To state the obvious, the left has never liked Clarence Thomas. What’s interesting is how often they train their sites on his personal behavior rather than his judicial rulings.
Jeffrey Toobin provides the latest example in a disgracefully titled New Yorker piece, “Clarence Thomas’ Disgraceful Silence.” Justice Thomas hasn’t asked a question during oral arguments at the Supreme Court since Feb. 22, 2006, so today is the eighth anniversary of his vow of silence. Toobin is not breaking ground. This story has become an annual ritual the last few years for those who’ve never forgiven Thomas for not withdrawing his nomination when Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment.
Since then he has suffered countless insults to his personal character. Funnily enough, it was Jeffery Toobin who came to his rescue a few years ago with a New Yorker piece noting his profound influence on the Court.
Toobin’s latest piece seems like an excuse to run a nasty headline about Thomas. In it he substitutes projection for evidence. Instead of provide insight into the dark world of the court, he is content to launch more attacks on the left’s favorite whipping boy.
Toobin writes that during arguments, “Thomas only reclines; his leather chair is pitched so that he can stare at the ceiling, which he does at length. He strokes his chin. His eyelids look heavy. Every schoolteacher knows this look. It’s called ‘not paying attention.’ ” Glad to know teachers are mind readers.
If Thomas truly is not paying attention, this should be easy enough to demonstrate by quoting his sloppy opinions. Not only does Toobin fail to provide such support, he doesn’t event hint at it. The bottom line question is not whether he seems to be listening but whether his work product – the laws of the land he is fashioning – is shows care.
Toobin also fails to make the case that oral arguments really matter. Given that Justices have lengthy, well-prepared briefs on the cases, one has to wonder how much of a difference these short discussions make. Perhaps they are largely theater and Thomas is the only one unwilling to further the charade. If Toobin disagrees, he should have provided a few examples where questions raised during oral argument turned the tide of history.
The best he can come up with is the comically obtuse charge that Thomas is failing the Court and America by keeping silent because oral arguments “are, in fact, the public’s only windows onto the Justices’ thought processes.”
What then are the opinions?