From the stopped clock department, two of my least favorite New York Times columnists have managed to get it right on the subject of Clarence Thomas.
This could be seen most vividly on “60 Minutes,” when he revisited a parable about the evils of affirmative action that is also a centerpiece of his memoir: his anger about the “tainted” degree he received from Yale Law School. In Mr. Thomas’s account, he stuck a 15-cent price sticker on his diploma after potential employers refused to hire him. By his reckoning, a Yale Law graduate admitted through affirmative action, as he was, would automatically be judged inferior to whites with the same degree. The “60 Minutes” correspondent, Steve Kroft, maintained that Mr. Thomas had no choice but to settle for a measly $10,000-a-year job (in 1974 dollars) in Missouri, working for the state’s attorney general, John Danforth.
What “60 Minutes” didn’t say was that the post was substantial — an assistant attorney general — and that Mr. Danforth was himself a Yale Law graduate. As Mr. Danforth told the story during the 1991 confirmation hearings and in his own book last year, he traveled to New Haven to recruit Mr. Thomas when he was still a third-year law student. That would be before he even received that supposedly worthless degree. Had it not been for Yale taking a chance on him in the first place, in other words, Mr. Thomas would never have had the opportunity to work the Yalie network to jump-start his career and to ascend to the Supreme Court. Mr. Danforth, a senator in 1991, was the prime mover in shepherding the Thomas nomination to its successful conclusion.
It would seem that Thomas is tending to his legend a bit.
Even Maureen Dowd manages manages to get it right:
That’s why I refuse, as a justice, to give a helping hand to blacks. I don’t want them to suffer from the advantages I had. Few of them will be able to climb to my heights, of course, but if they do, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that they made it on their own, as individuals.
Because Poppy Bush put me on the Supreme Court after I’d been a judge for only a year, I’ll always wonder if I got the job just because of my race. I want to spare other blacks that kind of worry. That’s why I pulled the ladder up after myself — so that my brothers and sisters would have the peace of mind that comes with self-reliance.
I used to have grave reservations about working at white institutions, subject to the whims of white superiors. But when Poppy’s whim was to crown his son — one of those privileged Yale legacy types I always resented — I had to repay The Man for putting me on the court even though I was neither qualified nor honest.
I know that in some circles it is fashionable to present Thomas, an intellectual mediocrity whose exalted position on the Court stems solely from the need of Bush Sr. to find a Black conservative to replace Thurgood Marshall, as somehow a serious and principled Justice. The plain reality is that he has the confidence of a fanatic, and a view of the Constitution so blinkered and simplistic that a computer could be programmed to render his judgments. He almost certainly perjured himself during his confirmation hearings, and he should never have been approved for the Court.