Capitol Games

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Though coauthored, CAPITOL GAMES is narrated from the point of view of Tim Phelps, who, as a reporter for NEWSDAY, first made public Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. From this vantage point two facts become immediately clear. First, Judge Thomas was not the victim of an elaborate conspiracy on the part of ultra-liberal groups as he and some Republican senators alleged. If Thomas was victimized, it was as a result of confusion and incompetence rather than conspiracy. Second, and to most observers quite obviously, the U.S. Senate (and, more particularly, the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Joseph Biden) let the American people down. Senators of both parties placed what they perceived as political expedience above the quest for truth or even fairness. (The authors assign President Bush a crucial role in starting up the cycle of bad faith.)

Phelps and Winternitz also criticize the swarming, proto-hysterical behavior of reporters. Phelps own action of reporting the news of Hill’s accusations once he had confirmation that they had been lodged formally is, however, stoutly defended.

As for the main principals, Thomas and Hill, the authors try to be even-handed. They will, nevertheless, be accused of “liberal bias” by some readers for their suggestion that Thomas displayed more interest in pornographic films than in the fine points of constitutional law. The authors do not speculate on who, Thomas or Hill, was actually telling the truth. Their point is that in the game being played in the nation’s capital, the truth of the matter became completely irrelevant.

Sources for Further Study

Atlanta Journal Constitution. July 5, 1992, p. N9.

Business Week. August 10, 1992, p.10.

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. CXXXVIII, July 15, 1992, p. 2.

Chicago Tribune. August 17, 1992, V, p. 3.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. June 14, 1992, p. 2.

The New Leader. LXXV, October 5, 1992, p.17.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVII, October 25, 1992, p. 1.

The New Yorker. LXVIII, August 17, 1992, p. 7.

San Francisco Chronicle. June 5, 1992, p. REV13.

The Washington Post Book World. XXII, July 12, 1992, p. 1.