Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson:
Characteristically pugnacious, Thomas confided to friends like Bolick and Mackey that he was uncomfortable with Duberstain’s stealth approach. Perhaps, left to his own devices, he would have given the Senate and the public a more forthright and illuminating exposition of his views. But honesty was not the best policy, in the view of the White House strategists. As they kept reminding him, their job was to get him to the Supreme Court; once there, he could take on his critics and vote as he pleased.
On the volatile subject of abortion, the White House made a firm decision that Thomas must say nothing definitive. Among other concerns, any indication that the nominee might abrogate a woman’s right to an abortion would risk alienating a crucial Republican moderate on the committee, Arlen Specter. A former prosecutor, Specter had led the Republican mutiny against Bork, dooming him with a sharp cross-examination that lasted two days. During 1991, he had voted with George Bush less than 40 percent of the time, marking himself as a dangerous wild card whom Duberstein’s team would need to woo assiduously. The White House knew that the ardently pro-choice Specter was up for reelection in 1992 and was counting on strong support from women’s groups. If Thomas were to speak out against abortion, Specter would almost certainly have to vote against him, which is why, as John Mackey, the Justice Department handler, later conceded, avoiding the abortion issue was a calculated decision. “If he had answered the abortion question, it would have cost him votes,” Mackey said. “Specter was critical in the outcome. If he [Thomas] had answered, maybe Specter would not have supported him.”