Magazine article The Nation

Thomas Speaks!

Magazine article The Nation

Thomas Speaks!

Article excerpt

Back during the presidential campaign, George W. Bush called Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia his favorite Supreme Court Justices--a remark widely interpreted at the time as just smoke-blowing in the direction of the right. Guess what--it's time to start taking Bush at his word, especially when it comes to Thomas.

Just weeks after the inauguration, Justice Thomas has emerged as the new Administration's judicial patron saint. The top three officials of the Bush Justice Department--Attorney General John Ashcroft, Solicitor General-designate Theodore Olson and Deputy Attorney General-designate Larry Thompson--are all close Thomas friends. Thomas even officiated at Olson's wedding (also Rush Limbaugh's) and Ashcroft's swearing-in. While Thomas's wife, Virginia, shovels Heritage Foundation resumes into the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue personnel department, his former clerk Helgard Walker sits in the White House counsel's office.

After the Court's Florida decision, Thomas told a group of high school students that his famous, baffling reluctance to ask questions on the bench grows out of his childhood fear of being mocked for speaking Gullah (a black language) in an all-white seminary class. Maybe, but the vindicating presence of so many friends in the White House seems to have given the Supreme Court's Garbo new confidence: After nearly a decade on the sidelines, in mid-February Thomas emerged into the Washington spotlight at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) with a Castro-length jeremiad on what he views as continuing liberal efforts to stifle him and other conservative culture warriors.

When Thomas was nominated for the Court, some African-American and liberal voices argued that his biography as a black man gave hope that with time he would moderate his far-right views on affirmative action, welfare and civil rights. …

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