Since the Hill hearings, sexual harassment and power dynamics in the office have made big news. During the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal—though their interaction fell into the area of consensual relations—Hill was deeply bothered by the potential damage to interns who didn't want to engage in that kind of behavior in order to get favor in the White House. She also believed it sent a bad message to the country about the role women are supposed to play. Still, she felt sympathy for Lewinsky, who was a decade younger than Hill had been, with no career to fall back on, when she faced testifying and the resulting public scrutiny. "And she clearly had a very emotional attachment to the president. I did not have that burden," Hill says.

Hill can watch events like this from outside the fray, but her moment in the news may not be over yet. An appointment to the Supreme Court is for life, so Thomas's position is safe. With Chief Justice William Rehnquist possibly stepping down after the session ends in late June, however, court watchers wonder who might replace him. When previously asked about federal judicial appointments, Bush has said he would select judges like Thomas and Antonin Scalia, indicating a preference for such conservatives. That leads people to wonder whether Thomas might get the nod for chief justice. Hill would like to think that the president will not make that choice. "I think he realizes that he's going to have some battles and this one may not even be worth it," she says. "And I don't know that even Karl Rove is willing to take this one on." Still, Bush has proved himself disinterested in the notion of conserving political capital for a later date, and Thomas was his father's man.

Hill has no desire to disturb the hard-won tranquility it took her more than a decade to establish, but life has also made her less cautious about taking risks. "What are they going to do to me?" she says. "By the time somebody has called you a liar, a psychotic, and incompetent, there's not much left to hurl at you. Having survived all that, I'm not too worried about what else can be done. And I don't necessarily see the benefit in being guarded, because I was quite guarded before and it didn't help. That's really not a protection." Spoken like a true whistle-blower.

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