His grandfather’s son

Our friends at the invaluable Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here) have just put the Summer issue to bed. We are featuring pieces from the new issue each day through Wednesday.

The new issue features Wendy Long’s review/essay “Bearing Witness” on four recent books related to Clarence Thomas together with the justice’s own autobiography. A former clerk to Justice Thomas, Long traces Thomas’s life from its humble beginnings in Pinpoint, Georgia to his tenure on the Supreme Court.

Thomas’s account of his life seeks to “bear witness” to the grandfather who raised him and the country he serves. His story, properly told, is the story of loyal grandson and of a man who loved America all his life, even when that love was not returned.

Those of us who watched the Anita Hill episode unfold live on television remember it well. Thomas’s confirmation hearing, already an ordeal, was almost complete when Hill’s allegations were leaked. Thomas recalls his reaction when “an Anita Hill who bore little resemblance to the woman who had worked for me at EEOC and the Education Department” emerged with her charges:

Somewhere along the line she had been transformed into a conservative, devoutly religious Reagan-administration employee….But truth was no longer relevant: keeping me off the Supreme Court was all that mattered. These pieces of her sordid tale only needed to hold up long enough to help her establish her credibility with the public. They fell away as the rest of the story gained traction in the media, just as the fuel tank and booster rockets drop away from a space shuttle once it reaches the upper atmosphere.

Since his confirmation, Thomas has held fast as the Court’s most distinctively originalist member. “Whether the American experiment in self-government endures will depend,” Long speculates, “upon whether the Constitution can be preserved against the depredations of judicial activism. And that, in turn, just might depend upon whether the principles outlined in the opinions of Justice Clarence Thomas continue to persuade members of the Supreme Court and his fellow citizens.”

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