Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Clarence Thomas, intellectual heavyweight?

I’ve never been into vilifying Clarence Thomas the way some colored folks have.

But when I saw the Supreme Court in action on TV, back during the Florida recount mess of 2000, I did take notice of Justice Thomas’s conspicuous silence. All the other justices were asking questions; Thomas didn’t say a mumbling word.

I couldn’t help but think: “Well, the dumbest kid in class doesn’t usually say shit!” I’ve wondered ever since whether Clarence Thomas was particularly bright.

Then I heard what Jan Crawford Greenburg had to say a month ago, in her lecture at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Author of the book “Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court,” Ms. Crawford Greenburg said Justice Thomas gets a bum rap as a legal thinker. He is not Antonin Scalia’s Little Sir Echo. He is his own man, and a persuasive arguer to boot.

I’m streaming 4½ minutes of Crawford Greenburg’s remarks here, on my Vox audio stash. (You can download the full hourlong presentation off of the EPPC website, here.)

I must make time to read “Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas,” by Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher, to see what makes that man tick.


Shitface said...

Nigger boy.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ It's hard to love 'em sometimes, isn't it?

itainteazy said...

I don't care if he's the most brilliant cat in the room and nobody gives him respect, he's still a toby-ass sellout in every sense of the word.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the question that heads this subject really matters.

Intellectual distinction is one criterion for judicial appointments; another, at least if you're a Republican president, is legal orthodoxy. The second, in my view, quite rightly outweights the first, and Thomas is, of course, the strict constructionist par excellence when it comes to the US constitution. That is probably enough to justify his place on the court (if, like me and my buddy George, you take a conservative position on these matters).

Justice Souter, for example, is doubtless more vocal than Thomas (it'd be hard for anybody to be less) and has a more distinguished academic, scholarly and professional resume than Justice Thomas, too: yet, despite being a Republican appointee, Souter has proven to be more or less a disaster as far as Republicans and conservatives have been concerned, while Thomas has been an unqualified (no belittling intended) success. Intellectual brilliance is not the highest virtue in a judge, and Thomas is unfairly targeted in the matter of his intellect despite there being many previous examples of actual or attempted appointments to the Supreme Court who were no more distinguished mentally than Thomas (how distinguished was Thurgood Marshall, I wonder?).

The real test of Thomas' quality as a jurist must surely be made after considering his judgements (his grasp of the constitution, his use of precedent, his knowledge of the relevant scholarship, how often he has given the lead in opinion for the majority, etc), and comparing those to the judgements of his colleagues. Anything else is really just more of the same old character assasination by other means

I've never thought badly of Justice Thomas, but have always had a problem with those racial totalitarians who are driven into a rage by him because he has the audacity to have his own opinion, and not march in step with Jesse and Al. There's a rather grim irony in the fact that a racist is someone who never sees an individual, just a member of a collective; which is exactly what many of Justice Thomas' more hysterical critics (step forward 'itainteazy') hold against him: breaking free from the collective to be an individual.


RC said...

I'm withholding my comments until I get to read your research results UBM. I can barely keep my mouth shut, but perhaps some information you will unearth or arguments you will make will sway me. I await enlightenment. I really am interested in what you come up with and will be watching for it.

Undercover Black Man said...

ItAintEazy: Thanks for that link. (Prof. Jeffries writes often at, but I haven't read him on the subject of Thomas.)

VictorK: Well stated.

RC: I hope to interview Kevin Merida, co-author of the Clarence Thomas biography, when I'm back in D.C. in a couple of weeks.

LeaNder said...

Resegregation Now

Only trying to figure out why my links don't work from time to time. Hmmm, seems it was an extra space that should not be there.

caged bird said...

If Thomas sat on the Warren Court would the Loving v Virginia decision be 8-1?

dez said...

Screw Thomas--someone needs to investigate that bastard Roberts!

Yeah, I'm pissed at the Roberts court lately...

Anonymous said...

Dez said: "someone needs to investigate that bastard Roberts!"

WTF? You damn leftist totalitarian bastard.

And UBM, read J. Thomas's decisions sometime, you moron. He's been on the Court for a hell of a lot of years and you just now are realizing that he's an intellectual heavyweight?

Good grief.
You're a damn disgrace to journalism.

dez said...


And that's "damn leftist bitch" to you.

Undercover Black Man said...

Anon: I downloaded Justice Thomas's concurring opinion in the recent Seattle schools case. I will read it. It's 185 pages... it will take me some time.

I didn't mean to disparage the man. In fact, I owe him a lot. I myself have used his "pubic-hair-on-my-Coke-can" pick-up line, and it works like gangbusters! I don't know what Anita Hill's problem was...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Dez, totalitarian, as in investigations all around.

Well, UBM, that pubic hair thing, now that's horrific. I'm so terriby offended, and I've got the vapors to boot. No wait, what the fuck does that have to do with his intellectual acumen? Exactly! If that's all you can do to disparage the man (I'm not sure if the 185 pages is a real gripe or not), I think I'd take my ball and bat and go home, if I were thee.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Lighten up, you nameless wonder.

Anyway, you're right. A boss who would say such a thing to a subordinate... that's no reflection on the man's intellect. I'm just cracking a harmless joke.

dez said...

Yeah, Dez, totalitarian, as in investigations all around.

You're seriously lacking in a sense of humor (and possibly other senses as well).