a White House under siege.

But Patterson claimed he witnessed the biscuit go AWOL in 1998, the day after the Lewinsky scandal erupted. "He thought he just placed them upstairs," Patterson has said. "We called upstairs, we started a search around the White House for the codes, and he finally confessed that he in fact misplaced them. He couldn't recall when he had last seen them."

Bubba can take some comfort that he isn't the only president to suffer such an embarrassing lapse. A favourite Beltway yarn has Jimmy Carter leaving the card in a suit that was en route to the dry-cleaners -- another tale that has never been confirmed. Or denied.

Michelle a hit at fashion bash

Michelle Obama can give as good as she gets. Last Monday, the first lady didn't put a silver-pump-shod foot wrong when she swung through Manhattan raising more than $1m for Democratic coffers. Unlike previous pit stops in NYC, when she raised eyebrows with her choice of clothes, Mrs Obama arrived at Donna Karan's apartment wearing a grey dress under a camel coat -- both from the designer's autumn collection.

But her choice of clothing was the least of it. Earlier that day, Women's Wear Daily published a blistering report claiming Washington society had had its collective nose put out of joint because the supposedly elitist "first couple seems only too eager to rub shoulders with the New York fashion, media and big-money sets", leaving "DC socialites feeling snubbed, short-changed and officially dissed".

The problem, according to WWD, is that instead of welcoming guests in a formal receiving line, the Obamas tend to stand positioned behind a red velvet rope.

"For a campaign rally, sure, that's fine. But not for the White House,'' one source told WWD.

"Every president -- Bill Clinton, both Bushes, the Reagans -- they would always have a quick receiving line. Each couple would be formally announced. A few words would be exchanged. But this president thinks he is such a rock star. It's like he's inviting guests to the White House just to snub them."

Countering the accusation, Mrs Obama conspicuously spent all of her time last Monday night posing for photos with the likes of Michael Kors, Isaac Mizrahi, Diane von Furstenberg, Tory Burch and Georgina Chapman, who were among the 85 people who paid $10,000 a head for the privilege. Note to critics: aim higher.

Dubya misses perks of top job

'W: The Comeback' tour kicked off in pretty awesome style last week as George Bush hit the talk circuit to drum up interest in his upcoming memoir Decision Points due out on November 9.

And yes, he gets the joke.

"This will come as a shock to some people in our country who didn't think I could read a book, much less write one," he told a rowdy crowd at the University of Texas.

He's even making jokes. In Chicago last Thursday, Bush delivered a nod to tight security measures which required his audience to surrender their mobile phones, saying "I have zero desire to be on YouTube," even as his publishers Random House were rolling out an e-video promo of him delivering a typically clumsy pitch for the book which he describes as a "reflection on what I got right and what I got wrong, and what I'd do differently if I had the chance".

In his Texas speech, which got three standing ovations, Bush described how different his life was as a civilian.

"I miss being pampered. I miss Air Force One. I miss being commander-in-chief of an awesome military," he confessed. Then he goes on to tell the enthralled audience: "Ten days out of the presidency, there I was with a plastic bag in my hand, picking up that which I had been dodging for eight years." Cute.

Sunday Independent

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