Thomas. . . is physically transformed from his infamous confirmation hearings, in 1991—a great deal grayer and heavier today, at the age of sixty-five. He also projects a different kind of silence than he did earlier in his tenure. In his first years on the Court, Thomas would rock forward, whisper comments about the lawyers to his neighbors Breyer and Kennedy, and generally look like he was acknowledging where he was. These days, Thomas only reclines; his leather chair is pitched so that he can stare at the ceiling, which he does at length. He strokes his chin. His eyelids look heavy. Every schoolteacher knows this look. It’s called “not paying attention.”
. . . . . .
By refusing to acknowledge the advocates or his fellow-Justices, Thomas treats them all with disrespect. It would be one thing if Thomas’s petulance reflected badly only on himself, which it did for the first few years of his ludicrous behavior. But at this point, eight years on, Thomas is demeaning the Court. Imagine, for a moment, if all nine Justices behaved as Thomas does on the bench. The public would rightly, and immediately, lose all faith in the Supreme Court. Instead, the public has lost, and should lose, any confidence it might have in Clarence Thomas.
Why doesn’t the big baby just resign and have done with it if he’s so miserably bored? OTOH, he could try coffee after lunch and attempt to wake up and act like he has a job. (Let’s face it: appearing at oral arguments is the only part of his job he can’t hand off to clerks.) His performance over the past two decades confirms that his critics were right twenty-three years ago when they compared him witheringly to the man he replaced, Thurgood Marshall.
Unless he ends up as the victim of a spectacular assassination or a suicide attempt, historians can write their two sentences about Clarence Thomas for their twentieth- and twenty-first century American history textbooks already. For example: “After a contentious confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the fall of 1991 in which he was accused of former employee Anita Hill of sexual harassment, Thomas was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 52 to 48. For the entirety of Thomas’s [fill in the blank upon resignation or death] years on the court, he remained nearly silent, refusing to engage either his fellow justices or counsel about the ideological battles that embroiled the turn-of-the-century court.”
What a stupid way to get into the history books.