Thanks to Howard Bashman, here's the Washington Post on Justice Clarence Thomas's visit to Baltimore, complete with a short video:
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
From around the blog world:
1. A nice picture of Justice Clarence Thomas signing books in Dallas.
2. One blogger's account of seeing Justice Thomas speak:
1. A nice picture of Justice Clarence Thomas signing books in Dallas.
2. One blogger's account of seeing Justice Thomas speak:
On Sunday night, I attended a joint Heritage Foundation-Federalist Society event celebrating the publication of Clarence Thomas's memoirs. I have not yet read My Grandfather's Son, but I look forward to doing so, especially after Justice Thomas's talk.3. Another blogger's reaction to the autobiography:
The Justice stressed to an audience of nearly a thousand people that he was able to overcome a life of tremendous difficulties and challenges thanks to the mentoring and example of the nuns who taught him, the people of his hometown who urged him to get an education--because "once you get that in your head, no one can take it away"--and because of his grandfather's admonition to always "put one foot in front of another." The striking thing about the Justice's comments was that his life, while ultimately tremendously successful personally, was never planned. He encountered a series of failures that led to sterling triumphs. It is utterly fascinating that as he was sitting on the Court of Appeals, just before he was nominated to the Supreme Court, he was still plotting how he could get himself back to Georgia.
There are two books I couldn't finish reading. The writing was too powerful and too moving.
The one I put down yesterday, Clarence Thomas' My Grandfather's Son and the other I put down years ago, Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters.
I can not explain in words the power either of these books had on me but the tears in my eyes, swelling up page after page and the anguish I felt made it impossible to continue reading. I can not bear my own suffering as I connect with the truth these two men speak.
Friday, October 26, 2007
The official website for My Grandfather's Son has recently been updated and expanded to include a lot of resources and links. Here are some useful items that I found there:
1. An account of Justice Thomas's recent visit to Texas:
3. A link to an interview with Human Events:
1. An account of Justice Thomas's recent visit to Texas:
* * * On Oct. 23, 1,560 people gathered in a large ballroom at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in downtown Dallas to listen to a lunchtime chat by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who is on tour promoting his recently released memoir titled “My Grandfather’s Son.”2. A link to Justice Thomas himself reading the introduction to My Grandfather's Son.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank that believes in limited government, free enterprise, traditional values and a strong national defense, and the Federalist Society, a conservative legal network that believes in the principle of judicial restraint, sponsored the event, which according to the Heritage Foundation was the largest event it has staged outside of Washington, D.C., in its 34-year history.
Among the assembled were Texas Supreme Court Justices Nathan Hecht and Dale Wainwright, former White House Counsel and former U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, and 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Priscilla Owen. * * * Then Thomas and former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont took the stage and seated themselves in high back chairs for what was designed to be an informal interview session— that is, with du Pont asking the questions (something Thomas is loathe to do from the bench) and Thomas answering the questions (something Thomas did quite comfortably and candidly). Thomas dealt with some preliminary questions about how cert petitions are granted. There was nothing conspiratorial about it, he said -- and convincing another justice to actually change his or her mind regarding a legal issue was “almost a Smithsonian moment.”
3. A link to an interview with Human Events:
I got to read your book in manuscript months ago, under a promise of secrecy. And it’s just been killing me because it was such a great book that I wanted to tell everybody all these stories about your grandfather.
Oh, he’s a great man.
Apparently he was an amazing person. . . . The first question I wanted to ask was, essentially, about the hardships that you went through. . . . It really comes through in the book that there’s a way in which the fact that your life was hard made it possible for you to accomplish things that you might not have been able to accomplish otherwise.
You know I have often said to my wife and to others, and certainly to young kids, that I was fortunate to have had misfortune in my life. One of the things it does for you is that it gives you -- it helps you build the kind of character traits you need to go on with your life. For example, you have a challenge that really seems almost impossible. But then you work through that challenge, and it sort of does something to you; it teaches you how to stick to things; it teaches you persistence; it teaches you patience. And if you don’t achieve what you want, or if something doesn’t happen and you have disappointment, you learn that you don’t always get what you want. That’s just a part of life. So I think misfortune -- when you survive it, and when you learn from it, and grow from it, actually turns out to be a benefit.
Now, part of what you lived through was segregation and poverty, terrible things . . . but part of what you lived through was that your grandfather was really tough on you. The stuff about how he really didn’t let you play with the bigger kids; he had you working hard all summer; he didn’t let you go out for sports. Today, somebody raising a kid like that, people would say, “He’s very controlling. Why is he so hard on those children?” Did he have to be that tough on you?
Well, you know, none of us would ever know that. How would we know? It was what it was. There were people who criticized him for being so hard on us, even in that time. And the thing that I dislike is when people say he was harsh. He was not harsh. But I want you to think a second about his life.
He never had a father. His mother died when he was nine. He went to live with his grandmother, who was a freed slave. She died when he was twelve or thirteen. He then goes to live with an uncle, who already has a house full of kids. He’s just another mouth to feed. As he always said, and I know I mentioned in the book, he was handed from pillar to post. And so he had a hard life. He had to make his way in the world and by the time he was a grown man, he could not write his name. And he eventually learned how to sign his name and learned how to read a little bit -- enough that he could barely function. And so think of the life that he had and how he had to make his way through the world. So it was a hard life and in turn he had to be a hard man.
But he was never harsh. And what is he leaving his grandsons? Or his boys, as he always called us. He sees a world that is very difficult on a lot of levels -- race, or just a part of human existence, he sees the need for education, the need to learn how to work, the need to have certain character traits that he learned from “Mother Wit,” as he always said, and so what’s the honest thing to do with two boys you care about -- you love -- when you know that the life ahead of them is going to be full of these challenges?
You teach them how to deal with it. And so I think in his own way, he was saying, “I am going to devote myself to teaching these boys.” And all these other things -- “this foolishness,” as he called it, playing sports, playing around, etcetera, has to go by the wayside.
Now I want you to contrast that -- if you look in the book, you’ll see that with my own son and his great-grandkids, he was a total pushover. He did whatever they wanted him to do. And how does he differentiate? He said that Jamal, my son, is “not my responsibility.” He said he’d already raised us. Jamal was my responsibility, not his. He could have fun with Jamal. But the way that he had to express his love for us was to discharge his obligation to raise us and prepare us for a life full of challenges. And so in his world, the way he was raised, what he saw ahead of him, yes, he had to do what he did.
And you know what? My brother and I -- and we’ve had, my brother and I had many conversations about this -- we were both grateful. And our bottom line was, how do you argue with success?
It is hard to argue with how it turned out. It seems like if the proof’s in the pudding, then . . .
Yeah, when my brother before he passed away, he just turned fifty, he was the president of a real estate management company.
I didn’t know that.
Oh, yes, my brother was, I mean he and I were very, very close. And eight years ago he passed away. He’d just turned 50 years old, and of course I was 51, and we were always, I mean you can see how close we were in age. And just to see your brother die. God. . . . He was there in New Orleans. There’s this cotton mart or something downtown, and he did the condos there. Then I think there was a Hilton Garden Hotel that they also did the -- he oversaw the development. That was one of his ideas; that was his brain child. That was my brother. . . . I don’t even know if it’s there after the flood, but he worked on all that. He was a genius when it came to that. And he also was a prodigious, prodigious worker. Where’d that come from?
So it really worked -- it rubbed off on you guys?
Oh, my goodness, that’s the whole point of the book. I titled my own book. I learned that lesson . . . I was toward the end of the manuscript when I came up with this title, My Grandfather’s Son, because I realized through it all something that my mother and relatives had been saying to me: “You’re just like your grandfather. You’re his son.” And that’s it.
* * *
So now that you have been a father, and you’re trying to give -- you know, people say, how much ever your mother loves you, she can’t really teach you to be a man -- you need a father to teach you to be a man, like your grandfather did for you. Does raising boys today give you some kind of perspective on what your grandfather did? Do you think it’s easier today, do you think it’s harder in current conditions? Do you think things have changed, or do you think it’s the same job, whenever?
Well, I think it’s probably, for everybody, raising kids has its challenges. But I think there was so much more back then that reinforced what he was trying to accomplish, and what our obligations were. You know, the nuns were very clear. They reinforced what happened at home. [Parents] didn’t have to come and fight with the teachers at school if they were doing something inconsistent with the way that they wanted us raised. The neighbors could tell us to go to the store and watch over us and discipline us and go and report on us, etcetera. So the society around us recognized, reinforced, and made sure that we complied with a certain way of living our lives.
It was kind of a united adult front?
Exactly. And I don’t think we have that kind of common culture or community today that we had before. And certainly -- maybe that’s a little too broad; we don’t have that kind of cohesion and coherence that we had before in outlook, where everybody’s on the same page almost. And some might be a little tougher than others, but they were generally all singing from the same sheet of music. So I can’t tell you whether it’s tougher.
My son, as I say in the preface, my son was always a better son than I deserved. He is a good guy. I mean, he was always compliant, and you know you had your challenges, but he did his homework, you could set your clock by him. He was independent. And today, he is such a good man.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
A column by Rick Martinez in the News & Observer:
Thomas' Early Education
Rick Martinez, Correspondent
I picked up Clarence Thomas' autobiography not to read about him, but to learn more about Myers Anderson, the type of man I wish we had more of these days. Anderson was Thomas' grandfather who took in the future associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and his brother after their mother gave up the boys because she couldn't afford to raise them -- and because she refused to go on welfare.
"The damn vacation is over," said Anderson to his new charges, and he meant it. From the moment the Thomas boys stepped onto their grandparents' porch with all their belongings, they entered a world of hard work, discipline and rules that demanded their respect. Thomas writes that deviation from those rules guaranteed sure, swift and painful punishment. If the boys didn't like the rules, Anderson was quick to remind them, the door swung both ways.
While most parenting experts today are horrified at that no-nonsense, authoritarian approach to raising boys, I long for it. Not out of a sense of nostalgia, but desperation.
Dr. Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint are on a high-profile crusade to reverse the low rate of graduation and high rates of out-of-wedlock births and incarceration that plague the African-American community. Their book, "Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors" is an open letter to fellow blacks to finally recognize that while systematic racism continues, the real enemy is from within.
Though directed at African-Americans, the book also speaks to Hispanics. Our statistics, though not as bleak, show disturbing trends.
Cosby and Poussaint's self-help directives, aimed at overcoming the destructive elements of black and Hispanic-American culture, are not new. They're just not practiced with the same seriousness and obligation as in past generations.
Educational achievement is a prime example. Despite lip service, the minority community's commitment to the work and discipline required to obtain diplomas just isn't there. Nothing else explains the parental apathy that tolerates high school dropout rates hovering around 50 percent. Classroom excellence wasn't an expectation in Myers Anderson's household, it was a demand. Missing a day of school was unthinkable. He told his grandsons that if they died he'd take their bodies to school for three days to ensure they weren't faking. I believe he would have done it.
When Clarence Thomas entered a seminary, his grandfather told him the only option to return home was as a priest. When Thomas quit because of the racism he encountered, Anderson kept his word and kicked him out of the household.
His grandfather was hardly unsympathetic to Thomas' experience. A card-carrying member of the NAACP, he often mortgaged his property to raise bail for jailed civil rights protesters. Anderson was simply a hard man who wouldn't tolerate failure under his roof.
Growing up, I knew kids whose fathers were this tough. I sometimes felt sorry for them, but at least they had fathers. In their book, Cosby and Poussaint urge men, rich and poor alike, to understand that once they father a child, parenting by example must be their priority. Being there isn't enough.
Anderson understood what that meant. Thomas writes that his grandfather never told him to "do as I say." Instead, he commanded that Thomas and his brother do as he did. That meant going to church and not getting drunk. A man of moderation, Anderson limited himself to one drink an evening. He said blacks had enough problems, so why add drunkenness? Most of all, living by Anderson's rules meant working, not just to make a living, but also to keep his grandsons out of trouble. When trouble began to creep into his neighborhood, Anderson built a farm on family land to keep the boys busy during nine summers.
He told his grandsons that if they learned to work, they could live well. Armed with only a third-grade education, he used discipline, determination and stamina to build a delivery business and eventually own rental property.
It was that example, not material goods, that Thomas and his brother inherited. Character, not wealth, proved to be Myers Anderson's legacy, one that included the belief that individual liberties are to be enjoyed and exercised, but only after personal responsibilities have been fulfilled.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
An article about a speech there:
Thomas' life story, philosophy win admirers
October 23, 2007
STEVE HUNTLEY email@example.com
Beautiful early fall weather and a few days off from work promised the opportunity to do some outdoor chores around the house and enjoy what in most years is Chicago's best season. But that Friday morning in September 1991, I made the mistake of turning on the television and for the next several days didn't stray far from it as I, like the rest of the nation, was transfixed by the extraordinary Senate hearings over the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The anguish over the charges of sexual harassment alleged by Anita Hill make for painful reading in My Grandfather's Son, the new book Thomas wrote telling the story of his rise from poverty in Georgia to a seat on the nation's highest court. Reading about those tortured days recalls just how desperate liberal interests in Washington were to block the appointment of a conservative African American to the court. People who liked to think of themselves as champions of civil rights had drudged up the worst Jim Crow stereotype of a sexually menacing black man to try to derail Thomas' nomination.
Juan Williams, now an NPR commentator but in 1991 a columnist for the Washington Post, called it "indiscriminate, mean-spirited mudslinging supported by the so-called champions of fairness." Opinion polls in the days after the hearings showed that the public had seen through it and supported President George H.W. Bush's nomination of Thomas.
Neither his contentious confirmation hearing specifically nor Hill's name came up Sunday night when 960 people turned out in Chicago to hear Thomas talk about his book and answer questions from the audience in a forum sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.
In a reference to the many challenges he faced in life that made him stronger, Thomas said he had been "very fortunate to have had misfortune in my life." The 59-year-old jurist went on to deplore the low level of civil discourse in this country and said it doesn't have to be that way. "For all the flaws we might have at the court, at least we're civil."
The conservative Heritage crowd greeted him warmly and clearly admired him. His remarks and answers to their questions about his life and judicial philosophy demonstrated why.
His discussions of legal issues drew applause time and again, like when he declared that the job of a Supreme Court justice was to rule "on what the law is -- not what it ought to be."
His observations on the tendency of some of his colleagues on the high court to look to legal rulings in other countries in forming opinions on American law were cutting. "How do you decide which country to reach out to?" he asked. Noting that justices don't look to China or Zimbabwe, Thomas said, "You reach out to countries that support your point of view." He called it "cherry picking other countries' jurisprudence to form ours."
One person in the audience noted that he had a reputation for not asking questions during oral arguments before the court. "I ask all the questions that need to be asked," Thomas responded. Saying most opinions are based on voluminous written briefs, he added, "There is no mystery, this is not Perry Mason" where questioning will reveal a culprit. He suggested that other justices ask too many questions, cutting into the precious 30 minutes allotted the attorneys for oral arguments.
Perhaps most revealing about Thomas the man were his comments about two things he requires of the clerks who work for him.
He has them watch "The Fountainhead," the movie based on Ayn Rand's novel celebrating uncompromising individualism. The message: Just because a million people say you're wrong doesn't mean you are wrong.
And each year he takes his clerks on a trip to the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg where thousands of soldiers fell in days and Abraham Lincoln found the words to explain what those men died for. Thomas described the purpose of this annual outing: "It's left to us to give value to the sacrifice of all who died for this country."
Clarence Thomas was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice 16 years ago today.
A short comment from an Arizona Republic editorial writer:
Critics of Clarence Thomas need to let go of anger
Oct. 23, 2007 12:00 AM
In reviews of the recent autobiography of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, numerous writers have noted the justice still clings to the anger he felt at his confirmation hearings. The "high-tech lynching," if you recall. Well. A former law clerk of Thomas' recently observed that it is the reviewers, no less than Thomas himself, who cannot seem to let go of anger. At his judgments. At his very confirmation. Wish I'd thought of that myself. They do need to let it go.
- Doug MacEachern, editorial writer
Monday, October 22, 2007
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Justice Thomas landed the right job for himself — and America
By Jim Wooten | Friday, October 19, 2007, 08:47 PM
But for the failure of any law firm in Savannah or Atlanta to offer him a job out of Yale Law School, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas would likely have wound up as a tax lawyer working corporate finance in the bowels of a big Southern law firm.
Praise thee, rejection.
“I didn’t go to law school thinking about living in New York or living in D.C.,” Thomas told The Atlanta Press Club last week. “I wanted to come back to Savannah” to work with the now-dissolved law firm of former state Rep. Bobby Hill. Though memories differ on whether the firm offered him a job upon his graduation from Yale, Thomas remembers rejection there and among the big firms in Atlanta. “That was a time of dashed hope and expectations and frustration,” he said. “To say I was frustrated is an understatement. I was absolutely despondent about it. It was one of those times I got to see just how difficult it was to deal with rejection.”
Critics hear Thomas talk about such memories and hear an angry and bitter man at the top of the world with a chip on his shoulder. That is not, frankly, the man who showed up in Atlanta last week, either at the press club luncheon or later at a book-signing sponsored by the Federalist Society and the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, both organizations that would champion the originalist philosophy Thomas brings to the court. At the Federalist-Heritage event, an adoring crowd of 900 people stood in a line that snaked around the walls of a banquet-size room waiting for a signed copy of “My Grandfather’s Son,” a remembrance of his grandparents’ life lessons.
It’s unfortunate that more of the Thomas critics don’t see — or actually hear — the man behind the caricature they have created. Thomas is, in my view, among the most wronged of the honorable public figures in American life. While there’s no value in revisiting his confirmation, the truth is that it was a smear directed at a man who held the “wrong” views for his skin color. He was the collateral damage of the abortion wars. He was asked at both events about the Anita Hill episode and why he’d revisited it in the book. “Well, if I left it out you would be asking me the opposite,” he told the press club.
Listening to a Southerner residing elsewhere talk about place, and the good people who lived there, is to feel an immediate affinity — as Georgians undoubtedly would with Thomas.
“So much written about the South and places like Savannah is written through the prism of what was wrong,” said Thomas. “Of course there was lots that was wrong. I don’t have to go over that. We all know. It was the ’40s and the ’50s and the ’60s. But there’s a lot that was good.
“Out in Liberty County, the family members there out on the farm, these people were good people. There was something about them. There was no sort of vision. There was no notion that they would be doing any more than the sort of hard labor that they had been assigned to, or had been assigned to them. And yet, they endured, they persevered and they stayed positive.
“There was something that needed to be said about them.” Over the years, he said, “I have thought that my grandparents were saying ‘remember us.’ This book is to leave a record of that. …”
“I would hope there is in this book something that would give hope to this young man sitting here or to someone who is going through struggle. Maybe there’s something when they’re sitting down and studying math and it’s hard and they can see that doors will be opened for me, or someone who has a disability, or someone who has a financial challenge, they can say, ‘look, it is going to be OK if I keep at it.’ “
A bitter man? That is, I think, a fantasy of the left, of critics who can never acknowledge that their political basis for trying to destroy his professional life was cheap and frivolous.
We can return later to the newsworthy observations, to his judicial philosophy, to the accounts of life on the bench.
But for this day, the man before us is a Southerner remembering home and people and place. “It’s home,” he said. “I truly miss home. … I left here, and I was trying when I stopped in Washington, D.C., in 1979, I was trying to get home.”
I am torn. No true Southerner who’s ever lived elsewhere could fail to understanding the yearnings to come back. I do. But he now serves America — and I want him there, on the U.S. Supreme Court, for always.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
An account of his speech there:
Justice Thomas discuss Supreme Court frustrations in NYC speech
3:41 PM EDT, October 16, 2007
NEW YORK (AP) _ Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Tuesday that people wrongly take shots at the court and he gets frustrated at times because he's unable to fully explain his positions.
"The perception of what we do is so different from what we actually do," Thomas told several hundred people at a luncheon in midtown Manhattan hotel to promote "My Grandfather's Son," his new book.
"Some of the discussions about what we do center around almost a political characterization of that. And it is not what we do," he said. "And I think it's an easy way to almost dismiss the importance of the court and the law as law."
Thomas, 59, said that was the saddest part of being a judge _ the misperceptions.
"So often you wish that you could sit down and explain to someone exactly what you are doing other than in your written opinion," he said. "But we don't have that opportunity to do press releases or come out and give press conferences about our work. So, it's frustrating when things are mischaracterized."
Thomas touched on a number of topics while answering questions from the audience. He talked about the difficultly of writing his book, which he described as a "long, lonely process" and the importance of written briefs submitted to court versus oral arguments.
"The real work is done in briefs," he said.
In response to another question, he said a threat to the Constitution was a lack of knowledge about it.
"I wonder how many people have even read the document, and maybe the greatest threat is we don't know how important it is or actually what's in it," he said. "If the Constitution is so important why do so many people know so little about it?"
Asked what he found most surprising about joining the court in 1991, Thomas said it was how civil the judges were "toward each other."
Then he added: "I was also surprised at how much work it was."
An account of Justice Thomas's speech in Atlanta:
Clarence Thomas promotes new book in Atlanta
By JILL VEJNOSKA
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/19/07
Did Clarence Thomas need to have his head examined?
The Supreme Court justice, who's not exactly known for his openness, came back to his native Georgia on Thursday for an Atlanta Press Club luncheon. Meaning he'd be taking questions from an audience lousy with lawyers (Troutman Sanders was a sponsor) and, worse, pesky journalists.
Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Clarence Thomas speaking at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va. last month. Breaking his 16-year public silence on his bitter confirmation hearings, Thomas writes in his new book that Anita Hill was a mediocre employee who was used by political opponents to make claims she had been sexually harassed.
"I've been in worse situations," Thomas chuckled while autographing a copy of his somewhat controversial new memoir, "My Grandfather's Son," before lunch. "I have had confirmation hearings."
As if anyone needed reminding of that surreal period in 1991 when his televised hearings turned into a "he said/she said" debate on Anita Hill's accusations of sexual harassment, one of the first audience questions Thursday concerned Thomas' decision to revisit it in his book.
"If I'd left it out, you'd be asking the opposite," Thomas, 59, responded tersely.
Bonhomie suffused the Commerce Club, where the Pin Point-born justice got a standing ovation before proclaiming he was "pleased to be back home in Georgia."
Thomas alternately tickled his listeners by recalling his first trip to Atlanta 40 years ago — like everyone else, he came here to catch a plane and rode the glass elevator at the [Hyatt] Regency "about 10 times" — and quieted them by recalling his inability to get hired by law firms in Savannah and Atlanta.
"One of the hardest times for me was wanting so badly to come back to this state," Thomas said. "I think in a strange way that had I not been rejected in Atlanta, I certainly wouldn't be standing up here today talking to you all."
Not that this is the same Georgia he left behind. Asked if he thought there will be a female chief justice of the Supreme Court during his lifetime, Thomas pointed out the current chief, John Roberts, is only 52. Then he turned the Q&A tables:
"Did you ever think you'd live long enough to see a black female chief justice of the state of Georgia?" Thomas asked rhetorically, meaning current Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears. "It is absolutely historic. If that can happen in the sovereign state of Georgia, I think it can happen over the entire United States, and it can happen with respect to the presidency."
Thomas responded to a question about "misconceptions" about him by denouncing suggestions that he took his cues on decisions from conservative Justice Antonin Scalia: "Obviously what that's based on is that I'm black and supposed to think a certain way."
He laughed, hard, when asked which of his fellow justices he'd least like to argue a case before.
"I am not answering that," Thomas protested. "You've got to remember, I've got to go back to work!"
Don't be surprised if he gets there by motor coach. Thomas seemed happiest when talking about taking incognito king-of-the-road trips in his RV. Once, soon after the controversial court ruling that decided the 2000 presidential election, Thomas said, a trucker in Brunswick stared and asked, "Anyone ever tell you that you look like Clarence Thomas?" Responded the limelight-loathing justice: "Uh, yes."
"And he said, 'I'll bet it happens all the time, huh?' And that was it," Thomas recalled, roaring at the memory.
After all, he's been in worse situations.
That's the title of an Associated Press article today. This hasn't been news to anyone who has paid attention to the Supreme Court for, oh, about the past 15 years or so. But apparently it's news to the AP:
ATLANTA (AP) -- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas condemned suggestions that he follows the lead of fellow conservative Antonin Scalia, telling an audience Thursday the notion is based on a racial stereotype.
The current court's only black justice said critics accuse him of picking up cues from Scalia, an Italian-American known as the court's most conservative member.
"Obviously, what it's based on is that I'm black and I'm supposed to think in a certain way," said Thomas, responding to an audience member's question about how he arrives at his judicial opinions. "And there's no way, since I'm not supposed to think that way, that I can come up with that myself, so I must be following somebody. You make your own judgments about that line of reasoning."
* * *
No question provoked a quicker response from Thomas than when he was asked which of his fellow justices he would least like to argue against.
"I'm not answering that," he said to laughter. "You got to remember when this whole book thing is done, I've got to get back to work."
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Here's another woman who testified against Anita Hill:
[Statement of Ms. Holt, Management Analyst, Office of the Chairman, EEOC]See also Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part X, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part IX, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part VIII, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part VII, Women Who Testified Against Anita HIll, Part VI, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part V, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part IV, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part III, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part II and Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part I.
MS. HOLT: Mr. Chairman, Senator Thurmond, and members of this committee: My name is Diane Holt. I am a management analyst in the Office of the Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
I have known Clarence Thomas for over ten years. For six of those years, I worked very closely with him, cheek to cheek, shoulder to shoulder, as his personal secretary. My acquaintance with Judge Thomas began in May of 1981, after he had been appointed as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education.
I had been the personal secretary to the outgoing Assistant Secretary for several years. Upon Judge Thomas' arrival at the department, he held a meeting with me, in which he indicated that he was not committed to bringing a secretary with him, and had no wish to displace me. Because he was not familiar with my qualifications, he made no guarantees, but gave me an opportunity to prove myself. That is the kind of man he is.
In May of 1982, Judge Thomas asked me to go to the EEOC with him, where I worked as his secretary until September of 1987.
I met Professor Hill in the summer of 1981, when she came to work at the Department of Education as attorney advisor to Judge Thomas.
After about a year, Judge Thomas was nominated to be Chairman of the EEOC. He asked both Professor Hill and myself to transfer with him.
Both Ms. Hill and I were excited about the prospect of transferring to the EEOC. We even discussed the greater potential for individual growth at this larger agency. We discussed and expressed excitement that we would be at the right hand of the individual who would run this agency.
When we arrived at the EEOC, because we knew no one else there, Professor Hill and I quickly developed a professional relationship, a professional friendship, often having lunch together.
At no time did Professor Hill intimate, not even in the most subtle of ways, that Judge Thomas was asking her out or subjecting her to the crude, abusive conversations that have been described. Nor did I ever discern any discomfort, when Professor Hill was in Judge Thomas' presence.
Additionally, I never heard anyone at any time make any reference to any inappropriate conduct in relation to Clarence Thomas.
The Clarence Thomas that I know has always been a motivator of staff, always encouraging others to grow professionally. I personally have benefited from that encouragement and that motivation.
In sum, the Chairman Thomas that I have known for ten years is absolutely incapable of the abuses described by Professor Hill.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Mark your calendars for this live Internet video event from the Heritage Foundation:
Reception with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
Atlanta, October 18th
The live broadcast begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time
Monday, October 15, 2007
David Garrow, a liberal, has a fair-minded review of Justice Clarence Thomas's autobiography, including some harsh comments aimed at other reviewers:
Clarence Thomas’ brutally self-critical autobiography, My Grandfather’s Son, bears little resemblance to most early accounts of the book’s contents.
For instance, only at Page 241 — well past the 80 percent mark in a 289-page book — does Thomas reach the subject of Anita Hill’s charges that threw his 1991 Senate confirmation hearings into turmoil. * * *
Yet My Grandfather’s Son is plenty newsworthy, even if initial reviews and commentaries have “missed the lede,” as journalists say when stories fail to highlight what’s most important. In fact, those accounts have missed multiple ledes.
NO PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Let’s start with one that’s not all that obvious. Thomas’ son, Jamal — who’s now a 34-year-old options trader for Wachovia Securities in Richmond, Va. — was born while the justice-to-be was a newly married second-year student at Yale Law School. Jamal figures in this memoir most prominently when Thomas describes the subsequent dissolution of that marriage, after which Jamal eventually lived full-time with his father. But Thomas also recounts that, soon after Jamal’s birth, TV news footage of black schoolchildren being bused into the vociferously hostile white neighborhood of South Boston led him to make a remarkable vow: “I swore on the spot never to let Jamal go to a public school.”
Thomas kept his pledge, though in later years his personal finances repeatedly left him scrambling to pay Jamal’s private school tuition bills.
Top public officials need not send their children to public school, but a personal aversion toward public education as intense and long-standing as Thomas’ — apparently irrespective of state, district, or particular school — is a noteworthy attitude for a jurist who regularly confronts cases that present a wide range of public schooling issues. * * *
‘COMFORT IN THE BOTTLE’
The most dramatic “missed lede” from Thomas’ memoir is his insistently confessional accounts of a drinking problem that began during his undergraduate years at the College of the Holy Cross and lasted until 1982, when he gave up alcohol entirely.* * *
But this story is just one example of the intense, soul-bearing self-examination to which Thomas relentlessly subjects himself in this memoir. To call My Grandfather’s Son “emotionally revealing” would be the understatement of the year, and fatuous op-ed columnists who insistently declare that Thomas is just bitterly wallowing in self-pity have either failed to read this book or possess an undeclared bias that overwhelmed their critical faculties.
LIVING WITH THE GUILT
Any reader who comes to this book without a pre-existing animus toward Thomas will likely feel tremendous empathy for his life story, even if the reader’s legal views — like this reviewer’s — differ from Thomas’ on everything from abortion to the commerce clause to gay equality. * * *
* * *
Thomas’ performance as a justice has earned the respect of almost every unbiased Court observer. As liberal Supreme Court practitioner Thomas Goldstein recently wrote, Thomas’ “unflinchingly honest” opinions reveal how “he is thinking big and tackling the serious questions in constitutional law to which the Court has not given a fresh look in decades.” One need not agree with Thomas’ answers, or with his view of public education, to appreciate how My Grandfather’s Son will remain a classic work of African-American autobiography long after op-ed columnists’ catty comments are forgotten.
Newsweek has an interview with Justice Clarence Thomas:
Weymouth: Why did you write the book?
Thomas: It started when my brother died. I suddenly realized I'm the last person in the house. There's nobody left who is going to tell the story. We both revered our grandfather. We were his biggest cheerleaders.
Although he didn't sound so nice when he kicked you out of his house.
I think he did the right thing. I think it was a kick in the pants. He used to go off in the woods by himself—he always said he was hunting but he rarely came back with anything—and I think it was just to think and to, as he used to say, "mull things over." I often wonder now how many times he second-guessed himself for doing that.
So you wanted to tell your story.
I had to tell it. Because there are people who [had] told portions of it but some of it was wrong. They'd say that I went to college on a "Martin Luther King Scholarship." I didn't. I was a transfer student. People have their own template and they impose it. I just wanted to tell the story as best I could—checking back with my mother and some of my relatives to make sure I didn't overstate anything. I have this hope that maybe in telling it there will be something in there for somebody who is still trying to live their life—especially some kids.
The court today seems so divided. It seems like the votes are always 5 to 4.
Yes, but that doesn't mean that the court doesn't get along. [We get] along just fine as an institution, as friends, as colleagues—it's a wonderful place. The mere fact that people disagree doesn't carry over into how they treat each other. That is what I thought Washington was going to be when I came to town. I didn't think for a moment that because I didn't agree with somebody meant I was going to be hated. It wasn't until I went into the Reagan administration that I started feeling that lash.
Why do you never speak in oral arguments?
It's not a necessary part of the job. The court used to be very quiet. This [speaking] is all new. Justice [Harry] Blackmun asked no questions, and nobody beat on him about it. I ask more than he did. Justice [William] Brennan rarely asked questions, Justice [Thurgood] Marshall told stories, but he rarely asked questions.
How do you think your hearings changed the confirmation process?
It's obvious, isn't it? Would you want to be nominated for something [now]? Justice White was, he told me, nominated on day one and sworn in 10 days later. Now look at the confirmation hearings, whether it's the chief justice or Justice Alito. You've got all of this controversy around them—how does that improve the court? I think it's really poisoned the well.
What gave you the drive to succeed?
I was driven by the fear of failure. I had obligations. If I failed, then what would I do next? What were my options in life?
When you were going through those hearings, did you think the whole thing was a mistake and you should never have accepted the nomination?
No, not really. I would have preferred not to have been nominated for any variety of reasons. But I think it's wrong for people to do bad things to other people.
Are you referring to the senators or Anita Hill?
No, I wasn't referring to her. I was thinking of the interest groups. There are always going to be people who are going to try to trip you up. But that doesn't mean that those who are in charge of the process should allow it to happen. People in authority should know better. That was my frustration.
Have you enjoyed your time on the court?
This job is a humbling experience. When you decide cases, you want to try to get it right. Some people know how they want it to come out before they start—they have a particular point of view—[so] the case is easy for them because they only see one side, their side. The rest of us have to look at both sides and think it through. I made a decision when I first got here: I will only do what is necessary to discharge the responsibilities under my oath. I will not do things for histrionics. I will not do things so people will think well of me. The job is important, it's not about me.
Have you moved intellectually to the right?
No, I never moved toward the right. I was a libertarian. What I wanted more than anything else was not to be in a box. People try to put me in one. They have become very comfortable with that when it comes to blacks. We're all supposed to be liberals, Democrats, and believe in affirmative action. I'm just like everybody else. I'm complicated; I think things through. I assume people will say that I am conservative. But the reason I wrote the book about my grandfather is that my views are consistent with his.
To the extent that I am conservative—I am conserving what they gave me. I made a decision to align myself with the Republican Party years ago. [But] I am not a Republican now. I am a federal judge and have been for almost 20 years. And I take that enormously … seriously. It is really important to me to do this job right, regardless of what anybody else says. President George Herbert Walker Bush asked me: can you call them as you see them if you get on the court? That's all the man exacted from me.
Along the road from Pin Point, Ga., to the Supreme Court, why did you not give up during difficult times?
I wanted to give up a hundred times. The thing that was so hurtful to me was after the end of that long journey to be beaten like that.
You mean at the hearings?
Yes, throughout the hearings, the summer, everything … I asked my wife, "Why? I just disagree with them. I don't even know if I disagree with them on specific issues." [But] I cannot carry around bitterness and at the same time carry around a positive message for young kids and for people who still need help. When my buddies and I get together, we talk about how can we help kids who are in the position we were in at 16, 17, 18 … We don't want these kids to humiliate themselves. We have an obligation to help because we were there, and we remember what it was like. My goal is: I will never treat anybody the way I was treated in this city. I also will never do my job as poorly as people did their jobs when I was at their mercy.
Jamie Kirchick of The New Republic has an excellent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times defending Clarence Thomas against charges of hypocrisy:
Clarence Thomas is not the hypocrite
It's not fair to use affirmative action against the Supreme Court's lone black judge.
By James Kirchick
October 15, 2007
WITH THE RELEASE of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' memoir, "My Grandfather's Son," all of the old smears directed against him since his confirmation hearings 16 years ago are once again being trotted out.
That he's "incompetent." That he's "not qualified." That the only reason he was appointed is because he's black. In other words, that he's a product of affirmative action or, more precisely, an "affirmative action hire."
Last week, for instance, liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote: "I believe in affirmative action, but I have to acknowledge there are arguments against it. One of the more cogent is the presence of Justice Clarence Thomas on the U.S. Supreme Court."
Robinson's comment echoes many previous attacks. * * * Even The American Prospect magazine, a liberal journal that sees its mission as "beating back the right wing," ran an article two years ago calling Thomas the "most visible affirmative action hire in all the land, a token black nominee whose lack of qualifications was so painfully outed during his confirmation hearings."
How can you support a policy of racial preferences and then attack one of its supposed beneficiaries as undeserving? This, ultimately, is the intrinsic hypocrisy of the Thomas bashers. They allege that he's not competent and that the only reason he became a Supreme Court justice was because he's black. And in so doing, they level the exact same arguments against Thomas that they castigate conservatives for making about affirmative action itself. * * *
This blatant intellectual inconsistency does not stop Thomas' liberal critics from accusing him of hypocrisy -- namely, for being the "most visible affirmative action hire in all the land" while simultaneously standing as its most prominent black opponent. By opposing racial preferences, liberals say, Thomas -- who was accepted into Yale Law School via an affirmative action program -- is denying others the very same benefits he received.
But as Thomas reveals in "My Grandfather's Son," his opposition to racial preferences is based on personal conscience and a genuine concern for its effects on black Americans, not selfish disregard for his racial brethren born out of self-loathing, as affirmative action advocates would have it. He writes that he keeps his Yale diploma tucked away in his basement with a 15-cent cigar sticker affixed to its frame. Why? In a "60 Minutes" interview, Thomas said "that degree meant one thing for whites and another thing for blacks. . . . It was discounted."
This is one of the tragic legacies of racial preferences -- that the achievements of black people in the professional world will always be suspect, and not just to blacks who benefit from such preferences. In the minds even of liberals, blacks will always be thought of as "affirmative action hires" no matter how bright or qualified they are.
It may be difficult for well-intentioned white liberals to understand the personal insecurity that affirmative action causes, and as a white person, I can only take someone like Thomas at his word when he writes about the shame he feels because of racial preferences. But as a gay man, I can certainly empathize, as I imagine I would feel exactly the same way if sexual orientation became a "plus factor" in a law school or employment application process. Factoring in a person's immutable traits demeans them and robs them of their individuality.
Whether or not Thomas is qualified to be a Supreme Court justice, who are affirmative action advocates to smear him as an affirmative action hire? (Can you imagine a left-wing magazine like The American Prospect saying that about a liberal black judge? It would never happen.) But if they honestly believe Thomas is one, then they only have themselves to blame for a rotten system that privileges some people over others because of skin pigmentation.
From the day his Supreme Court nomination was announced by President George H.W. Bush, Thomas' critics have personally and viciously attacked him as if he were an abstraction -- representing everything they hate about minorities (whether women, gays or blacks) who do not subscribe to their liberal nostrums -- and, in so doing, have sucked him of his humanity as an individual. If liberals want to live up to their self-purported principles of equality and free inquiry, they would do well to stop treating Clarence Thomas as the scapegoat for their political agendas and start treating him like a man.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Rod Dreher has a glowing review of Clarence Thomas's autobiography in the Dallas Morning News today. The review begins like this:
Clarence Thomas' story is the real American Dream; Every father should read this book to his son
09:07 AM CDT on Sunday, October 14, 2007
If Clarence Thomas were a liberal, he'd be widely regarded as an American hero.
The Supreme Court associate justice's new memoir, My Grandfather's Son , is mostly a story about fatherhood and the making of his character. It's a tale so profoundly moving, and so profoundly true to this nation's ideals, that every American father ought to read the first two chapters – and then read them aloud to his children. Here is an inheritance of wisdom, a pearl of great price passed from a semi-literate peasant through his grandson, who lifted himself with it out of the direst poverty and became one of the world's most powerful men.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Justice Clarence Thomas's autobiography is now at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. A well-deserved honor.
Hugh Hewitt has a review of Justice Thomas's book. It includes this assessment:
Hugh Hewitt has a review of Justice Thomas's book. It includes this assessment:
Ask serious readers and writers who care about the issue of race in America since emancipation, and most will agree that certain books have to be read: Richard Wright's Native Son, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird among them.And Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk -- a rare example of a fair-minded liberal -- has these remarks on the Anita Hill controversy when judged in light of Clinton's actions:
Justice Thomas's memoir is now on that list.
I came of age during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. As a feminist freshman at Yale, I scrutinized the photos depicting Anita Hill's sad and fatalistic resolve, and pondered how an accusation of sexual harassment could be "a high-tech lynching for uppity black folks," as Mr. Thomas called it.
Like many others I thought the main issue was whether or not you believed her story.
* * *
Comparing some liberals' harsh judgment of Justice Thomas with this light judgment of Mr. Clinton tells a story of cultural inconsistency. But liberals will surely say that the disparity is perfectly consistent: Justice Thomas subordinated a woman against her will, while Mr. Clinton merely engaged in sexual conduct with willing women.
So let's recall precisely what was alleged against each, bearing in mind that both denied most allegations. Justice Thomas was accused of repeatedly asking his employee on dates, which she declined, commenting on her attractiveness, and discussing sex in her presence. Mr. Clinton was accused of having state troopers escort Paula Jones, an employee of the state of which he was governor, to a hotel room where he touched her without consent and exposed his genitals. He also admitted to having sexual contact with a young intern working in his White House.
If the metric we are using is the abuse of power by male bosses against female employees, how is it that Justice Thomas has fared so badly while Mr. Clinton seems to have fared relatively well since he left office? According to that metric, is attempting to date and talking about sex to a fellow Yale-educated employee worse than touching, propositioning and exposing oneself to a nonconsenting, low-level state employee? As for the affair in the White House with Monica Lewinsky, the relationship may have been consensual. But one would expect that those subscribing to the prevailing workplace sexual-harassment orthodoxy would be troubled by the power disparity between the leader of the free world and an unpaid 22-year-old intern.
The point is that for too long we have allowed that dubious early 1990s judgment of Justice Thomas to remain a dominant feature of the discourse about him. Sure, he was confirmed, and President Clinton was impeached. In reality, partisan politics was likely more determinative than substantive views about sex and power.
Even today, it is extremely common to hear liberals talk about Justice Thomas as a sexual harasser who should not have been confirmed, and about President Clinton as a victim of our country's fanatical sexual morality.
One need not be soft on sexual harassment to realize, after 16 years, that our country put Clarence Thomas through hell on the basis of accusations that don't approach the sexual allegations that we have rightly allowed to recede into the background of Bill Clinton's distinguished career. The high-tech lynching didn't keep Justice Thomas off the Court, but it did plenty of damage that, on closer scrutiny today, doesn't look fair by our own standards.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Most of the women who testified against Anita Hill could have been foreclosed from testifying at all, if Democrat Howard Metzenbaum had had his way. As you can see on page 582 of this file, Metzenbaum made a motion to prevent them from testifying:
But I wonder whether, in view of the fact that it is now 11:30 at night, and the next nine witnesses, of those nine I think seven of them are employed by the Administration either at the EEOC or at the Labor Department or the Department of Education, and two of them, one is a former secretary to Senatory Danforth and one is a former chief of staff to Clarence Thomas -- I wonder, Mr. Chairman, if we couldn't stipulate that all of that testimony will be very supportive of Clarence Thomas? I don't think there is any argument about that. I don't know why there is any reason to have to hear it . . . We know what the testimony will be.
Thanks again to Howard Bashman, here's the article Why Are the Media So Angry at Justice Thomas, by Helgi Walker, one of his former clerks. It begins:
MEDIA REACTION to the release last week of "My Grandfather's Son" by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been noteworthy in two respects: First, while the general coverage across the country had been even-handed and fair, some journalists feel compelled to express their views of the book and the justice in terms that are so negative and personalized that they seem to belie a deep anger toward the man and what he stands for; second, others in the press are being chastised by their peers for not being critical enough of the book. The irony is that the man who some regrettably still feel the need to tear down 16 years after his confirmation is among the staunchest defenders on the Supreme Court of a fulsome understanding of the First Amendment - thus protecting their right to voice their opinions, however mean-spirited.
Thanks to Howard Bashman, here's a Time Magazine interview with Justice Thomas.
On a rainy October afternoon, Justice Clarence Thomas is seated in temporary chambers at the Supreme Court. The office he has occupied for most of the past 16 years is being remodeled as part of a larger renovation of the Supreme Court building. Thomas' relationships on the court are also being reworked. For one thing, the case conferences presided over by the new Chief Justice are more elaborate than they used to be. Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist was more of a "keep-the-trains-running-on-time kind of guy," says Thomas. And the more extensive back-and-forths under John Roberts have been extremely civil, despite the perception on the outside that the court--mimicking the political climate elsewhere in the capital--is nastily divided at the moment. "This place is so different from what is beyond these walls," he says. "You disagree with someone here, and it is 'I respectfully disagree.' People have different approaches to the Constitution and statutory construction, and there are different conclusions. That is why you say, 'I respectfully dissent.'"
In fact, the growing respect the Justices have for one another has led to more contact among them under Roberts, not less. "This is a place where rather than hurling aspersions, people will actually sit at lunch and chat and laugh," Thomas says. "When we have formal meetings on the bench or at conference, we have lunch. When I first got here, it was two, three people, a maximum of four. Now--today, for example--it was the entire court, all nine. It is an interesting experience."
Thomas, who has just published his memoir, My Grandfather's Son, argues that the number of 5-to-4 decisions under Roberts does not reflect personal conflict so much as disagreements over principles. "Some cases are harder than others, and some stress you out more as you are working through them, but no, I don't see that as particularly saying the members of the court don't get along. They simply don't agree."
The atmosphere of politeness , says Thomas, comes from a basic respect for the institution. "People know they are working on something bigger than all of us, something that is going to be here when we are gone," he says. "So you don't get these kinds of personal reactions where people are saying they are upset, emotionally hurt about this or that. They might be exasperated. We are human beings. But in the end we realize this is not about us."
Thomas says there is no vote-trading among the Justices and he has never been pressured by Rehnquist or Roberts to change his opinion in order to create the image of a more unified court. He says there are attempts at persuasion in conference and when opinions circulate internally before being issued; they arrive as comments on the draft opinions of others. "There is very little face-to-face or buttonholing in the hallway," he says. "It is done by letter. So it will be 'Dear Clarence, I don't agree with this point or that point.'" Justice Byron White never failed to sign off with "Cheers, Byron," according to Thomas.
The job has deepened his humility, says Thomas. "If there is any lesson I've learned since I have been here, it is that this job is easy for people who don't do it, have no authority to do it or have their minds made up on a particular side of an issue. For the rest of us, who have to start at square one and decide cases, it is a hard job, and it is a humbling job. So I will not criticize other people who have had to decide cases in their time. And I reflect back on what Justice Thurgood Marshall said to me: 'I had to do in my time what I had to do, and you have to do in your time what you have to do.'"
Here's another of the women who testified against Anita Hill:
[Statement of Ms. Fitch, former Special Assistant and Historian, EEOC]See also Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part IX, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part VIII, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part VII, Women Who Testified Against Anita HIll, Part VI, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part V, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part IV, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part III, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part II and Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part I.
MS. FITCH: Mr. Chairman, Senator Thurmond, members of the committee:
My name is Dr. Nancy Elizabeth Fitch. I have a BA in English literature and political science from Oakland University, which was part of Michigan State University at the time--
SENATOR THURMOND: Would you please call the microphone closer to you, so that the people in the back can hear you.
MS. FITCH: --and a masters and Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I have taught at Sangamon State University in Illinois, was a social science research analyst for the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, been a special assistant and historian to the then Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Clarence Thomas, an assistant professor of history at Lynchburg College in Virginia, and presently assistant professor of Africa-American Studies at Temple University, in Philadelphia.
From 1982 to 1989, I worked as a special assistant historian to then Chairman Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. I worked for and with him seven years and have known him for nine. I researched the history of African-Americans, people of color and women an their relationship to issues, including employment, education and training. These were used for background on speeches, special emphasis programming at the Commission and for policy position papers.
I reported only to Judge Thomas, and my responsibilities also included outreach efforts to local colleges and universities and to the D.C. public schools. Judge THomas was interested in his staff and himself being mentors and role models, especially, but not only to young people of color.
In these nine years, I have known Clarence Thomas to be a person of great integrity, morally upstanding, professional, a decent person, an exemplary boss. Those years spent in his employ as a Schedule C employee, a political appointee, were the most rewarding of my work life to that tim. My returning to higher education I attribute to his persuading me to return to what I loved, not continuing as a bureaucrat, but returning to teaching.
I would like to say Judge Thomas, besides being a person of great moral character, I found to be a most intelligent man. Senator Biden was correct yesterday, when he indicated that the Republican side of the panel might have overlooked its easiest defense, that of dealing with the judge's intelligence.
If these allegations, which I believe to be completely unfounded and vigorously believe unfounded, were true, we would be dealing not only with venality, but with abject stupidity with a person shooting himself in the foot, having given someone else the gun to use at any time.
There is no way Clarence Thomas--CT--would callously venally hurt someone. A smart man,, concerned about making a contribution to this country as a public official, recognizing the gravity and weightiness of his responsibilities and public trust, a role model and mentor who would, by his life and work, show the possibilities in America for all citizens given opportunity, well, would a person such as this, Judge Clarence Thomas would never ever make a parallel career in harassment, ask that it not be revealed and expect to have and keep his real career. And I know he did no such thing.
He is a dignified, reserve, deliberative, conscientious man of great conscience, and I am proud to be at his defense.
As I told the FBI agent who interviewed me on Tuesday, October 1st, I trust Judge Thomas completely, he has all of my support and caring earned by nine years of the most positive and affirmative interacting, not only with me, but with other staff and former staff, men and women, and I know he will get back his good name.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Here is the testimony of J.C. Alvarez. Her testimony is especially powerful. Notice that it is interrupted in the middle by several minutes of squabbling because Senate Democrats didn't want to let her finish (this shows that they weren't interested in hearing from women; just from Anita Hill and anything that would derail Thomas's nomination).
Sunday, October 13, 1991 Evening SessionSee also Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part VIII, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part VII, Women Who Testified Against Anita HIll, Part VI, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part V, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part IV, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part III, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part II and Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part I.
[Statement of Ms. Alvarez]
MS. ALVAREZ: My name is J. C. Alvarez. I am a businesswoman from Chicago. I am a single mom, raising a 15-year-old son, running a business. In many ways, I am just a John Q. Public from Middle America, not unlike a lot of the people watching out there and not unlike a lot of your constituents.
But the political world is not a world that I am unfamiliar with. I spent nine years in Washington, D.C. A year with Senator Danforth, two years with the Secretary of Education, a short stint at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and four years as Special Assistant to Clarence Thomas at the EEOC.
Because of this past political experience, I was just before this Committee a couple of weeks ago speaking in support of Clarence Thomas's nomination to the Supreme Court. I was then and I still am in favor of Clarence Thomas being on the Supreme Court.
When I was asked to testify the last time, I flew to Washington, D. C., very proud and happy to be part of the process of nominating a Supreme Court Justice. When I was sitting here before you last time, I remember why I had liked working in Washington, D.C., so much--the intellectual part of it, the high quality of the debate. Although I have to admit when I had to listen to some of your questioning and postulating and politicking, I remembered why I had left. And I thought at that point that certainly I had seen it all.
After the hearings, I flew back to Chicago, back to being John Q. Public, having a life very far removed from this political world, and it would have been easy to stay away from politics in Washington, D.C. Like most of your constituents out there, I have more than my share of day-to-day challenges that have nothing to do with Washington, D.C., and politics. As I said before, I am a single mom, raising a teenager in today's society, running a business, making ends meet--you know, soccer games, homework, doing laundry, paying bills, that is my day-to-day reality.
Since I left Washington, D.C., I vote once every four years for President and more frequently for other State and local officials. And I could have remained outside of the political world for a long, long time and not missed it. I don't need this. I needed to come here like I needed a hole in the head. It cost me almost $900 just for the plane ticket to come here, and then there is the hotel and other expenses. And I can assure you that especially in these recessionary times I have got lots of other uses for that money.
So, why did I come? Why didn't I just stay uninvolved and apolitical? Because, Senators, like most real Americans who witness a crime being committed, who witness an injustice being done, I could not look the other way and pretend that I did not see it. I had to get involved.
In my real life, I have walked down the street and seen a man beating up a woman and I have stepped in and tried to stop it. I have walked through a park and seen a group of teenage hoodlums taunting an old drunk man and I have jumped in the middle of it. I don't consider myself a hero. No, I am just a real American from Middle America who will not stand by and watch a crime being committed and walk away. To do so would be the beginning of the deterioration of society and of this great country.
No, Senators, I cannot stand by and watch a group of thugs beat up and rob a man of his money any more than I could have stayed in Chicago and stood by and watched you beat up an innocent man and rob him blind. Not of his money. That would have been too easy. You could pay that back. No, you have robbed a man of his name, his character and his reputation.
And what is amazing to me is that you didn't do it in a dark alley and you didn't do it in the dark of night. You did it in broad daylight, in front of all America, on television, for the whole world to see. Yes, Senators, I am witnessing a crime in progress and I cannot just look the other way. Because I am John Q. Public and I am getting involved.
I know Clarence Thomas and I know Anita Hill. I was there from the first few weeks of Clarence coming to the Commission. I had the office next to Anita's. We all worked together in setting and executing the goals and the direction that the Chairman had for the EEOC. I remember Chris Roggerson, Carlton Stewart, Nancy Fitch, Barbara Parris, Phyllis Berry, Bill Ng, Allyson Duncan, Diane Holt--each of us with our own area of expertise and responsibility, but together all of us a part of Clarence Thomas's hand-picked staff.
I don't know how else to say it, but I have to tell you that it just blew my mind to see Anita Hill testifying on Friday. Honest to goodness, it was like schizophrenia. That was not the Anita Hill that I knew and worked with at EEOC. On Friday, she played the role of a meek, innocent, shy Baptist girl from the South who was a victim of this big, bad man.
I don't know who she was trying to kid. Because the Anita Hill that I knew and worked with was nothing like that. She was a very hard, tough woman. She was opinionated. She was arrogant. She was a relentless debater. And she was the kind of woman who always made you feel like she was not going to be messed with, like she was not going to take anything from anyone.
She was aloof. She always acted as if she was a little bit superior to everyone, a little "holier than thou." I can recall at the time that she had a view of herself and her abilities that did not seem to be based in reality. For example, it was sort of common knowledge around the office that she thought she should have been Clarence's chief legal advisor and that she should have received better assignments.
And I distinctly remember when I would hear about her feeling that way or when I would see her pout in office meetings about assignments that she had gotten, I used to think to myself, "Come on, Anita, let's come down to earth and live in reality." She had only been out of law school a couple of years and her experience and her ability couldn't begin to compare with some of the others on the staff.
But I also have to say that I was not totally surprised at her wanting these assignments because she definitely came across as someone who was ambitious and watched out for her own advancement. She wasn't really a team player, but more someone who looked out for herself first. You could see the same thing in her relationships with others at the office.
SENATOR KENNEDY: [Presiding.] Excuse me. Ms. Alvarez, we had the five minutes, you know, for the other panel. But we have very extensive questionings. I don't want to cut you off when you have been waiting a long time.
MS. ALVAREZ: Well, Senator, if you would just give me a few more minutes.
SENATOR THURMOND: Mr. Chairman, I would like to make a statement. The other panel has been on all day long. This is a panel in reverse now. And the only limitation was the nine, number nine, for one hour, and that is the last panel to come on.
I object to cutting these people off. They are entitled to speak.
SENATOR LEAHY: Mr. Chairman, we made an agreement just about 10 minutes ago and it is already being broken. Let's stick to the agreement.
SENATOR THURMOND: There is no agreement on this panel at all. It was the last panel of nine people that we agreed to take one hour on and no more. This panel is answering the first panel that has been on here for hours and hours, and they are entitled to speak, and we are going to contend for it.
SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, I think the record will show that there were as many questions focused on the other panel from that side as it was from this side. I distinctly heard the Chairman say that they were going to be five minutes and then it is unlimited.
SENATOR THURMOND: Well, he suggested five minutes.
SENATOR KENNEDY: All right. Let's make it seven.
SENATOR THURMOND: No, we don't want to limit them.
SENATOR KENNEDY: Let's make it seven.
SENATOR THURMOND: You didn't limit this morning. You didn't limit all day long. They were in your favor. Here are some in our favor. They are entitled to speak.
SENATOR HATCH: And they read their full statements, the last panel.
SENATOR KENNEDY: I will ask the clerk to read back what Chairman Biden said about this panel.
SENATOR THURMOND: Well, send it to Chairman Biden.
SENATOR KENNEDY: I will ask the clerk to read back what was agreed to.
SENATOR THURMOND: No agreement.
SENATOR LEAHY: It was agreed to.
SENATOR THURMOND: He just said he suggested five minutes.
SENATOR SIMPSON: Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman?
SENATOR KENNEDY: Go ahead, Ms. Alvarez. Continue.
SENATOR SIMPSON: Mr. Chairman, if I--
SENATOR KENNEDY: Ms. Alvarez is going to continue.
SENATOR SIMPSON: Mr. Chairman, if I could, I think we all concurred on the one panel with three minutes and that is separate and apart from this.
SENATOR THURMOND: The last panel.
SENATOR SIMPSON: And this is the regular panel and the regular time that we did this morning with the other group. And we just ask for the same courtesies here.
SENATOR KENNEDY: That is exactly, the Senator has stated. Whatever time was given to the earlier panel ought to be given to this panel.
I am glad the Chair is back.
SENATOR KENNEDY: Good to see you, Joe.
SENATOR BIDEN: [Presiding.] Please go on.
MS. ALVAREZ: If I could finish.
SENATOR BIDEN: I am not sure I know--I know I don't know, and I don't want it repeated. Did you all settle it? Are we all square?
MS. ALVAREZ: It is settled. I am going to finish.
SENATOR BIDEN: There is no limit on this panel. What is the motion?
SENATOR THURMOND: There is no motion at all. Just let them speak till they get through.
SENATOR BIDEN: Speak.
MS. ALVAREZ: Please. I made an awful lot of effort to come here. I would like to just finish saying what I have to say.
SENATOR BIDEN: Yes. You go right ahead.
MS. ALVAREZ: You could see that Anita Hill was not a real team player, but more someone who looked out for herself. You could see this even in her relationships with others at the office. She mostly kept to herself, although she would occasionally participate in some of the girl-talk among the women at the office, and I have to add that I don't recall her being particularly shy or innocent about that either.
You see, Senators, that was the Anita Hill that we all knew and we worked with. And that is why hearing her on Friday was so shocking. No, not shocking. It was so sickening. Trust me, the Anita Hill I knew and worked with was a totally different personality from the Anita Hill I heard on Friday. The Anita Hill I knew before was nobody's victim.
The Clarence Thomas I knew and worked with was also not who Anita Hill alleges. Everyone who knows Clarence, knows that he is a very proud and dignified man. With his immediate staff, he was very warm and friendly, sort of like a friend or a father. You could talk with him about your problems, go to him for advice, but, like a father, he commanded and he demanded respect. He demanded professionalism and performance, and he was very strict about that.
Because we were friends outside of the office or perhaps in private, I might have called him Clarence, but in the office he was Mr. Chairman. You didn't joke around with him, you didn't lose your respect for him, you didn't become too familiar with him, because he would definitely let you know that you had crossed the line.
Clarence was meticulous about being sure that he retained a very serious and professional atmosphere within his office, without the slightest hint of impropriety, and everyone knew it.
We weren't a coffee-klatching group. We didn't have office parties or Christmas parties, because Clarence didn't think it was appropriate for us to give others the impression that we were not serious or professional or perhaps working as hard as everyone else. He wanted to maintain a dignity about his office and his every behavior and action confirmed that.
As his professional colleague, I traveled with him, had lunch and dinner with him, worked with him, one-on-one and with others. Never did he ever lose his respect for me, and never did we ever have a discussion of the type that Ms. Hill alleges. Never was he the slightest bit improper in his behavior with me. In every situation I have shared with Clarence Thomas, he has been the ultimate professional and he has required it of those around him, in particular, his personal staff.
From the moment they surfaced, I thought long and hard about these allegations. You see, I, too, have experienced sexual harassment in the past. I have been physically accosted by a man in an elevator who I rebuffed. I was trapped in a xerox room by a man who I refused to date. Obviously, it is an issue I have experienced, I understand, and I take very seriously.
But having lived through it myself, I find Anita Hill's behavior inconsistent with these charges. I can assure you that when I come into town, the last thing I want to do is call either of these two men up and say hello or see if they want to get together.
To be honest with you, I can hardly remember their names, but I can assure you that I would never try and even maintain a cordial relationship with either one of them. Women who have really been harassed would agree, if he allegations were true, you put as much distance as you can between yourself and that other person.
What's more, you don't follow them to the next job--especially, if you are a black female, Yale law school graduate. Let's face it, out in the corporate sector, companies are fighting for women with those kinds of credentials. Her behavior just isn't consistent with the behavior of a woman who has been harassed, and it just doesn't make sense.
Senators, I don't know what else to say to have you understand the crime that has been committed here. It has to make all of us suspicious of her motives, when someone of her legal background comes in here at the 11th hour, after 10 years, and having had four other opportunities through congressional hearings to oppose this man, and alleges such preposterous things.
I have been contacted by I think every reporter in the country, looking for dirt. And when I present the facts as I experienced them, it is interesting, they don't print it. It's just not as juicy as her amazing allegations.
What is this country coming to, when an innocent man can be ambushed like this, jumped by a gang whose ring leader is one of his own proteges, Anita Hill? Like Julius Caesar, he must want to turn to her and say, "Et tu, Brutus? You too, Anita?"
As a mother with a child, I can only begin to imagine how Clarence must feel, being betrayed by one of his own. Nothing would hurt me more. And I guess he described it best in his opening statement on Friday. His words and his emotions are still ringing in all of our ears and all of our hearts.
I have done the best I could, Senators, to be honest in my statement to you. I have presented the situation as it was then, as I lived it, side by side, with Clarence and with Anita.
You know, I talked with my mom before I came here, and she reminded me that I was always raised to stand up for what I believed. I have seen an innocent man being mugged in broad daylight, and I have not looked the other way. This John Q. Public came here and got involved.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Justice Clarence Thomas was interviewed by Brian Lamb on C-Span's Q&A earlier this week. The video and transcript are now available here. It's a very long interview and worth watching. Here are some interesting moments from the transcript:
* * *
LAMB: When the "60 Minutes" program came up, it said, "the justice nobody knows." That was the headline on it.
And I went back and checked our records, and [C-Span has] had you on, since you have been a justice, about 100 times.
THOMAS: That's right.
LAMB: There's only one other justice that appeared more, and that's Justice Breyer.
But I just wondered. "The justice nobody knows." How many of these justices here do we know?
THOMAS: Well, Brian, you hit the point. You - now you have - C-SPAN has been wonderful, by the way.
Do you remember after Bush v. Gore, that you had me on the day after Bush v. Gore was decided?
LAMB: With the kids.
THOMAS: With the kids. You've had me in your program to go to a local school as one of your leadership programs. You have had crews follow me all over the country.
But even during that time, what was the general media saying? That I was hunkered down and hiding out, I was angry. And then you go back and take a look at all your tape, and you see if you see any indication that I was either hunkered down or angry at anybody.
And so, that story persisted, despite the fact that I was constantly on C-SPAN.
* * *
LAMB: How much do you read the newspapers?
THOMAS: Oh, I don't. I don't. I don't think it's a good use of my time.
* * *
LAMB: Some of the toughest criticism I've seen since this book came out is Eugene Robinson.
THOMAS: Who's that?
LAMB: He is an African-American columnist for the "Washington Post."
THOMAS: Oh, I couldn't care less.
LAMB: Well, let me tell you what he said. I mean, and I just wonder if this …
THOMAS: Do you know who this is?
THOMAS: Well, I don't.
LAMB: I've interviewed him. And you have no idea.
THOMAS: I have no idea.
LAMB: He says, "I believe in" - I mean, this is how tough it has been this week. If you haven't read this, this will be new to you.
"I believe in affirmative action. But I have to acknowledge, there are arguments against it. One of the more cogent is the presence of Justice Clarence Thomas on the U.S. Supreme Court."
THOMAS: I really don't - that's useless to me. Why is that important?
LAMB: I don't know. But, I mean, people read his column.
THOMAS: I mean, you can find - but you could go and find somebody at a local tavern who has had too much to drink saying that.
That's useless. That's supposed to be insulting and cute.
When you get to the point of ridicule and making little sort of low-brow comments like that, then you've run out of real arguments.
* * *
Here's Jan Crawford Greenburg's interview with Justice Clarence Thomas on why he doesn't speak up often at oral argument:
THOMAS: I think when people are invited in to make their case, we should listen. It's not a debate society. This is not a seminar.There's more; check it out.
And when I first came on the Court, there were far fewer questions, and there were so many more opportunities to have a conversation with a lawyer, not the sort of family feud type environment that we have now.
I think that that's not as productive as actually having a conversation, and I do think it's important that we listen to people. You know, I think it's wonderful, what a great country. You can have a case, you can come all the way to the Supreme Court, and you can say your piece.
There are times I've gone across the country, and I'll meet a small town lawyer who says, "You know, I was up at your Court and they never let me say what I wanted to say."
That isn't what I want to hear. I prefer to hear, "I made it all the way to Court and I got to tell you what I really thought."
Now, it may not change my mind, it may not change my colleagues' minds, but you have the satisfaction of having come and said your piece, and I think we should listen.
(Is that why you generally save your questions, when you ask them, until the end?)
THOMAS: Well, usually, there's such a seamless series of questions that you can't get in unless you elbow your way in, and I don't think that's necessary. I don't think we need all those questions, and I think it's unseemly to have to elbow my way in, interrupt counsel or interrupt my colleagues to get a question in.
Here's another of the many women who testified against Anita Hill:
[Statement of Ms. Newman, Director, OPM]See also Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part VII, Women Who Testified Against Anita HIll, Part VI, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part V, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part IV, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part III, Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part II and Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part I.
MS. NEWMAN: Constance Newman. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you.
I am both saddened and optimistic as a result of these proceedings. I am saddened because of the way in which the raw nerves of America have been touched, the raw nerves of racism and sexism, leading to too much mistrust between too many of us. Many of these feelings are just below the surface of this great Nation, and we are all victims of it. We are all hurt in some way by the side of America that allows bigotry and unfairness to exist. We must come to terms with what is unfair in this basically fair Nation.
I am saddened for my friend, Judge Clarence Thomas, and his family. All who are in public life must sympathize with their plight.
I am saddened for Professor Anita Hill. Her life will never be the same. I don't know her, but I must believe that she must be a talented and conscientious woman, or she would not have completed the tough educational requirements of Yale Law School or be a tenured professor at a major law school. She must be a concerned black woman, or she would not have chosen to work in civil rights.
What was her motivation? Frankly, I do not know. I do not even want to try to speculate.
The waters are muddy around sexual harassment now, but I am optimistic. I am optimistic because I believe that as a result of these proceedings, you will know what I know about Judge Thomas. He is competent, he has integrity, he has "true grit," and I do believe that these proceedings will make him even stronger and even more sensitive.
I have known him for 10 years. That does not mean that we have not disagreed. We have. We have argued. Through the years he has changed his mind some; I have changed mine a little. But I have not changed my view about the basic decency and integrity of this man. I know him and have worked with him. I have worked in the halls of EEOC. Not once did I hear a hint of improper conduct. I would have heard. I heard of disagreements, but not improper conduct.