The same Bible passage that Justice Brett Kavanaugh found comfort in during his contentious Supreme Court confirmation battle last fall, Justice Clarence Thomas turned to for strength as a nominee in 1991, as well.
Authors Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino in their new bestselling book, “Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court,” recount Kavanaugh is a regular churchgoer and served as lector every eight weeks at Blessed Sacrament parish in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
“As Providence would have it, his turn was up again,” the night in July 2018 President Donald Trump invited the then-appeals court judge to the White House for an interview to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.
Kavanaugh — who had clerked for Kennedy at the Supreme Court in the early 1990s — “was struck by the passage he would read that evening. It was from St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians.”
The specific passage was 2 Corinthians 12, verses 7-10: “Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’
“I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
According to Hemingway and Severino, Kavanaugh found the reading so comforting as he awaited word whether Trump would nominate him and what that might entail that he shared it with his clerks at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
“As affecting as he found the apostle’s word at the stressful moment, he could little imagine how apropos they would be in the coming months,” the authors wrote.
Thomas, like Kavanaugh, faced 11th-hour allegations of inappropriate conduct toward women through information leaked to the media after his public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee had concluded.
In both cases, an additional hearing was scheduled to air the allegations in question.
Thomas, also Roman Catholic, found the Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthian church a source or great encouragement: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in deeds, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
For the President George H.W. Bush nominee, the only accuser to testify was Anita Hill. Hill — Thomas’ former assistant prior to him becoming a circuit court judge in 1990 — alleged Thomas had sexually harassed her, primarily through coarse talk about sexual matters as well as asking her on dates on multiple occasions.
Like Kavanaugh, Thomas forcefully denied his accuser’s allegations, saying he had never attempted to date Hill or had conversations with her of a sexual nature.
Thomas chastised the staff of the Judiciary Committee, then chaired by Democrat Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, for leaking the unsubstantiated allegations, which had been reviewed by the FBI during a background check, to the media.
“This is not a closed room. There was an FBI investigation,” Thomas said. “This is not an opportunity to talk about difficult matters privately or in a closed environment. This is a circus. It’s a national disgrace.”
“And from my standpoint as a black American, as far as I’m concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you,” he continued.
“You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. — U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.”
Twenty-seven years later, Kavanaugh would offer just as an impassioned defense before the Judiciary Committee, saying his reputation had been destroyed through unsubstantiated accusations made by professor Christine Blasey Ford.
“I’m not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time,” he said. “But I have never done this to her or to anyone. That’s not who I am, it is not who I was. I am innocent of this charge.”
Kavanaugh: I’m not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in someplace at some time. But I have never done this to her or to anyone. That’s not who I am, it is not who I was. I am innocent of this charge. pic.twitter.com/D2nqxQ4gBq
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) September 27, 2018
Kavanaugh then became choked up recounting how his wife and daughter prayed for Ford.
“The other night Ashley and my daughter Liza said their prayers,” he said. “And little Liza, all of 10 years old, said to Ashley, ‘We should pray for the woman’. That’s a lot of wisdom from a 10-year-old.”
For Hemingway and Severino, though Democrat efforts to derail both Thomas’ and Kavanaugh’s confirmations ultimately failed, the smear campaigns still served the purpose of delegitimizing their targets.
The authors contended for the past 25 years media outlets and many in legal academia have treated Thomas’ guilt as a simple matter of fact, though polling showed a majority of Americans did not believe so after hearing both the nominee and his accuser.
“A similar campaign is already underway against Kavanaugh,” Hemingway and Severino wrote. “The impeachment talk will continue, although it will likely never amount to much because the underlying claims are so baseless.”
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