Thomas vs. Hill: Contrasts

by Sean Hackbarth

From knowing him for a few years I trust James Joyner to be honest in his observations and resulting conclusions. He was among a group of webloggers privileged to have dinner with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Joyner writes,

Thomas has a hearty laugh and seems to be genuinely enjoying his life. He’s still understandably bitter about the ordeal of his confirmation hearings and has little use for the press corps. Indeed, he turned down an interview request with the Supreme Court correspondents about the book and considers many of them to be “clowns.” He wishes that the blogosphere had been around sixteen years ago to counter the monopoly on information and commentary enjoyed by an elite few in those days.

The Justice shared several anecdotes, some of which are doubtless in the book and others of which I’m sure my dinner companions will share in their posts. What most amused me, simply because of the incongruity, was the fact that Thomas owns a bus, behind which he pulls a car. He apparently harbored notions of being a professional truck driver once upon a time and enjoys the rituals of the truck stop and the interactions with the other drivers. Perhaps because no one expects to see a Supreme Court Justice pull up next to them in the big rig parking lot, he’s seldom recognized and is able to enjoy the camaraderie.

The other thing that stuck with me was a conversation with Bush 41 counsel C. Boyden Gray that took place several years after Thomas was on the bench. Contrary to what most — including Thomas and myself — thought at the time, his selection to replace Thurgood Marshall on the Court’s “black seat” was not tokenism. Indeed, the fact that Thomas was black actually hurt him because Bush didn’t want it to look like he was simply looking for a black man to keep the Court’s quota of one filled. In fact, the administration had hoped to appoint Thomas to replace William Brennan on the Court and was grooming him for that by appointing him to the Court of Appeals.

Unfortunately, Brennan retired sooner than expected and Thomas was deemed to be insufficiently seasoned to make it through confirmation. That the next vacancy was Marshall’s seat proved awkward but they didn’t want to take the chance of not getting another shot (and they wouldn’t). Ultimately, their confidence in Thomas’ grace under pressure and that he would therefore not become “another Souter” prevailed.

Joyner paints a portrait of a serious man doing the best he can in a high-profile position. Contrast this with Thomas’ accuser Anita Hill who wrote an op-ed in the NY TimesDon Surber]:

In the portion of his book that addresses my role in the Senate hearings into his nomination, Justice Thomas offers a litany of unsubstantiated representations and outright smears that Republican senators made about me when I testified before the Judiciary Committee — that I was a “combative left-winger” who was “touchy” and prone to overreacting to “slights.” A number of independent authors have shown those attacks to be baseless. What’s more, their reports draw on the experiences of others who were familiar with Mr. Thomas’s behavior, and who came forward after the hearings. It’s no longer my word against his.

Kathryn Jean Lopez responds:

Contrary to the impression you’ll get from the world, he’s actually fairly generous toward her in the book.

What’s so infuriating is that the book is in part an attempt to fix the
The American Mind › Create New Post — WordPressdamage done — to his reputation, to the whole SCOTUS nomination process. But the New York Times won’t let that go down without a fight.

One gets the impression Justice Thomas expected nothing else as his book was released, but it still infuriates.

Scott Johnson adds,

Anita Hill returns with a column aptly titled “The smear this time” in today’s New York Times. She gives us absolutely no reason to change our mind about her. She replies incredibly and unresponsively to the issues on the basis of which many concluded that her charges against Justice Thomas had been fabricated and leaked illegally for ulterior purposes by political assassins.

Thomas’ book means we have to rehash the he-said/she-said all over again. That’s too bad. Since the Left will never accept him as a serious Supreme Court justice because he doesn’t base his decisions on his skin color they have to perpetuate the belief he was a sexual predator. That’s made the resulting judicial battles since then even more partisan and acrid. “Borking” wasn’t enough. Character assassination became the name of the game.

“Dinner with Justice Clarence Thomas

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2 Responses to “Thomas vs. Hill: Contrasts”


Clarence Thomas: An Angry Black Man…

For Thomas, it seems, everything comes down to race….


No need to rehash the he said/she said. Dr. Hill was pretty much completely supported by the WSJ journalists who investigated the issues (Strange Justice), while the real character assassin (The Real Anita Hill) recanted, and admitted the nature of the hit job.

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