The Re-Evaluation of Clarence Thomas


This week, Jeffrey Toobin, leftist columnist with The New Yorker magazine, wrote a fascinating profile of Clarence Thomas.  Wrote Toobin:

“In several of the most important areas of constitutional law, Thomas has emerged as an intellectual leader of the Supreme Court.  Since the arrival of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in 2005, and Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., in 2006, the Court has moved to the right when it comes to the free-speech rights of corporations, the rights of gun owners, and, potentially, the powers of the federal government; in each of these areas, the majority has followed where Thomas has been leading for a decade or more. Rarely has a Supreme Court Justice enjoyed such broad or significant vindication.”

Those of us on the right knew that Thomas needed no such vindication.  This was always a brilliant man with a very clear view of the Constitution – a view of the Constitution, by the way, significantly more consistent than that of the much-ballyhooed Justice Scalia.  While Scalia, for example, pays homage to stare decisis, or the notion that past decisions should not be overruled, Thomas does not – he believes that if a decision was wrong when it was first made, it does not become more right simply because it was enshrined long ago.  According to Scalia, “Clarence Thomas doesn’t believe in stare decisis, period.  If a constitutional line of authority is wrong, he would say, ‘let’s get it right.’”  This is an admirably conservative position.

Thomas’ opinions are not dazzlingly entertaining like Scalia’s; they are not displays of legal virtuosity like John Roberts’.  They are almost always simple, to the point, and tremendously clear.  Thomas is the model conservative justice, not Scalia or Roberts or Alito.  And now the left is beginning to take notice.

“The silent Justice is said to be an intellectual nonentity, a cipher for his similarly conservative colleague, Antonin Scalia,” Toobin writes.  But those who follow the Court closely find this stereotype wrong in every particular …. More than virtually any of his colleagues, he has a fully wrought judicial philosophy that, if realized, would transform much of American government and society. Thomas’s views both reflect and inspire the Tea Party movement …”

Despite Thomas’ brilliance and his capacity for leading an entire judicial movement, the left has spent the majority of the last two decades painting him as a sexual aggressor and a silent moron.  If such slanderous accusations had been made against a black liberal justice, there is no doubt that the media would have claimed racism.  In Thomas’ case, however, the media have been enthusiastically complicit in the attacks.

The truth about Thomas is simple: he is brilliant and crystal clear in his opinions.  He does not ask questions in oral argument because, as everyone knows but no one acknowledges, oral arguments are stupid.  They are stupid because everyone has already filed detailed briefs explaining their positions, and it is quite rare for a justice to ask a question to which he or she does not already know the answer.  Oral arguments are for show.  Thomas isn’t about show.  He is about results.

Now the left is catching onto that fact, which makes for an uncomfortable revelation on their part.  To recognize that Thomas has been smart all along means that they labeled him stupid because of his race.  He wasn’t stupid because he was conservative.  Liberals might constantly label conservative politicians stupid, no conservative justice has been labeled stupid except for Thomas in the last thirty years.  He was labeled stupid because he was black and conservative.

When Barack Obama showed up in Washington D.C. in September 2008 and held a meeting with the Bush Administration about the economy, saying virtually nothing the entire time, no one in the media labeled him stupid.  Yet when Thomas does the same thing in a role as adjudicator – a role in which silence is an entirely appropriate stance – the left labeled him a simpleton.

The good news here is that liberals drastically underestimated Thomas.  Thomas proved them wrong with his actions and his words; for decades to come, his opinions will be read when Justice Ginsburg’s are lying, dust-covered, on a shelf somewhere in the back of Harvard’s Langdell Library.  For once, the left’s racism was good for America – if they hadn’t been racist, maybe they would have fought as hard against Thomas’ brilliant jurisprudence as they did against his confirmation.

  • Larry

    Ginsburg's opinions should not be left to gather dust, they should be held up to the bright light of day as shining examples of how not to do it.

  • Ron Carnine

    The truth is, Thomas is brilliant. He is often the lone voice of common sense and gives the Constitution the honor that our forefathers intended. It is not a "living" document that changes with the wind of liberalism but stands as the voice of Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton and Madison proclaim. Thomas went through hell to get the position and attention that he so richly deserves, the left knows the mistake it made in attacking this interesting and extremely capable individual..

  • scum

    Thomas has barely spoken in ten years.

  • Wesley69

    I understand that 74 Democratic congressmen are demanding that Justice Clarence Thomas recuse himself from sitting on a case challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare because of his wife’s involvement in the tea party movement. If this isn't an exercise in Alinsky tactics, I don't know what is. Then again, Justice Thomas should be familar with it: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." But the laugh now seems to be on them. The Left has underestimated Justice Thomas's brillance. "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon." They have hammered Thomas for his supposed stupidity. Will Thomas have the last laugh and deal them the most severe blow that any Justice can, to help kill ObamaCare, the long-awaited dream program of the Democrat Party???? I hope so.

    • aharris

      Thomas can only recuse himself if Kagan goes first. She was directly involved in legal defense of the law inquestion. Thomas' involvement is indirect at best through his wife's involvement with political causes.

  • Hank Rearden

    I have only read Thomas' opinions from time to time, but they have been on the high profile cases. They are always a joy to read because reading Thomas' reasoning is like scratching an itch. That the Left has just discovered that he is a smart guy shows that they don't do their homework.

    • nightspore

      Exactly. Their thinking is usually done on cruise control.

  • Lisa Richards

    Studying Thomas's opinions in Constitutional Law classes was most enjoyable, because this guy truly is thoughtful. He does not go along, he will change his vote 24 hours later if he feels he was wrong. He thinks for himself, his dissents and opinions are well worth reading. Please all do.

  • alexander

    leftist part of Supremes are only WH tube; sold-out socialists…what a shame…
    Thank you, Mr. Thomas, and your allies :)

  • johnnywoods

    Clarence Thomas is a great American and ranks right up there with the "Founding Fathers". They should carve his face on Mt. Rushmore.

    • Questions

      Oh, please. It's crowded enough up there as it is.

      • johnnywoods

        Maybe they can re-carve Teddy Roosevelt`s face into Mr. Thomas` face.

  • net observer

    I heard about Toobin's piece last week. Happy to see Clarence Thomas come out smelling like a rose. Funny how people are considered dumb because they don't showboat or run their mouths as much as others do.

  • Fred Dawes

    keep a eye on him

  • tagalog

    The Left NEVER says a right-wing type is good or intellectually/morally admirable unless there's some political reason for doing it. Keep your ears open to hear the second shoe drop.

  • Guest

    Your statement that oral argument is "stupid" requires more than your flat assertion. Advocates, scholars, justices, and clerks know that this is the only time prior to the conference for the justices to signal their thinking to their colleagues. By failing to participate in this odd form or conversation, Justice Thomas misses an opportunity for coalition-building. And we can all agree that one need only count to five in order to win. Service on the court involves a measure of strategy. Remaining silent seems inconsistent with one of the important objectives of oral argument.

  • FlyanSosser

    The left already has a favorite name to call Clarence Thomas. It is "Uncle Tom". I have no idea where they got this name from (maybe from some book, I guess) but the left will use it without fail when things get rough.

  • angel

    The Left calls anyone who disagree with them a stupid moron and any other slander that they feel they can make stick. These delusional morons are very predictable.

  • James Drew

    Clarence Thomas LIED to congress, period. He should never have been confirmed. Notwithstanding, he is a harebrain who lacks the intellect to formulate relevant questions during hearings, so he remains mute.
    He is often seen dozing-off and rarely pays attention to arguements. My friend argued a case in supreme for two days and Clarence did not ask a single question !!! Furthermore, his wife is a teabag party loyalist, and if you think he's not doing her bidding, you are in a deep state of denial. He is a moron who lied under oath and should never have been considered for such an important post.