Clarence Thomas Must Have Had a Wonderful Grandfather

I have been impressed with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from the first day I found out who he was. In the 16 years he has been on the US Supreme Court, I have never been disappointed. He is a class act. Justice Thomas says that everything he has become he owes to his grandfather. My grandfather was a lot like his, I think--stern, but he taught me a lot. I'd like to meet Justice Thomas's grandfather someday.

When the smoke clears, Clarence Thomas will be revered as one of the most integral Supreme Court Justices in American history. This little glimpse into his life tells us why:
Centralized governments always love grand theories and five-year-plans. But no government program could have done what my grandfather did for me and for others who needed help. It’s the golden rule—do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The golden rule can’t operate through a government program, it can only work between people.
The FDR generation is wrong, no matter how intense the shrillness of their cries. Clarence Thomas is right. That's why so many liberally-oriented people hate Justice Thomas to this day. He's also black. That makes them hate him even worse.

President George Bush 41 didn't make a lot of correct decisions. He did, however, make at least one good one--Clarence Thomas has been an exemplary Justice. He says
We should always start, when we read the Constitution, by reading the Declaration, because it gives us the reasons why the structure of the Constitution was designed the way it was. And with the Constitution, it was the structure of the government that was supposed to protect our liberty.

...There is our problem: We think we know a lot about our rights, but we know nothing about our country and about the principles that our liberty is based on and depends on.
To the hedonist, who thinks that life is all about rights with no responsibilities, he reminds us that
The common idea that you can do whatever you want to do, because truth and morality are relative, leads to the idea that if you are powerful enough you can kill people because of their race or faith. So ask your relativist friends sometime: What is to keep me from getting a gang of people together and beating the hell out of you because I think you deserve to be beaten? Too many people think that life and liberty are about their frivolous pleasures. There is more to life. And again, largely what relativism reflects is simply a lack of learning.
Clarence Thomas went through a phase in his life where he became an angry young man. Because of his rebelliousness, his grandfather threw him out of the house at age 19. After sinking further, Justice Thomas realized that hatred kills.
...then suddenly I realized that I was full of hate. I remember going in front of the chapel and saying, “Lord, if you take this anger out of my heart, I’ll never hate again.” I hadn’t prayed in years, and that was the beginning of my process back. I went from anger and hatred to cynicism, and then to trying to figure things out. And over the years I came to see cynicism as a disease.
Justice Thomas does not hire women law clerks. Rather,
[He] hire[s] the best law clerks. And it turns out that 30 percent of them happen to be women. If a woman graduates from law school and I say I’m going to hire her because I need a woman, that seems to me dehumanizing, and the job would be tainted.
The following anecdote attests to the strength of Clarence Thomas' character.
it was in February of 1983—and my grandmother was ill. And I saw my grandfather at the hospital and we embraced for the only time in our entire lives. And he looked at me and said that he had recognized that part of the conflict I had been through with him was that I was just like him, independent and strong-willed. I was his son, and it was as though you could see it in his eyes. And then a month later he was dead. And it was at that time—the spring and summer of 1983—that I re-embraced all that he had taught me. I had come full circle. And it was that summer that I decided I would live my life as a memorial to my grandparents’ lives. That’s why I was so upset during my confirmation hearings, because I saw what was being done to me as a desecration of that memorial.
He learned from his grandfather that being right was much better than being popular.
When people used to criticize my grandfather, he’d say: “Well then, dammit, they’ve got a lifetime to get pleased.” That was it. He never spent any more time on it. I never set out to be unpopular, but popularity isn’t of high value to me. I set out to do my best to be right. I am who I am.
When asked where he finds the courage to take unpopular stands, he replies:
In recent years I’ve had some wounded vets here in my office, young kids who have come back from Iraq missing limbs, blinded, in wheelchairs. And people say that I take hits? Do I look wounded to you? These kids have given a lot more. What a price people have paid for us to be right here. I think of them like I think of my grandparents. One of the things I’m always trying to do is to make sure that everything they did was worth it—that if they were to appear right now they would say, “You’ve made our sacrifices worth it.” That’s all I want.
That's all America needs--a few more good men and women to stand up for the truth, no matter how unpopular it may at times seem. Clarence Thomas is an excellent example for us all. So then, must have been his grandfather.


  1. Wow, I'd heard it was a good book, but I think you've convinced me I've got to read it. Thanks for the tip.

  2. The liberal-oriented dislike Thomas because he's black? That's quite a stretch of logic there Frank. Not following you down that convoluted road.

    I just finished the audio-book of this, and I came away with something very different. To me, Thomas sounds very angry, bitter, and suffering from a bit of the whining "poor me" mentality.

    Funny how two people could walk away from the same book with such a polarized reaction to the read, huh?

    Perhaps it's because I don't have the admiration for Thomas' political achievements you do. Either way, I regret the time I spent on the book.

  3. I must disclaim a bit...I haven't read the book yet. I've read the interview linked to in the story, and I watched the interview that Justice Thomas gave on 60 Minutes. The book is on my short reading list, though.


    Here's an attempt at my logic. First I didn't say they dislike him because he's black. I say that they dislike him MORE because he's black. They have not been able to pigeonhole him into what they think blacks should be like. Liberals have a great deal of control over a great number of blacks through their false propaganda, and to see one of the most well known blacks disagree with their false hypotheses is very frustrating to them as their power becomes more tenuous.

    Thomas mentions in the interview that he does have some residual anger about the "high-tech lynching" that the congress put him through during his confirmation. Wouldn't you, if such false putrescence were thrown all over you? (I would be interested to find out whether you believed Thomas then, or Anita Hill.)

    But for the most part, Thomas personality is a lot like his grandfather--at least it appears so to me. He's not angry; he's just very matter of fact.

  4. I don't know; Harry Reid said Thomas' Supreme Court opinions aren't well-written, and if I trust anyone's legal opinion, it's Harry Reid's. He didn't mention any specific examples, but that's beside the point.

  5. Thomas is without a doubt the least qualified Supreme Court justice to be appointed in my lifetime. He has nothing to say in oral arguments because he has trouble understanding the cases. Thanks to him, George W. Bush is president. Compared to his distinguished predecessor Thurgood Marshall, Thomas is a disgrace.

  6. Here is a passage from 60 Minutes that typifies and responds to Richard's claim:

    He is often dismissed as a man of little accomplishment, an opportunistic black conservative who sold out his race, joined the Republican Party and was ultimately rewarded with an affirmative action appointment to the nation's highest court, a sullen, intellectual lightweight so insecure he rarely opens his mouth in oral arguments. The problem with the characterization is that it's unfair and untrue.

    "These conceptions or misperceptions, you call them, have accumulated because you haven't really addressed them. You haven't talked about them," Kroft remarks.

    "My job is to write opinions. I decide cases and write opinions. It is not to respond to idiocy and critics who make statements that are unfounded," Thomas says. "That doesn't mean that people shouldn't have constructive criticisms, but it should be constructive. Whether or not I'm black or not, that's just silliness. That is not worth responding to."

    I want to reiterate from that passage that

    The problem with the characterization is that it's unfair and untrue.

  7. As a rebuttal to Richard's claim that Thomas has nothing to say in oral arguments because he doesn't understand the case: First of all, how could you think that someone could become a Supreme Court justice and not understand law? (Yikes!) Second of all, from page 115 of Supreme Conflict by Jan Crawford Greenburg:

    Though quiet on the bench during public sessions, Thomas wasted no time sharing his views in conference. Pundits and analysts would disparage Thomas as Scalia's intellectual understudy, but from the beginning that portrayal was grossly inaccurate. If either justice change his mind...if was Scalia joining Thomas and not the other way around. But journalists, not privy to the justices behind-the-scenes discussions, assumed otherwise and wrote it as fact, creating a false impression that still lingers.

    And further, in one of his first cases (Foucha), his well-reasoned logic

    persuaded three other justices to change their minds and take his side on the case. [page 118]

  8. Craig, I don't think Harry Reid is the only person to question Thomas' credibility or skill. And frankly I fail to see the relevance of your comment in this discussion.

    Frank, calling Clarence Thomas the "one of the most well know blacks" is reason enough to question your understanding of the political motives and persuasions of the black community. I believe they would have quite a list to present before they got to Clarence, and I believe they would take great offense at your suggestion that they are so politically naive that their support of liberal ideals is simply that they are so susceptible to propaganda, and not because they are voting their values.

    Regardless, I found this post poorly researched and ill-thought. Read the book. He comes across whiny, not grandiose, petty, not great.

  9. Jason,

    I just bought a copy of Thomas' book on Zooba. So I'll let you know in a week or two my reaction.

    I am still curious of who you believed--Anita Hill, or Clarence Thomas?

  10. Frank, I watched the lame "60 Minutes" interview. Justice Thomas doesn't write opinions-- his clerks do. Thomas is clueless.

  11. Sheesh! I detect some unresolved anger, Richard. You're usually fairly reasonable, even though I often disagree with you. But on this thread you seem extremely reactionary.

  12. Frank, I'm just embarrassed for the Supreme Court. So many distinguished Americans have served on the Court, Thomas is undistinguished to say the least. He doesn't even understand the importance of stare decisis, which is a fundamental principle of constitutional law. Look it up.

  13. Frank,

    I fail to see the relevance in your question when we are discussing your claim that the black community is being duped by the liberals rather than voting their own values, but I'll answer it, just to placate you.

    I actually found Anita Hill very suspect during that entire hearing.

    Now can you address my comments on your generalization of the black community as too naive to vote anything but liberal, because Clarence Thomas is just super?

    This is a great blog, Frank, and I enjoy the debate is normally provides even if we often disagree politically. This post, however, was just foolish, and you should either admit that or defend your words.

    How I felt about Anita Hill is not only irrelevant, and serves as a weak attempt to distract from the centric theme I'm getting at here, which is the inherent and often subtle racism in the more conservative communities, usually displayed by claims similar to what you have written here about black liberals.

    Whether you like it or not, Frank, if a black person embraces liberal ideals, it is for the same reasons a white person would; because for whatever reason those ideals speak to that person's core values.

    Your claim here that black liberals are simply the victims of their own susceptibility to propaganda (i.e. they aren't able to parse the facts quite as well as us white folk?) is nothing short of disgusting to me.

    So Anita Hill aside, I still found Clarence a bit whiny, and I still find your comments on the black community quite reprehensible. You demean an entire people to take a cheap shot at liberals.

    All in defense of Clarence Thomas, nonetheless.

    This is what is wrong with our political discourse, and they way we allow ourselves to think. It does nothing but hold us back.

  14. Richard,

    I hope you're not implying that everyone else BUT Clarence Thomas abides by stare decisis in all cases. Whenever the precedent doesn't make sense, the court has ignored it, in many cases to the detriment of the country. So for you to get off saying that Thomas doesn't understand it...where are you coming up with this stuff?

    By the way, a GOOD example of and reason for ignoring stare decisis was Brown vs Board of Ed. In a related, previous case--Plessy vs Ferguson--Justice Harlan was the only dissenter to stare decisis. Thomas clearly understands that Harlan's dissent was correct. I hope you do too.


    You've mentioned before that you like my blog, but recently you only seem to comment when you think I'm in left field.

    I apologize if you took my question about Anita Hill negatively. I was only trying to establish whether you had an allegiance to Hill, which, if you did, might have colored your thinking about Thomas. I appreciate that you do not have an allegiance to Hill, and that helps me better understand where you're coming from.

    Now, go back and carefully read what I wrote in article and in the comments. You are inferring too much. I did not say as you claim, "that black liberals are simply the victims of their own susceptibility to propaganda". Nor do I think that. I said that liberals (and to clarify, I mean ESTABLISHMENT liberals, and actually I had mostly the white ones in mind) dislike Thomas because he does not correspond to their idea of what a black should be. It is the (read: establishment, largely white) liberals who generalize what blacks should be (and try to pigeonhole them), not me. I think they should be whatever they want to.

    Liberals, and to a large extent the media, have NEVER judged Clarence Thomas on his merits. They have tried to cast vile aspersions and make vile insinuations about his character and skills, the which they know almost nothing about.


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