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"I don't go because it has become so partisan"

Clarence Thomas, on missing the SOTU:

Justice Thomas would not directly address the controversy over Mr. Obama's criticism of the Citizens United ruling or Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s mouthed "not true" in response. But he did say he had stopped attending the addresses.

"I don't go because it has become so partisan and it's very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there," he said, adding that "there's a lot that you don't hear on TV -- the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments."

"One of the consequences," he added in an apparent reference to last week's address, "is now the court becomes part of the conversation, if you want to call it that, in the speeches. It's just an example of why I don't go."

He also had lots to say about the Citizens United decision:

Justice Thomas responded to several questions from students at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla., concerning the campaign finance case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. By a 5-to-4 vote, with Justice Thomas in the majority, the court ruled last month that corporations had a First Amendment right to spend money to support or oppose political candidates.

"I found it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company," Justice Thomas said. "These are corporations."

The part of the McCain-Feingold law struck down in Citizens United contained an exemption for news reports, commentaries and editorials. But Justice Thomas said that reflected a legislative choice rather than a constitutional principle.

He added that the history of Congressional regulation of corporate involvement in politics had a dark side, pointing to the Tillman Act, which banned corporate contributions to federal candidates in 1907.

"Go back and read why Tillman introduced that legislation," Justice Thomas said, referring to Senator Benjamin Tillman. "Tillman was from South Carolina, and as I hear the story he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there was a need to regulate them."

It is thus a mistake, the justice said, to applaud the regulation of corporate speech as "some sort of beatific action."

I've always liked the man... he's just given me more reason to do so.



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Comments (27)

Justice Thomas is wrong. <... (Below threshold)
James H:

Justice Thomas is wrong.

The SOTU is worse than he says. It's not merely political (as if an address from one politician to a roomful of politicians won't be political!). It's become ritualized, more of a giant show than an actual sober assessment of the state of the union.

I, for one, would be happier if we reached back before Woodrow Wilson's time and the president informed Congress of the state of the union via letter. Or he could email them. Or maybe send over a Powerpoint.

Justice Thomas has always c... (Below threshold)

Justice Thomas has always come across to me a a true professional, respectful, consistent, and knows himself and his subject matter. Considering all the crap that has been thrown at him, that is saying a good deal.

It is incredible to me how ... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

It is incredible to me how many so-called conservatives have even bought into the anti-corporate sentiment fomented by the left. Suckers.

So let me get this straight... (Below threshold)
Edward Sisson Author Profile Page:

So let me get this straight: we have our first African-American President, giving his first State of the Union address, before the assembled House and Senate and 6 Justices of the Supreme Court, and he praises a federal law introduced by -- indeed named for -- one of the nation's most notorious racists, Sen. "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman -- who introduced that bill specifically to perpetuate "Jim Crow" institutional racism???

I would appreciate it if our first African-American President showed a sound grasp of the history of American racism and just who it was who perpetuated it for 100 years after the Civil War -- people like Pitchfork Ben Tillman.

Justice Thomas rocks. The ... (Below threshold)
Big Mo:

Justice Thomas rocks. The left absolutely hates him and denigrates him as stupid because they can't stand the fact that Thomas doesn't adhere to leftist racial single-mindedness. (and please, any leftist who claims that Thomas is a hypocrit because he attacks affirmative action - the reason he got into Yale - ignores the fact that when Thomas discovered that AA/quotas was the reason he was accepted, he was ticked off.

If you haven't read Thomas' autobiography, My Grandfather's Son, you absolutely must. You'll bnever forget it, nor his honest assessment of his own failings and successes.

Too bad He isnt the first A... (Below threshold)

Too bad He isnt the first American African President.

I must say that Justice Tho... (Below threshold)

I must say that Justice Thomas pictured without his glasses is an imposing figure. He was always intellectually sharp but with his glasses on he appeared alittle professor'ish.
Look at that face. President Obama, are you sure you want to get on that guys bad side ?

Big Mo:I strongly ... (Below threshold)
James H:

Big Mo:

I strongly disagree with a lot of Justice Thomas's jurisprudence, but off and on, I've read things that give me a great deal of respect for Clarence Thomas the man as well as Justice Clarence Thomas:

1) Some years ago, at Washington Post article put a spotlight on Thomas the man and highlighted a couple things I hadn't know before. Most impressive, I thought, is that Justice Thomas has acted as a quiet, behind-the-scenes mentor and advocate for young African American attorneys and aspiring politicos on both sides of the aisle.

2) Justice Thomas's opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger gave me a better sense of the man. While he writes entirely in the third person, the passion behind his words speaks to an intense personal experience.

All in all, I get the feeling that Justice Thomas has reason to be proud of his accomplishments, but he finds that each of those accomplishments is accompanied by an affirmative-action asterisk that (he believes) harms his reputation in the eyes of others.

I like Thomas. He seems to ... (Below threshold)

I like Thomas. He seems to still be resisting pressure to affiliate with the neoconservative Federalist Society, and his was the sole dissenting conservative voice in the horrid Kelo vs New London case (as opposed to the neoconservative "conservatives" of the Old Boy Federalist Society).

Query to James H. Where di... (Below threshold)

Query to James H. Where did YOU go to law school? I would expect that you had since you have the chutzpah to question SCOTUS decisions so glibly.

The President was absolutely incorrect in his dissing of a Supreme Court decision.

First of all, the Supreme Court is a separate and CO-EQUAL branch of government and thus not required to dance to the President's drummer, so his criticism was RUDE beyond belief!

Second, the portion of the law involved had absolutely no relationship to foreign corporations and nationals! Basically, it was McCain/Feingold that was struck down as well it should have been since that law was always subject to interpretation as being anti-free-speech.

Our President claims to be a constitutional lawyer but he has demonstrated repeatedly that he is wholly ignorant of the U.S. Constitution.

Regarding the Obamassiah's ... (Below threshold)

Regarding the Obamassiah's SOTU remarks; no one has ever accused Barry of having CLASS.

Maybe Justice Thomas could tutor Barry on the side.

Query to James H. ... (Below threshold)
James H:
Query to James H. Where did YOU go to law school? I would expect that you had since you have the chutzpah to question SCOTUS decisions so glibly.

I did indeed attend law school and graduate, although I prefer not to reveal my exact school here.

As to chutzpah, suffice it to say that there is room to disagree with Justice Thomas's views on the law, particularly considering that he frequently files dissenting opinions that in themselves represent disagreement with SCOTUS decisions.

You've got to be kidding. Y... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

You've got to be kidding. You don't need a law degree to question a supreme court decision. You don't need to be a meteorologist to question global warming dogma. You don't need to be a member of congress to question lawmakers. You don't have to be a soldier to support the troops. Get a new argument.

bryanD,did you mea... (Below threshold)


did you mean neocons like Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia ?

Hopefully he'll stay... (Below threshold)
Caesar Augustus:

Hopefully he'll stay on the Court for another 20 years.

This is ALL you'll e... (Below threshold)

This is ALL you'll ever need to know about a Supreme Court decision:

"It's just an opinion."

KTHNX No charge.

As for Justice Thomas... He is far and away one of the more knowledgeable justices and is consistent in all of his opinions.

Despite all of his critics he stands head and shoulders above the masses who would tear him down with their mindless disractions.

bryanD,did you mean ... (Below threshold)

did you mean neocons like Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia ?
14. Posted by Jeff

Renquist was a moderate statist. He was practically allergic to First Amendment cases, which might explain why his Court was frozen in amber. His conservative reputation is a carryover from his rightmost position on the Burger Court continuum of Center Left-Moderate Left.

Scalia is an old hand at the American Enterprise Institute, the premier neoconservative think tank, so enough said.
(Of course, AEI begat Project For a New American Century, which longed for a "new Pearl Harbor" to jumpstart "American greatness" and US world hegemony post-Cold War. When 9/11 occurred PNAC hurriedly dissolved itself, and AEI began the "Sadaam did it!" meme which gave way of necessity to the "WMD" ticking time bomb meme and Chinese firedrill known as the Iraq War.)
So yes, Scalia is a neoconservative. Kelo is solid evidence of it. So is Scalia's penchant for self-promotion as Tough Guy/Manly Man via bi-annual color profiles in friendly press.
Neoconservatives, being by and large, physical cowards (a'la John Wayne) tend to worry about Image due to draft dodging and draft deferment histories.

Renquist? He essentially predates the neocon movement spilling outside its Jewish and Democratic neoliberal bounds. (That occurred late in Renquist's career-- during Reagan's second term after tragic onset of Alzheimers.)
I would term Renquist a Nixonian pragmatist partial to the state against individuals; a neoconservative hallmark, but not a neoconservative per se.

:-)BryanD, your co... (Below threshold)


BryanD, your comments are a joke, and not worth the time it takes to read it.

:-)BryanD, your comm... (Below threshold)

BryanD, your comments are a joke, and not worth the time it takes to read it.
18. Posted by Carol

Eh, my Renquist retrospective might have been hinky. The man was basically a cipher.

Scalia? Beware of the Vaticons!

Sadly, this little detail f... (Below threshold)

Sadly, this little detail from Clarence Thomas is getting overlooked by people -- the "century of regulation of corporate speech" begins with a racist Democrat Senator trying to shut down political activity by Republican corporations that were supportive of the rights of southern blacks. I've highlighted it on my site:


Wayne: Ju... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:


Justice Thomas has always come across to me a a true professional, respectful, consistent, and knows himself and his subject matter.

Really... are you kidding me? Do you remember Anita Hill's testimony not withstanding, and Mark Kleiman has a good rebuttal as to why the taciturn and ambitious Thomas is above all an opportunistic "arriviste".

David Bernstein thinks that Clarence Thomas's ideological wandering "from young Catholic seminarian to radical student activist to non-religious libertarian (including an apparent Ayn Rand phase), to Straussian natural law follower, and, finally, to Catholic conservative with a libertarian streak" makes it "clear that he is a very thoughtful man."


What thoughtfulness is displayed by changing ideologies as if they were fashions in clothing? All I notice from that list is that Thomas was consistently extreme rather than moderate...

The late Leon Higgenbotham had a different take on Thomas, based on personal interactions. Early in his Thomas's career, according to Higgenbotham, Thomas approached him for advice. Higgenbotham had succeeded (he was at the time Chief Judge of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals); Thomas wanted to know how. "What was your game plan?"he asked. Higgenbotham's reading, which is fully consistent with the record as we know it, is that Thomas was and is a careerist for whom ideology subserves ambition.

Beat me to it on Tillman be... (Below threshold)

Beat me to it on Tillman being a Democrat.
Bryan. . just using the word Neocon in a serious manner shows the coinage of your brain. . .

Bryan. . just using the wor... (Below threshold)

Bryan. . just using the word Neocon in a serious manner shows the coinage of your brain. . .
22. Posted by Ryan

"Coinage" of MY brain?

"I regard myself to have been a young Trostkyite and I have not a single bitter memory."-Irving Kristol, avatar of neoconservatism (and father of Bill (Fox, NYT, MSM)Kristol ); author of_

"Neo-conservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea", and
"Reflections of a Neoconservative: Looking Back, Looking Ahead", etc.

From Wikipedia:
"Neoconservatism is a political philosophy that emerged in the United States of America, and which supports using American economic and military power to bring liberalism, democracy, and human rights to other countries....
In economics, unlike traditionalist conservatives, neoconservatives are generally comfortable with a welfare state; and, while rhetorically supportive of free markets, they are willing to interfere for overriding social purposes."

*No Child Left Behind*? *TARP*? *PATRIOT Act*?

Founder of movement?
I say Strauss:


"" ... Justice Thomas ... (... (Below threshold)

"" ... Justice Thomas ... (cuts) an imposing figure ... Intellectually sharp -- and look at that face.

"" (Sayyid Buraq Hussayn), are you sure you want to get on (Justice Thomas's) bad side? ""

Bad side? Are you kidding? Justice Thomas epitomizes moral integrity, true humility, love of country and of our Founding Law -- and Goodness.

I repeat: Calling people '... (Below threshold)

I repeat: Calling people 'Neoconservatives' is usually a shortcut used by people who don't think they can win a discussion.

First of all, the Suprem... (Below threshold)

First of all, the Supreme Court is a separate and CO-EQUAL branch of government and thus not required to dance to the President's drummer, so his criticism was RUDE beyond belief!

Let's hear you say that next time a Republican Congressperson criticizes President Obama. Or a Republican President criticizes a Democratic Congress. Or a Republican Congressperson decries another "activist" SCOTUS decision.

I repeat: Calling people... (Below threshold)

I repeat: Calling people 'Neoconservatives' is usually a shortcut used by people who don't think they can win a discussion.

Kinda like "leftist".






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