BOSTON (CBS) – The 20th anniversary of one of the ugliest events in modern American political history came and went last week with hardly any public notice, and therein lies a sad tale of just how far our political culture has degenerated.
Listen to Jon’s commentary:
I’m talking about the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in October 1991, which became a riveting national spectacle when a former colleague of his at two different federal agencies came forward with claims that Thomas had made unwelcome sexual remarks to her when they worked together.
Her sensational testimony didn’t manage to deny him his seat on the court, mainly because he flatly denied any sexual harassment and there was no solid proof of it.
Polls at the time showed the vast majority of Americans believed Thomas, but Anita Hill’s story did raise public awareness of sexual harassment to new heights.
But no matter who you believed, the Hill-Thomas hearings, into which Hill was reluctantly dragged after the press was leaked an FBI report about her claims against Thomas, also showed how willing political adversaries were to use character assassination as a weapon.
And hasn’t that become the defining characteristic of our political life?
Criticism of the Clinton presidency didn’t end at his policies, or even the acknowledged problems in his personal life; he and his wife were unfairly demeaned as swindlers, congenital liars, even murderers.
To George W. Bush haters, he wasn’t just a bad president – he was stupid, evil and bloodthirsty.
And President Obama?
Hardly even an American; in fact, to his loonier critics, someone bent on destroying America.
All of the above is complete nonsense, vulgar nonsense at that.
But that’s how too many of us play the game these days.
Don’t believe me?
Later on, I will share with you some of the nasty hate mail I will receive in response to this commentary, because in our time, disgracefully, you can’t just disagree with someone, you have to revile them too.
You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.