One of the benefits of tripping down your front steps and getting laid up for a couple of days with a sprained ankle is the chance to ruminate on life its ownself…and I have come to the conclusion that while Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas must be a bright man, he is not very smart.
Justice Thomas has recently released an autobiography, with a large general focus on what he sees as racism in America today. He also attacks many who have done him wrong, especially Anita Hill, who as you may recall played a not-so-small role in his confirmation hearings.
Many will hail the book as great; others will disparage it. All I can say is: what was he thinking?
I consider it in general to be a bad idea for Supreme Court justices to publish books while they are on the bench. It reeks of grandstanding in a branch of the government which is supposed to free of politics and partisanship…and you may insert your Gore v. Bush comments below.
This could be the greatest book of the 21st century, and it will still offer critics a chance to snipe and undermine his position on the court, which is frequently seen as little more than being a catspaw for Scalia. The fact that it isn’t and is more than a little self-indulgent makes it an even greater target.
More to the point, it reopens the whole matter of the Anita Hill testimony…and that in no shape of form can help him.
This sort of reminds me of the late Senator William Scott of Virginia, who was branded by a counterculture magazine of being the dumbest man in the US Senate. When asked if he would sue for libel, Scott said replied no. His reason? “What if I lose?”
Thomas is in the same situation. No dummy ever made it to the US Supreme Court, and by all accounts Clarence Thomas is bright man who has overcome numerous obstacles to reach public prominence. But there will always be questions stemming from his confirmation hearings, questions that are brighter, saucier, and more risque than the questions he poses about racism in our society. Any book he writes that touches on his confirmation hearings will bring these matters, once safely interred in the past, back to lurid focus in the present.
Why do it? Why dredge up this kind of stuff? He is sure to create even more doubts than there were back in the day, and that will not help his reputation or place in history one bit. If you doubt me, read here and then tell me that Thomas is helping himself with this book.
You have to be bright to make the Supremes…but Thomas and his self-indulgent book show one does not have to be smart.