Clarence Thomas on Nightline

I watched Nightline’s interview with Clarence Thomas the other night. Mr. Thomas should be embarrassed to have given that interview. If he had any wisdom, he would request that all copies of it be destroyed. I know that Mr. Thomas sees it differently. He’s written a book describing how differently he sees it. That’s the problem.

Never mind that he once again asserts that Anita Hill was lying in her testimony, even though he offered no evidence to back this up. Indeed, at the time of his hearings and even now, it makes no sense to me why Anita Hill would subject herself to the public wringer that she went through if there was no truth in what she was saying. Maybe I am naive, but I believe her testimony more than I believe Thomas’s protestations. [By the way, you can read Ms. Hills’ reply to Thomas here.]

The real problem however is not Anita Hill. It is that, in the interview, Thomas revealed himself to be so bogged down in his own prejudices that it is hard to imagine how he can ever deliver a fair and reasoned ruling.

First, he blames everything bad that ever happened to him, and most especially the problems he had getting confirmed, on racism. Thomas sees every slight as a racial insult. If he gets the wrong change at a restaurant, it must be because the waitress is a racist.

Now, I am white and I readily admit that I can never fully understand the currents of racism that are felt by those of color. But come on! Assuming you go with the conservative interpretation of history (which I assume Thomas does), the same thing that happened to him happened to Judge Robert Bork. In fact, it was worse; Bork did not even wind up with an appointment to the court. Bork’s very name has become a verb to describe the sort of political manuveuring that can shoot down a nomination. And, guess what? Bork isn’t black. Racism did not figure into the Bork process any more than it was a significant factor in the opposition to Thomas. Thomas sees his opposition as a coordinated racist conspiracy (even when some of his opposition came from African American groups) rather than groups of people that opposed him on ideological grounds that had nothing to do with race.

Second, he describes “liberals” (which, according to Thomas, includes pretty much anyone and everyone who opposed his nomination) as worse racists than “Southerners.” This is a pretty broad stroke to paint. Especially so when you consider than the political left wing has been at the forefront of the civil rights movement from its very beginnings. The venom with which he speaks leads me to believe that there is a likely revenge motive in his rulings. “Take that, you liberals…” I imagine he says to himself when voting on a decision. “You may have conspired to prevent my appointment. But I made it to the court anyway. And I have the rest of my life to do my best to make sure that no Supreme Court ruling ever goes your way.”

Not exactly the sort of attitude you hope to see in a Supreme Court justice. To me, his interview does nothing to repair his reputation. It only serves to confirm why he never should have been appointed to the court in the first place.

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