When asked if it was painful to write his raw and moving memoir, to relive the tragedy of the Anita Hill controversy, he quickly puts it in perspective.There's lots more.
“That wasn’t a real tragedy; that was being set upon by bad people,” he said. The real tragedies were losing his grandmother and grandfather, who raised him, and then his younger brother eight years ago. The deaths of all the members of his childhood home prompted him to make sure their story was told and, along with it, his own story.
“I didn’t want to leave the telling to those with careless hands and malicious hearts,” he said.
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On the brutal confirmation process, both for him and newer justices:
“Justice White was appointed, went through hearings, and confirmed within 10 days. What you have to ask is, ‘what has improved at the Court as a result of the difficult hearings?’”
“The people in charge of the processes need to make sure they’re not hijacked by the special-interest groups instead of giving into it and giving legitimacy to it.”
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On communicating with the younger generation:
He said he meets with a lot of young people. He mentioned the University of Georgia football team, specifically. There’s initially a barrier, but they warm up pretty fast, he said.
“Kids aren’t buffaloed by it [the prevalent media story about Clarence Thomas], and as soon as you burst that bubble, they start to question everything else they’ve heard.”
I asked him specifically about the idea, sometimes found in the black community, that to be authentically black is to be aggrieved. To be successful without buying into the victim philosophy is being a sell-out:
“They’re selling kids this poison. It doesn’t help them to tell them not to do well.”
It is the opposite of the lessons his grandfather taught him, among them:
“If we died, he'd take our bodies to school for three days to make sure we weren't faking."
Dinner With Justice Thomas, by Erick Erickson:
I had dinner with Clarence Thomas tonight. What an amazing guy. And he has a great sense of humor. We laughed about Georgia football.Dinner with Justice Clarence Thomas, by James Joyner:
Someone asked him what he thought about Joe Biden saying that after 16 years Biden was still glad he voted against Clarence Thomas. Thomas replied, “Make that two of us.”
He also said that he told Vice President Quayle at the time that Thomas expected a 50-50 tie with the VP casting the deciding vote. Quayle replied, “But you never came to lobby me.”
What most amused me, simply because of the incongruity, was the fact that Thomas owns a bus, behind which he pulls a car. He apparently harbored notions of being a professional truck driver once upon a time and enjoys the rituals of the truck stop and the interactions with the other drivers. Perhaps because no one expects to see a Supreme Court Justice pull up next to them in the big rig parking lot, he’s seldom recognized and is able to enjoy the camaraderie.
The other thing that stuck with me was a conversation with Bush 41 counsel C. Boyden Gray that took place several years after Thomas was on the bench. Contrary to what most — including Thomas and myself — thought at the time, his selection to replace Thurgood Marshall on the Court’s “black seat” was not tokenism. Indeed, the fact that Thomas was black actually hurt him because Bush didn’t want it to look like he was simply looking for a black man to keep the Court’s quota of one filled. In fact, the administration had hoped to appoint Thomas to replace William Brennan on the Court and was grooming him for that by appointing him to the Court of Appeals.
Unfortunately, Brennan retired sooner than expected and Thomas was deemed to be insufficiently seasoned to make it through confirmation.