When Clarence Thomas, our newest Supreme Court Justice, asked to be sworn in a week before the official ceremony, so he could go on the payroll early, it summed up the whole affair for me. Why are conservatives cheering his ascent to the judicial oligarchy? Yes, it’s fun to beat liberal senators, but not with a virtual ringer for one of their guys. Here was one of the most privileged characters in modern American society moaning about discrimination. He lofted through private school. Holy Cross College, Yale Law School, and increasingly important posts in the Reagan and Bush administrations, and to the Supreme Court itself at the age of 42. Why? As everyone knows but refuses to say, because of his race.

Justice Thomas is not only a racial victimologist, but a pre-1975 liberal. In his first set of hearings, for example, Thomas traduced the South of his youth, calling it “totalitarian,” and whined about what a tough life he’d had because of his “black skin.” Because of racism, his grandfather was called “boy,” and his family had an “unworkable and unusable” outhouse.

The old South was one of the most courteous societies on Earth. Especially in interracial dealings, people were punctilious. That doesn’t mean some boor didn’t insult his grandfather, only that it wouldn’t have been the norm. As to the outhouse, a fixture for many white and black Southerners of the time, there is only one way it can become “unworkable and unusable”: when nobody cleans it out. The condition of the Thomas family outhouse was not the white man’s fault.

When he wasn’t discussing the plumbing, Thomas repudiated the endorsements of private property his ghostwriters had prepared for him, and called “the self-evident fact that all men are created equal” the “central notion of our regime.” Earlier, he had written that we should impose “inherent equality” through “aggressive enforcement of the civil rights laws and equal employment opportunity laws.” Which begs the question: if equality is inherent, why does it need to be enforced? In fact, it is self-evident that men are not created equal—in intelligence, attractiveness, will, talent, vigor, parents, opportunities, etc. The great principle of the human race is radical inequality. As Ludwig von Mises pointed out, inequality is what makes the division of labor and society itself possible. If we were identical, there would be no comparative advantage and no reason to cooperate.

Thomas also claimed, under oath, never to have talked about Roe v. Wade. Conservatives who were outraged by Joe Biden’s plagiarism thought Thomas’s perjury was charming: his lying was justified to attain power. Thomas’s lack of intellectual footprints also seemed untroubling to many conservatives. The Washington Post reported that on a courtesy visit to Senator Howard Metzenbaum (Democrat-Ohio), Thomas was asked about natural law. “Senator,” he said, “do you believe it’s right for one human being to own another?” “No,” said Metzenbaum. “Well, that’s natural law.” “Can a person own an animal?” asked Metzenbaum. Thomas said he would have to check the natural law authorities on that toughie. Yet the “conservative” Thomas was endorsed by the Washington Post because he would bring “diversity to the court”: he was raised by the “functionally illiterate.”

Thomas’s way was made smooth. Then came the 11th-hour speedbump: “sexual harassment.” It’s not often that I feel I’m getting my money’s worth from the federal government, but that weekend I did. Who was telling the truth? Law professor Anita Hill, who claimed Thomas had crudely propositioned her when she had worked for him? Or Thomas, who furiously denied the charge?

One theory is that both were telling the truth, and both were lying, i.e., that they had an affair. That would be why Thomas promoted her at the civil rights office of the Department of Education, and why he demoted her at EEOC when he replaced her with what he described as a “lighter-skinned woman.” It would explain why at the time he drove Hill home at night, stopped in “for an hour or so,” and why he set up her stereo. This relationship would explain why the Oral Roberts law school dean said they were so friendly at breakfast, “laughing” and “laughing at laughing.” It would also explain her telephone calls to him over the years, which only ceased with what were probably sarcastic congratulations on his marriage.

Under this scenario, Thomas might have made the famous remarks, but as his version of sexual banter to his mistress. Even if it wasn’t banter, however, verbal sexual harassment shouldn’t be a federal case, for First Amendment and other reasons. But it is wrong. And surely if federal regulations are to be applied to anyone, it should be to the federal officials who created them, Clarence Thomas among them, with special force.

At work (if I may use that word about D.C.), Hill said Thomas would tell her tales of the dirty movies he had watched the night before, usually involving orgies or bestiality. Some Yale Law School classmates claimed that animals had always interested the judge. In the mornings at New Haven, they said, he would deliver an impromptu colloquium on last night’s flick (and Flicka). Thomas refused to answer questions about his alleged interest in pornography, and the senators—caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of the feminists and the blacks—didn’t dare ask. Newsweek, however, reported that a prominent newspaper (the Washington Post) is sitting on a computer listing of Thomas’s video rentals. They are rank stuffs. When Robert Bork’s rental records were published in the Post, he was found to be a man of taste. Do even Thomas’s most ardent supporters think that about him?

Yet it was all, claimed Thomas in his prepared testimony, a “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who deign to think for themselves.” Thomas-was—as usual—using race to advance himself Few noticed that he didn’t know the meaning of “deign,” as few noticed when Senator Alan Simpson (Republican-Wyoming) quoted Othello to Thomas, about “Who steals my purse steals trash; . . . But he that filches from me my good name . . . . ” that the words were spoken to deceive, by that master of deception, Iago.

Thomas accused his enemies of using a racially bigoted stereotype of black male sexuality, but no one called black moviemaker Spike Lee to testify, although his work seems to be filled with these same bigoted stereotypes. To the trumpeted delight of the White House, black public opinion, mildly pro-Thomas before, swung heavily to his side when he charged racism, no matter how absurdly.

Some saw Hill as telling tales out of school. “For us black people, anything that occurs within the race, whether in the workplace, within our families or private lives, it’s a deeply personal and private affair,” UCLA law professor Kim Crenshaw told the Los Angeles Times. “For that to be made so very public is a sense of violation of our collective privacy.” “If black folks keep telling on one another, the black man will never get ahead,” said D.C. businessman Irvin Johnson.

After watching Thomas’s defense, however, constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein came to a different conclusion: that the “nomination should be rejected” because of the temperament he displayed. Indeed, it’s tough to think of Antonin Scalia reacting in the same way. And according to John Elvin of the Washington Times, some legal officials found Thomas to be “obnoxious, arrogant, rude, and impolite.”

The White House contended that the hearings were a trial, and Thomas should be confirmed unless he were found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But that’s nonsense. Thomas was up for a lifetime appointment to one of the highest offices. Any reasonable doubt should have defeated him. (One reason the debate was so hot was the stakes: a lifetime appointment. Strict term limitations make sense for federal judges.)

By using racial racketeering to confirm Thomas, to the cheers of conservatives, the White House may have changed the Republican Party. The first fruit was Bush’s endorsement of the antiproperty, antibusiness Civil Rights Act of 1991. It may also have changed the conservative movement. Only five senators voted against this horrendous bill. Any opposition to similar scams will now be unrespectable.

Clarence Thomas may be an improvement on Roe v. Wade, although I’m not holding my breath. But on race privilege, the problem he was supposed to be nominated to combat, he will indeed be another Thurgood Marshall. And just like the appointment of Jack Kemp to HUD, we now have another conservative victory to celebrate.