As long as we seem to be on a Supreme Court kick today ....
Yet for all the outward success, Thomas presents a picture of a man still nursing inner wounds. He cries in public -- not often, but suddenly and uncontrollably. The tears suggest an emotional and more complex side to a man The New York Times, in a 1992 editorial, called the "youngest, cruelest justice." [...] Thomas has erected a stone wall of privacy around his personal life, denying most requests for interviews and shunning friends who make unwelcome public comments about him. [...] For reasons that remain a mystery even to close friends, Thomas has chosen a public profile that is strikingly at odds with who he is in private. ...
OK. So let's leave aside for the fact that I think his judicial beliefs are hideous. Leaving aside as well whether or not you believe and trust David Brock, Thomas can't be terribly pleased that the Anita Hill issue is rising again like a Hydra; I would not have called his confirmation hearings a "high-tech lynching", myself -- there was nothing particularly high-tech about it, and he is, after all, still alive with an unstretched neck -- but it was, at the very least, a public and extraordinarily humiliating scouring. In recent months, he gets excoriated, along with his conservative colleagues, for taking part in "the worst decision in Court history." He's regularly called one of the least qualified and least intellectual justices on the Court (surely the Court must be the only realm of American political life where being an intellectual is supposed to be a good thing these days) -- he did say, for example, "In my view, a use of force that causes only insignificant harm to a prisoner may be immoral, it may be tortious, it may be criminal, and it may even be remediable under other provisions of the Federal Constitution, but it is not 'cruel and unusual punishment.'" In other words, for the state to deliberately commit crimes against someone in a prison is not cruel and unusual punishment. All-righty, then! (Let it be noted that I do not claim, as he says some of his critics do, that he advocates the beating of prisoners. I claim that he says that beating prisoners when such beatings may be criminal is not cruel and unusual punishment.) To his credit, he doesn't seem concerned with being popular, but then, Supreme Court justices aren't figures of great popularity, in general.
In any event, he takes a great deal of public vituperation. Whether you believe it deserved or not -- is it in the least surprising that he would watch his words carefully in public, and cut dead anyone he feels has betrayed him? As for the crying in public ... well, going through the stories, it appears to be at times and places of great personal moment, times when almost anyone would be overcome. If it were on the bench or during legal conferences or presentations generally, it might be a cause for concern, but I can't see it being that big a deal.
Reading through what the Journal-Constitution is reporting of his life .... I will admit that he sounds like a fascinating person. I don't understand how his life has made him what he is today, but he does sound fascinating and contradictory -- he resented Reagan for appointing him to be assistant secretary just because he was black, but accepted appointment to the Court from Bush, who, to be sure, picked him because he produced conservative opinions .... and he was black. He somehow seems to think that both liberals and conservatives should see his appointment and his role as a justice as independent of his skin color.
In this country.
12/19/2001: vive la france
12/19/2001: princess, redux
12/19/2001: yemen and rumsfeld
12/18/2001: you're NOT in the army now
12/18/2001: interesting donation
12/18/2001: shame on winn dixie, indeed
12/18/2001: saudi princess
12/17/2001: new resolve
12/17/2001: a victim of the attack ... yeah, right
12/17/2001: polluters ho!