HEARTS | "moral leaders"

CLARENCE THOMAS: 9 of hearts
(CH, L) (what do these signs mean?)

Clarence Thomas is one of those so-called conservative justices that claims to be a strict interpreter of the Constitution. Strict interpreters might be expected to tell the truth under oath. During his testimony before the Senate, Thomas said that he believed "In my view there is a right to privacy in the 14th Amendment." A key Democrat, Dennis DeConcini, supported Thomas in no small part because of this statement. He said

"This is a very important point," adding "I was also pleased to hear that Judge Thomas agrees that the fundamental right to privacy also extends to non-married individuals. He repeatedly stated that he agreed with the Supreme Court's leading precedent in this area," which "extended the right to privacy stated in" Griswold v. Connecticut, which dealt with married couples right to buy contraceptives.

Al Kamen pointed out that DeConcini provided key support for Thomas's narrow 52-48 victory in being appointed to the Supreme Court. Not only was his own vote crucial, the respect with which he was held by his colleagues may well have made the margin of difference.

Kamen observed "in the court's ruling in June striking down anti-sodomy laws, Thomas dissented, saying: 'And just like Justice Stewart, I "can find [neither in the Bill of Rights nor any other part of the Constitution a] general right of privacy," ' quoting Potter Stewart's dissent in the Griswold case."


Thomas didn't bother to explain why he changed his mind, which may make sense if we grant that he hadn't that he had lied in order to win his appointment.

Timothy Noah found another lie Thomas told while being questioned for his Supreme Court nomination. In 1991, Thomas replied to a question about his position on Roe vs. Wade: "Senator, your question to me was did I debate the contents of Roe v. Wade, the outcome in Roe v. Wade, do I have this day an opinion, a personal opinion on the outcome in Roe v. Wade; and my answer to you is that I do not."

Setting aside the improbability of a politically conservative justice not having an opinion on one of the most important court decisions for conservatives and women in our history, it was also a simple lie.

Andrew Peyton Thomas writes in his biography of Clarence Thomas, "[Thomas] discussed abortion a good deal with [his fellow lawyer in the Missouri attorney general's office] Mike Boicourt, who was working on several cases in which the state was defending statutes restricting the right to an abortion (and he would go on to be the lead counsel in the landmark abortion case Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, handed down by the Supreme Court in 1989). Because of his views, Boicourt was 'ambivalent' about his work on these cases. Thomas, on the other hand, made it clear that he was anti-abortion. As part of these conversations, Boicourt and Thomas discussed Roe. Boicourt said years later that he could not remember what Thomas's views were." (p. 165)

Timothy Noah depicts other times when Thomas strongly opposed Roe vs. Wade before he testified under oath to the Senate.


Joanne Mariner offers still more insight on Thomas' character and decency, the virtues which the radical right talks so much of and practices so little: "On those occasions where Thomas finds it necessary to write separately to give full and undiluted expression to his views it is typically to press for some radical limitation on basic rights. Hence his 1992 dissent in an Alabama prison case, in which he argued that the Eighth Amendment only applies to sentencing decisions and is of no help to inmates facing physical abuse at the hands of their jailers.

"Ditto for Thomas' 1994 concurrence in a Georgia case involving racial discrimination in political representation, in which he attacked the 1965 Voting Rights Act. And more of the same in a chilling duo of cases, decided in 2001 and 2002, in which Thomas expressed support for enforcing the death penalty even though juries were never informed that the defendant would be ineligible for parole if given a life sentence."


This background of deception, deceit, and heartlessness offers us what we need to know to reasonably evaluate Thomas's honesty in the famous conflict between him and Anita Hill, who accused him of sustained sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings. David Brock was paid very well by the radical right to attack Hill's testimony, attacks that culminated in his book The Real Anita Hill. Thomas denied under oath (we know now what that means) that he had sexually harassed Hill. He was eventually believed by the same men who believed he accepted a right of privacy in the 14th Amendment and had not thought about Roe vs. Wade. Whatever this says about the judgment of all too many Senators, it also suggests Thomas might not have been honest about the Anita Hill scandal.

It turns out that David Brock, radical right literary hit man, now believes he severely wronged Hill. Brock admits he manipulated the truth and even out and out lied, to defend Thomas and attack Hill. His book, Blinded by The Right, is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the Clarence Thomas Anita Hill affair, or the character of the radical right. It is also a hopeful tale of how even ideologues can sometimes be transformed by the power of truth.

Of course, the same right that paid Brock to lie now claims that Brock can't be trusted because he lied. David Horowitz in particular accused Brock of lying, but could make the claim only by distorting the truth. A little decent journalism left the score Brock: 10, Horowitz, 0. A good discussion of this issue, and the intellectual dishonesty of the radical right over time, is at


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