HBO’s Confirmation Is a Painful Flashback

Beverly Isom

“If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Poet/philosopher)

ahillThis Saturday, April 16 at 8:00 p.m. EST on HBO, “Confirmation”, the story of the 1991 public hearings on the Senate vote for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with witness Anita Hill will debut on cable television. As a raging progressive and lukewarm loyal Democrat, I admit to watching the hearings hoping that in this real-life saga, the woman would win. And in some small way, I hoped all women would win. But for three days during those crisp Washington, DC October days, I saw an America where men judged women about an issue they had little knowledge of and even less patience for understanding. Four votes could have made the difference in who is sitting on the high court now but maybe “passion and party” blinded their eyes. However, the final floor vote was not strictly along party lines: 41 Republicans and 11 Democrats (Dixon (D-IL), Exon (D-NE), DeConcini (D-AZ), Robb (D-VA), Hollings (D-SC), Fowler (D-GA), Nunn (D-GA), Breaux (D-LA), Johnston (D-LA), Boren (D-OK), and Shelby (D-AL) now (R-AL)) voted to confirm Justice Thomas while 46 Democrats and 2 Republicans (Jeffords (R-VT) and Packwood (R-OR)) voted to reject the nomination.

Television has afforded us the ability to have a piercing and lasting image of how we remember history. Even though Vice President Joe Biden, as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against Clarence Thomas and authored the Violence Against Women Act, I can’t forget the memory of him presiding and looking down at Hill during those hearings. Though the hearings were conducted to confirm Thomas they were really much more about sexual harassment in the workplace. Hill had the courage to withstand the public aggressive intimidation by a dozen men who were not her peers. Biden among them. He did very little to change the “optics” on what we saw on television. He did not stop the vicious and searing attacks from Senators Orrin Hatch, Alan Simpson, and the late Arlen Spector. Anita Hill’s public humiliation was felt by many women who knew her story firsthand from assembly lines to corporate board rooms. There is no question that while Thomas won the confirmation, nameless women in the workplace have benefited from Hill’s heroic stand.
The Anita Hill story has been written about and a documentary was also done, but this weekend Kerry Washington transforms into Anita Hill to tell the story once again. “If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us!”

Comments

  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    Memory dims with passing time and I suspect you have forgotten the parts of this 25 year old drama that don’t support your biases and prejudices. You also seem to have inside knowledge of a program that has not been broadcast.
    Knowledgeable political pundits acknowledge the airing of this program is part of the Democratic Party campaign strategy.
    I plan to watch the program and then watch the website http://www.confirmationbiased.com to refresh my memory of the parts of the story the program omitted and changed to make a political point.

  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    I watched the program and then reviewed the website mentioned above. Much of the program was fabricated to further the Democratic Party campaign strategy. Shame on HBO.