I don’t want to take anything away from Jan Crawford Greenburg, but the 60 Minutes interview of Justice Thomas is absolutely worth watching. You can see it here.
The interview encompassed seven hours. Video segments will be available on Nightline beginning tomorrow night.
The online summary is in eight parts. It’s quite long and undoubtedly quite interesting. I will have an update with more thoughts in about an hour.
UPDATE: In seven hours of interviews, Thomas
painfully recounts periods of alcohol use and acute financial problems as a young professional and even a fleeting thought of suicide.
Thomas explains why he is so honest in the book: he would like it to serve as an inspiration for young people who are in the situation he is in.
“There was a point in my life when I could have used a book like that — when I was a kid. I mean, who would provide the leadership for me to come out of Georgia? . . . .
“I would have wanted somebody to be honest with me, someone to come back and say, ‘I was there with you, just like you — I was there just like you are,’ not that ‘I’m greater than you are,’ not that, ‘I’m stooping down to touch you or condescending to you,'” Thomas says. “‘I was there, and I can’t solve all your problems, but here is a way that might work. I don’t have all the answers, but here is something that I humbly submit might work.'”
“And that’s not just for blacks. That’s not just for kids. That’s for everybody who’s still trying to be hopeful with their problems,” Thomas says. “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say, ‘I had no problems, but I could help you.’ You’ve got to say, ‘I had those problems, and I want to help you and be a part of your solution.’”
I’m forwarding the link to local talk radio host Larry Elder, a black man who advocates hard work and making your own way. If he’s not talking about this interview tomorrow, there’s something wrong.
If self-reliance is a huge theme of the interview, so is race.
One may agree or disagree with Thomas, but any rational person reading this piece must necessarily conclude that — contrary to the nasty comments Thomas’s critics make about him — Thomas cares deeply about the plight of black people. He just has different ideas about how to help them.
And he has, of course, experienced racism, and it’s not something he has forgotten. He talks about how black people had to plan out their trips under Jim Crow, because, for example, you couldn’t just stop anywhere for gas or food. Another set of examples:
Thomas encountered overt racism in high school, which he has talked about over the years and which has been described in other books about him. When he won the Latin Bee, for example, some of his classmates broke off the head of the prize, the Statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes. Thomas glued the head back on, and someone broke it off again. He stubbornly glued it back. He would keep that statute for decades, as a reminder.
Another time a student passed him a note in class that read, “I like Martin Luther King.” Thomas opened it up and saw one word: “Dead.”
The way Thomas responded should be an inspiration to blacks today. He didn’t join a group of thugs, beat the offender unconscious, and await the help of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Instead, he chose to get revenge by rising above his racist schoolmates:
“You have a number of choices. You could continue to always fight against people who are really distractions. They’re people in the cheap seats of life. Or you can do what you went there to do. I mean, did I go to the seminary to constantly get distracted by jerks, or did I go to the seminary to achieve certain goals?
. . . .
“That was the hard part. How do you become a better person when you’re dealing with people who are not good people? . . . The first reaction (is) you want to punch him. You want to hit him. You want to strike out. That’s your first reaction. But then, after you’ve done that, what do you do? I mean how does that advance your vocation? Have you become a better person?
“And the way you ultimately win all of that is to become better than they are,” Thomas says.
This attitude reminds me of the rebuke that Aaron, the Albert Brooks character in “Broadcast News,” gave to his classmates who had tormented him: “You’ll never make more than nineteen thousand dollars a year!”
Thomas discusses his grandfather, whom he considered a father, and who clearly shaped his life. Thomas came back home from seminary, tired of being around white people and having to prove himself. His grandfather told him that if he was giving up on life, he was going to have to move out.
The issues of self-reliance and race come together in Thomas’s views regarding affirmative action — a policy that has clearly shaped his life . . . he says, for the worse.
Justice Thomas firmly believes that affirmative action has hurt blacks generally. First, he says, it puts some blacks in places where they are doomed to fail — a documented fact, by the way, in the university context.
Naturally, many have concluded that about Thomas himself — that if he hadn’t been replacing the black Thurgood Marshall, he never would have been nominated. Such people are unlikely to have their minds changed by the revelation that Bush I had initially considered Thomas as a replacement for Brennan — worrying that if he waited until Marshall’s retirement, Thomas would be perceived as a quota pick. (Bush’s aides talked him out of this plan, and fobbed off David Souter on him instead. Ugh.)
But it is clear that another aspect of affirmative action rankles worse — and is intensely personal for Thomas. He clearly believes, in his bones, that affirmative action causes bigoted leftist whites to belittle conservative blacks by lazily asserting that they are affirmative action beneficiaries:
And the discussion of affirmative action, he says, is particularly damaging. It’s become an issue that pits blacks against whites, liberals against conservatives—to the point that it’s almost impossible to honestly debate its impact, Thomas said.
Thomas spoke at length about how his own experiences as a black conservative—and a black justice—prove his point. Because he’d benefited from affirmative action at Yale Law School, he said people have questioned his qualifications and discounted his achievements. Even as a Justice, he says, people continue to believe he merely has “followed” Justice Scalia because a black man couldn’t possibly hold those views or be smart enough to come up with them on his own.
“Give me a break. I mean this is part of the — you know, the black guy is supposed to follow somebody white. We know that,” Thomas says. “Come on, we know the story behind that. I mean there’s no need to sort of tip-toe around that … The story line was that, well I couldn’t be doing this myself, he must be doing it for me because I’m black. That’s obvious.
“Again, I go back to my point. Who were the real bigots? It’s obvious,” Thomas says.
There is plenty of evidence to support Thomas on this point. This is always the first line of attack by leftists against him: that he benefited from affirmative action, therefore he isn’t allowed to oppose it without being mocked for it.
Greenburg cites a particularly telling example from a white liberal and former Carter aide, who said in 1976: “Mr. Thomas is surely familiar with those chicken-eating preachers who gladly parroted the segregationist’s line in exchange for a few crumbs from the white man’s table. He’s one of the few left in captivity.”
There is no denying the ugly racism of that comment — and one sees it even today in the repeated epithets of “Uncle Tom!” that are constantly thrown at Thomas. I’ve seen this in comments on this very blog — and indeed, the attitude is utterly pervasive among Thomas’s leftist critics, whom he regards as bigots little different from the rednecks who called his race stupid and smelly when he was growing up in rural Georgia.
Actually, Thomas considers the modern-day liberal bigots to be worse — because, he says, redneck bigotry is often born of ignorance, which can be cured. For example, when his future wife Virginia, who is white, introduced him to her family, her uncle was initially hostile. But Thomas talked to the uncle and won him over.
“On the issue of prejudice, a lot of that come out of ignorance. Once we got a chance to talk…it was gone immediately,” he says of his conversation with Virginia’s uncle. “He was just acting out of what he knew, and what he knew, when proven wrong, he totally changed.”
“Again, I contrast that with the intentional bigotry of those who are elite,” Thomas says. “It’s well thought out, it’s planned, it’s malicious.”
Along those lines, Thomas is resentful that professors at Yale opposed his nomination — and again, sees a barely veiled racism behind it:
“When I was at Yale, I got along fine. I had friends. The professors were great. I took a lot of very demanding courses — and, again, it was the seminary all over again. Here’s this challenge,” he says. “But (then) all my achievements were collapsed, or actually discounted. . . . “The assumption was that you only have that because you’re black, and it’s not as good as the white kids,” Thomas says. “And that would be, again, one of the things that would happen when I was nominated to the Court — that I couldn’t possibly be as good as the white Yale graduates, because I obviously went to Yale because of the color of my skin. So everything was discounted.
“And I always find it fascinating that people who claim, well, you did this because you went to Yale, all these good things happened because you went to Yale,” Thomas says. “I couldn’t get a job out of Yale Law School.”
Thomas came to believe whites assumed he wasn’t as smart as his white Yale classmates, and when he couldn’t get a job when he was graduating, he saw that as proof: Because he was black, he says, people believed his degree was not as good as a white student’s degree. He saw no “benefit” from affirmative action.
“I was humiliated,” he wrote, “and desperate.” He peeled a 15-cent sticker off a package of cigars and stuck it on the frame of his degree “to remind myself of the mistake I’d made by going to Yale.”
It’s both funny and poignant.
Here’s something that may shock you: at least back in the day, Thomas considered himself a libertarian, not a conservative. For example, when he went to work for John Danforth,
Danforth’s position was that the federal government had no business telling the states what to do on abortion. Thomas responded: “The state had no business telling women what to do with their bodies.”
By the way, there is absolutely nothing inconsistent between that position and a belief that Roe v. Wade should be overruled. If you don’t understand that, you really have no business talking about the subject.
The piece is full of other fascinating tidbits. Did you know that Thomas ran a marathon? (In 3 hours and 11 minutes, no less.)
What I have given you only scratches the surface of Greenburg’s extensive and fascinating post. The interviews will be broadcast on “Nightline” beginning tomorrow night. The TiVo is set, and I just can’t wait.
I want to close the post with this line, which especially amused me, and endeared Justice Thomas to me more than ever:
[O]ne of the vows I made when I got here was that I would never do this job as poorly as journalists do theirs.
Heh. As low as that standard admittedly is, Justice Thomas, you’ve risen far above it.
In his book “The Nine,” Jeffrey Toobin says:
“While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon,” Kennedy wrote, “it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.” Small wonder that Kennedy found no such data, because, notwithstanding the claims of the antiabortion movement, no scientifically respectable support existed for this patronizing notion.
Place to one side the fact that (as Toobin knows damn well) if anyone tried to conduct any kind of scientific study regarding abortion, it would be bitterly opposed by NARAL et al. on privacy grounds.
Is “scientifically respectable support” really necessary for the proposition that “some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained”? Does Toobin truly think that no women regret their abortions?
If so, let me set him straight.
I recently wrote a post linking a piece I had seen in the Daily Mail, which quotes women who have had abortions. Of the six women whose abortions are recounted in the piece, four regretted their decision. Let me remind you of some of their quotes:
Today, I still have a huge sense of loss and feel that we did the wrong thing. Mike and I are still together, although the abortion nearly split us up.
I hope that one day we’ll get married and have children together – but I will never forget. Even today, I see pregnant women or happy young mothers with their babies and think: “That could have been me. It makes me cry.”
My abortion haunted me for years afterwards. . . . When [my baby] was born in August of this year, I was thrilled – but when I look at her I sometimes think of the pregnancy I terminated.
Doctors haven’t confirmed a link between my abortion nine years ago and the subsequent miscarriages, but I can’t help but wonder if they’re connected – and inside I do sometimes blame myself.
I was given a pill and then a pessary the following day, which induced a miscarriage. I was not prepared for what followed. After eight hours I gave birth to a small but fully formed baby.
As I watched the nurse carry it away in a pool of blood, I felt so hollow at the waste of a life. I could clean the mess off me, but couldn’t wash the guilt from my mind.
When I came to, I felt devastated about what I had done and immediately regretted it. I went home with this aching, empty feeling.
Alan didn’t wait long before cutting his ties with me and I fell into a deep depression. It took me so long to get out of bed each morning because I had to imagine I was dressing and feeding my lost baby. I gave him a name, Patrick.
One night, I wrote letters to my family and friends and took an overdose of antidepressants. But it wasn’t enough – and the next day I was woken by the phone. It was Alan, who realised I could barely speak and called an ambulance.
After writing this post, I got comments from a number of women with similar experiences. For example, one woman said:
My best friend 1st year of college was suicidal cause her s.o. pressured her into two abortions. I visited the graveyard w/her where she grieved her child.
At age 16 I made the decision to terminate my unplanned pregnancy. Is it really a decision when a 16 year old makes it? In retrospect, I don’t think so. My priorities were so shallow I couldn’t see beyond the next month, the next year.
That was 25 years ago. Do I still think about this child? Yes. Do I regret the “decision” I made? Yes. . . . I will never forget or forgive myself for taking the life of my own child.
And our friend Rightwingsparkle wrote an excellent post which noted:
In these many years I have heard many post abortive women speak and their anguish is hard to hear. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece was on Fox News the other night describing the pain of her 2 abortions. She is an active pro-lifer now. Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of the infamous Roe v. Wade case is an active pro-lifer now, she describes how they used her in that court case and told her to lie and say that she had been raped.
Maybe I have found the only women who regret their decision, among the tens of millions of abortions that have occurred since Roe v. Wade was handed down. I rather suspect there are more — several hundred thousand more, if not millions. But I can’t prove that.
So no, Mr. Toobin, I have no “scientifically respectable support” for Justice Kennedy’s “patronizing notion” that “some” women regret their abortions. All I have is quotes from actual women themselves.
As the kids say: Duh!
[Guest post by DRJ]
As usual, there’s good news and bad news from Iraq – but this time there’s a twist and it involves the U.S. Senate.
Teflon Don is home, safe and sound.
Meanwhile, Badger 6’s team is home — but he remains in Iraq, in a different (and apparently safer) post.
We should send them both our thanks — on many, many levels.
[Guest post by DRJ]
Following up on last week’s story on the Irving, Texas, 24/7 Criminal Alien Program and the subsequent pro-immigrant rally …