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In Search of a Midnight Apology: Virginia Thomas and the Politics of Reconciliation

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When the telephone rings in the wee hours of the morning, there is a near certain belief it might be an emergency. In Anita Hill's case, however, the call left on an office voicemail system during witching hours was a plea from the begrudged wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas requesting a 20-year overdue apology on his behalf.

While many are at a loss as to why the call came seemingly out of the blue, there's only one explanation for such a request two decades later -- sneaky politics in a heated midterm election cycle. Mrs. Thomas' call was much less about a desire for reconciliation and more about creating a platform for her to criticize the Obama administration and whip up support for the Tea Party in the run up to elections.

Since her unusual request, Virginia Thomas has been the toast of the town, appearing on talk and radio shows across the country. Brilliant, Tea Party strategists, checkmate. Anita Hill, the pawn in all of this, on the other hand, must be at a loss in terms of how to reject a third-party request for an apology without drudging up the Supreme Court Justice hearings that not only changed her life forever, but raised significant questions about race, gender and meritocracy in our country.

The hearings divided entire communities along ideological, racial and gender lines. It was a very difficult moment in our country's history around race relations and the meaning of progress. Virginia Thomas is trying to go there again. She wants to remind us that racial tension and divisions still exist.

Ms. Thomas wants the midterm elections to be a referendum on the Obama administration and, more importantly, Barack Obama himself and the discomfort that our nation still has around race and power.

It is true, midterm elections are usually a progress report on how Americans feel about the state of country. If I were issuing a grade to the administration today, I'd give it a C+, mainly because there is still so much work to be done and we have yet to experience the full benefit of policies such as healthcare reform and the stimulus package.

In November, there will be gains and losses on both sides and a few surprises along the way, I suspect. This is politics as usual -- we expect a certain amount of political theater.

In Ms. Thomas' case, the call from an overzealous wife to a woman who allegedly wronged her husband nearly two decades, seems more sinister than entertaining. I also question the judgment of a woman who would throw her own husband under the bus for political gain.

Somehow conflicts between Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston continue to sell, but the request from Virginia Thomas for an apology is something we shouldn't buy. The politics that Ms. Thomas is peddling is neither innocent nor sincere.