LOW TIDE IN AMERICA

LATE SUNDAY NIGHT--Finally, it is over. In Washington, D.C., it is past 2 a.m.
This is the hour for stealth; a perilous period when muggers rule the streets. It's a time for the criminal class to prevail and congressional pay raises to be voted.

The faces of the senators are slack with weariness.
Arizona Senator Dennis DeConcini, that great profile in courage throughout the hearing, has folded his tent early and gone home to be with his domineering wife, Susie. Here is a man who has sold his soul to be on the safe side.

Disgraced by the real estate deals that have made him one of the Senate's richest members, DeConcini spent almost an entire Senate term groveling at the feet of Charlie Keating. DeConcini is a living testimonial to the necessity for congressional term limitations. Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, born on December 5, 1902, is virtually asleep in his chair. There are long lines creasing the faces of Senators Howard Metzenbaum, 74, and Howell Heflin, 71.

The face of Senator Ted Kennedy is scarlet. He is the only 59-year-old who still persists in attending the annual collegiate spring high jinks in Florida. Presumably denied access to alcohol for an entire day, he is testy, inches away from an emotional explosion.

Senator Joseph Biden, the committee chairman, who has fought approaching baldness as heroically as any man in the western world, announces the end.

There is no more dirt to uncover about U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas, a.k.a. "Long Dong Silver." All the important questions remain unresolved. Did Judge Thomas actually boast to Professor Anita Hill about the size of his sex organ, his brilliance at the art of oral sex, or his arcane knowledge of the infinite variety of ways animals copulate with large-breasted women?

What kind of a man is he?
The phrase "Here come da judge" comes to mind. Suddenly, this humorous expression takes on an entirely new significance.

For the country, it has been an incredible weekend.
Judge Thomas, who pretended to be scandalized that anyone might think he harbored secret thoughts about Roe v. Wade, ended by denying vociferously that he was the Pauline Kael of the pornographic-movie field.

The Thomas confirmation hearing was divided into two parts.
During the first, Judge Thomas discussed the philosophy of natural law and elaborated upon the strength he derived from the poverty of his youth.

During the second, he was forced to deny he had ever boasted about the size of his private parts and his natural prowess at putting them into action.

For three days, I have been glued to the television set. I have left it only to go out to the front yard to pick up the Arizona Republic in the morning and the Phoenix Gazette in the afternoon. During recesses I have run to the store to pick up the New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. I can't leave the television set because there is no way to know what remarkable event will take place next.

I take copious notes. This is an old habit. But even during the first day, I realize I am taking too many. I will never be able to decipher them. How will I ever be able to write a coherent piece about my reactions to the drama involving Professor Anita Hill and Judge Clarence Thomas, the man from Pinpoint, Georgia?

Now that it's over, the room is a mess. There are newspapers all over the floor. I have placed them in piles, hoping to organize the important stories that have been written by journalists all over this country.

Many of the stories are models of the newspaper art. They are written without apparent prejudice on the part of the writer. It is as though they came out of a machine.

I admire the ability of the writers to do this. I admit that I am totally prejudiced in the matter.

In the beginning, I was convinced that Judge Thomas didn't have the legal qualifications to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

I believe Professor Hill's account of their relationship. The more Judge Thomas shouts about "high-tech lynching for uppity blacks," the more I am convinced that he is banging the table to confuse the issue.

Senators Orrin Hatch, Alan Simpson and Arlen Specter are all in on the cover-up. To them, Professor Hill is either a spurned woman or engaging in sexual fantasy.

In a moment of excess, Specter accuses her of perjury. When she takes a lie-detector test, he gulps and then decides it is of no value.

It will be difficult to forget the appearance of Anita Hill before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She wears a green suit. She is, under the circumstances, incredibly poised.

Within a few minutes, she is detailing the remarks Judge Thomas made to her a decade previously. They are so obscene as to be memorable. No one who hears Anita Hill tell her story can ever doubt that.

"One of the oddest episodes I remember was an occasion in which Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office," she says.

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