IT SEEMS LIKE only yesterday that Clarence...

IT SEEMS LIKE only yesterday that Clarence Thomas told the Senate Judiciary he had never discussed Roe vs. Wade even in private, and Democratic senators all but called him a liar.

But it wasn't last week, it was two years ago. Yesterday (figuratively speaking; actually it was last Thursday) Ruth Bader Ginsburg was telling the committee that she had never, ever discussed the death penalty, and the same Democrats, Joseph Biden, Edward Kennedy, Howard Metzenbaum, uttered not a word of skepticism.


Before she was a judge she was a law professor and lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. And she never, ever discussed the death penalty? Yeah, sure.

My favorite moment in the Ginsburg hearings came when Sen. Orrin Hatch began questioning Judge Ginsburg about this.


She said she couldn't hear him. His microphone had not yet been turned on, while Senator Biden's had not yet been turned off, and Biden's whispers could be heard. Taking all this in, Sen. Alan Simpson explained, "There's a screw loose in the speaker."

I know The Sun has endorsed Judge Ginsburg, but I myself, for a compelling reason, find that hard to do. She's from Brooklyn! We've never had a Supreme Court justice from Brooklyn, and for good reason.

She says things like "Supreme Co-wet." And "in that case oil three strands were involved." And so forth. I grew up in the South about the time Judge Ginsburg was growing up in Brooklyn, and most of the movies I saw and most of the radio shows I listened to, especially comedies, used that Brooklyn accent to typecast a character as dumb or unsavory. Y'all know what I mean?

I think Judge Ginsburg achieved a first in Supreme Court nomination proceedings. She swore at the committee. I'm sure Robert Bork swore at Teddy Kennedy and Howard Metzenbaum under his breath, but not as I recall out loud.

Judge Ginsburg was being hounded on whether she agreed with certain Supreme Court decisions. She ducked until the Dred Scott case came up. That was the pre-Civil War decision that said blacks could not be citizens. Why comment on that but not other cases, judge? Because the other cases might come back to the Supreme Court in some form, "[but] I'm damn sure Dred Scott won't come back."

What disturbs me even more than the way she pronounces certain words is the way Judge Ginsburg defines certain words. Sen. Arlen Specter was trying to get her to say whether she thought the Korean War was a war. She told the committee that in her theory of jurisprudence she does not always define a word the same way every time.

That sounded to me a little like Humpty Dumpty jurisprudence: "When I use a word," he said, "it means just what I choose it to mean."

Thursday: What does "use" mean? And "sex"?