The Clarence Thomas Roundup

Cross-posted to The Debate Link

The release of Clarence Thomas’ new book has led to a spurt of interesting blogging on the quietest and most conservative Supreme Court Justice. No comments from me, just a round-up of the variety of posts out there.

Sherilynn Ifill, a law professor at UMD blogging at BlackProf, takes issue with Thomas’ lynching metaphor (“an insult to the nearly 5,000 black and men and women who were lynched in the last century”) and urges Thomas to “get a grip.”

Scott Moss of the University of Colorado notes the intense bitterness Thomas appears to still nurse — and his lack of either honesty or self-awareness in acknowledging it.

Ilya Somin of George Mason notes the ideological slant of the folks who believe Thomas and those who believe Hill regarding her sexual harassment allegations, and suggests this is purely a function of partisanship. However, as someone noted in comments, it is generally true that liberals are more likely than conservatives to believe allegations of sexual harassment. The real outlier, as Somin indicates, is the Paula Jones case.

Also at Volokh, David Bernstein hypothesizes that the scorched-earth campaign the left waged against Clarence Thomas’ nomination may have backfired, by permanently entrenching him on the Supreme Court’s far right branch. By solidifying Thomas’ perception of liberals as his enemies, they precluded him from ever evolving his views or reaching “across the aisle” while growing as a Justice.

Richard Stern argues that Thomas’ book is a “inverse confession”, as he is unable to forget the “scene of the crime” against Ms. Hill, and compelled to revisit it even as he protests his innocence.

Powerline provides its summary of Thomas’ speech to the Heritage Foundation.

Michael Dorf of Columbia analogizes the two cases of “harassment by people named Thomas” (Isiah and Clarence). He notes that, even if Thomas was guilty of harassment, he still might have had a legitimate beef against many of the questioning (White) Senators who likely engaged in similar behavior but faced no similar scrutiny.

Feministe comments on Anita Hill’s defense of her character against Thomas’ renewed attack, contextualizing it within the broader procedures used to silence folks complaining about sexual harassment.

And, though I wrote it several months ago, I’ll abuse my blogger privileges to link back to one of my older (but, if I do say so myself, better) posts on Clarence Thomas, Taking Thomas Seriously.

  • jonswift

    You might also be interested in my piece, which asks the question, Why is Clarence Thomas such an angry black man?

  • C Stanley

    Yours was an excellent post. As usual, I don’t agree with you on a lot of it, but I’m actually closer to you on Thomas than I thought I’d be. Your closing statement really hit home:

    Because White conservatives don’t grapple with Thomas’ basic observation of racial dynamics, they avoid this tension–but only at the cost of not taking one of their own champions seriously.

  • David Schraub

    I believe I’ve told you that I think Justice Thomas has come in for more than his fair share of racist attacks (I may be touchy on race, but equal opportunity so). That doesn’t mean I buy his judicial philosophy — in fact, I think its quite abhorrent. But it is at least somewhat intellectually serious, and he’s been instrumental in pushing its boundaries (far more so recently than has, say, Scalia). Hence, slams of Thomas that cast him as, say, Scalia’s pet I think are just as illegitimate as any of the other type of racist attack.

  • superdestroyer

    Look at how the Isiah Thomas Sexual Harassment story ad not been covered. ESPN has all but ignored the story. Sports media basically ignored the story. the MSM media has virtually ignored the story. The only part of the media that as seem to pay attention are the headlines writers on the NYC newspapers.

    I suspect that since most of te parties involved were black , the MSM media did not have a standard narrative to fit the sexual harassment into. Thus, the lack of reporting.

  • domajot

    I rated Thomas on the intelluactly seirous scale much hgiher before the advent of his book.

    What he has revealed, IMO, in the interviews I’ve seen is an unnerving degree of self-absorption.
    How intellecually serious can a person be if his overall philosophy is so narrowly dependent on his personal experiences and how he feels about them?
    I sense an inability to imagine that one person’s experience does not automatically translate into a generalized experience in the same circumstances.

    Perhaps he would have come to the same conclusions no matter what his life experience had been. As he presents himself, though, I tend to be more sceptical now than before.

    Here is an irony. His nomination for thr SC was in itself, I think, an example of the AA that he so hates. He was not the most qualified or the most experienced among the conservative possibilities.
    That high positions be filled with folks of different genders and racial and ethnic backgrounds is something I applaud. Speculations about the need for a woman on the SC, for example, have been open and unquestioned.

    How is the consideration of such factors in filling Sc vacancies substantially different than AA in colleges?

  • domajot

    I’m of two minds about Anita Hill.
    That her corroborated, but impossible to prove, allegations are being dismiised out of hand by conxervative fans of Thomas is a political decision on their part, not one of intellectual honesty, IMO.

    That this angle is being largely ignored by the media is just another sign of their vacuity- not enough pizzaz in the story, I guess. Also, deference to power, perhaps? Thomas may choose to make himself unavailable to news outlets that run stories on his nemesis.

    Whatever the case, Ms Hill herself may prefer not to step into the midst of another public broohaha.
    She went through some bad times herself during the first round.