Clarence Thomas: “Character” is What Matters

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is busy selling his recently published book My Grandfather’s Son, reviewed in none-too-flattering terms here. Paul Mirengoff over at the conservative Power Line blog reports on last night’s Heritage Foundation dinner at which Thomas and his wife, Virginia, were the guests of honor.

Graced with a friendly audience, Thomas got off to a rousing start with:

Justice Thomas began his after-dinner remarks by saying he wishes the new media had been around at the time of his confirmation hearings because it “gets beyond the monopoly” held by the liberal media.

Recall that Thomas thinks the sole purpose of Establishment Clause was protect state-established religions from federal interference and, thus, doesn’t bind the states. That being true, it’s not especially shocking to find that he believes in nonexistents such as the liberal media.

But he wasn’t done there:

Justice Thomas argued that leadership and quality public service, whether in a bureaucracy or on a court, is much less a matter of resume and ideology than a matter of “character.”

“Character” in this context is quite the squishy term, of course, readily amenable to differing interpretations. As I see it, Thomas is to character what Hillary Clinton is to radical feminism, i.e., not a goddamn thing.

It’s not that hard, [Thomas] finds, to figure out the right direction or the correct legal answer.

Thomas is hardly alone in this regard, but believing that there’s a correct and readily discernible “answer” to every legal question is naive beyond description. Thomas would do well to read carefully a collection of essays by Judge Richard Posner published in a book titled Overcoming Law.

The challenge comes in having “the guts, fortitude, and intellectual honesty” to proceed uncompromisingly once one has figured this out.

Sounds good at first blush, but do we really need to catalog all the death and destruction this attitude has wrought over the millenia? Given Thomas’ views on what’s right and correct, we should probably be thankful that he’s “only” a Supreme Court justice as opposed to Commander in Chief.

This strength of character is particularly important when it comes to the Supreme Court, Thomas suggested, given the system of incentives that’s in place. Because the relevant audience is seen as the nation’s elites, the incentive is to appeal to that audience, which is liberal. Since judges are human, Thomas argued, they tend to respond in accord with this set of incentives. That helps explain why judges “grow in office.”

In Thomas’ strange little world, federal judges decide cases to curry favorable references in law review articles and score invitations to speak at Harvard and Columbia. Thomas has never been one to permit bits of flotsam such as reality trouble his views, but this nonsense is so utterly bereft of experiential grounding that one can only wish he could be compelled to spend a year doing grunt work for a federal trial court judge.

As one this blog’s contributors noted here, last term Thomas voluntarily assumed the position of “Old Weird Uncle Historian of the Court” vacated when Wild Bill Rehnquist died. With the Roberts Court’s second term in only its second day, we can only wonder what delightful nuggets of revisionism will fall from Thomas’ pen this time around.

MORE: Substantial chunks of Justice Thomas’ book and statements during promotional interviews are devoted shitting on Anita Hill. I’ll leave it to the professionals to comment on what that says about the inner workings of Thomas’ mind. Hill responds here.

For the strong of stomach, the drug-addled verbal fellatio Thomas recently received from Rush Limbaugh is available here.

EVEN MORE: New York PI lawyer Eric Turkewitz does some damn fine blawging, and his entry on Thomas is no exception.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • illusory tenant  On October 2, 2007 at 10:49 am

    If you go to this link, you can read Ronald Dworkin’s 1991 essay, “Justice for Clarence Thomas” for three bucks. It’s good stuff.

  • genghishitler  On October 8, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Thanks for the tip! That was a damn fine read.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: