opinion | Judge Thomas has to look in the mirror for a long time

There is no doubt that the court has become politicized, to the great detriment of itself and the nation. But to get a lecture on that fact from Clarence Thomas, of all people, is like listening to a plutocrat lounging in a bathrobe by his infinity pool, eating a gilded steak while bemoaning the horrors of extreme income inequality.

Has it really not occurred to the judge that by making partisan political speeches in partisan political environments, he is exactly what damages the integrity of the Supreme Court? Perhaps being ensnared in prestige and power for so long makes it easy to ignore the consequences of your words and actions. Judge Thomas is of course not alone. In 2004, Judge Antonin Scalia went duck hunting with Vice President Dick Cheney and accepted free air travel, even though Mr. Cheney had a case pending in court. In 2016, Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg called Mr Trump “a fake” in a CNN interview. “I can’t imagine what the country would be like — with Donald Trump as our president,” she told the Times in an earlier interview. The Times editors criticized the judges’ conduct in both cases, arguing that, as we said at the time, they should watch what they say and do “in the interest of justice and the reputation of the court.”

Today, Judge Thomas and his fellow right-wingers hardly pretend to care about the reputation of the court; they only wail public outcry at their statements, even as they show off the most politicized majority in memory. There are now two members of the court, Judge Thomas and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who as a group have attacked Democrats and Liberals in public institutions. (Small World Dept.: Justice Kavanaugh — who accused Democrats at his 2018 hearing of an “orchestrated political hit” against him and warned that they had “sown the wind” — was a member of the legal team that helped Mr. Bush prevail. in the 2000 election campaign.)

Even the Republicans’ scandalous construction of the Senate’s current right-wing supermajority court seems to have escaped Judge Thomas’s concern. At Friday’s event — again, remember, sponsored by conservative groups — he claimed that Republicans “never trashed a Supreme Court nominee.” But doesn’t history record that they openly stole a vacancy from President Barack Obama in 2016 by even refusing to hear his third candidate, Merrick Garland? Au contraire, according to Judge Thomas: Mr. Garland “wasn’t heard, but he wasn’t thrown out.” As Tom Cruise’s hit man said in “Collateral” when asked if he’d killed a man he’d just shot and who then fell from a tall building, “No, I shot him. The bullets and the fall killed him.”

The Supreme Court has always functioned within and not outside of politics; like the rest of our government, it’s made up of people. Still, the judges have generally strived to stay above the fray. In the interest of protecting and promoting their institutional legitimacy, they have come together to decide some of the most controversial cases; the vote in Brown was 9 to 0, in Roe 7 to 2. Today’s right-wing judges seem to have no qualms about narrow victories, even though five of them were nominated by presidents who first won the presidency after losing the popular vote. Perhaps their brutality is not despite this fact, but thanks to. They rose to their high position in a way that a majority of the American people ignored, so why not rule that way too?

The Supreme Court is not there to justify the demands of the majority, but neither is it there to repeatedly, in a naked partisan way, poke its nose at that majority. If Judge Thomas is genuinely concerned about the eroding confidence in his own institution, the first thing he can do is look in the mirror. The next thing he can do – I’ll say it again – is to step aside and give the job to someone who will actually work to protect the integrity of the court.

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