The Re-Evaluation of Clarence Thomas

The Left is forced to confront Thomas's brilliance -- and its own racism against him.

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.