Clarence Thomas: A Silent Justice Speaks Out

In the book, Thomas comes across as somewhat defensive on whether race played any role in his selection. He explains that Gray later told him Bush — in calling him the best qualified "at this time" — meant he was "looking for someone who was not only competent at doing the job, but who had also been tested in political battle and thus could be counted on not to cave in under the pressure of a confirmation battle, or to change his views after being appointed to the Court."

"I definitely qualified on that score," Thomas wrote, adding that his FBI file also was "very clean."

Had the White House seriously vetted Thomas, or closely analyzed his views, it would have probably been more reluctant to nominate him, because he'd given countless speeches while at EEOC expressing a range of controversial opinions, not only about the law and the Constitution, but also on his critics and his admiration of Louis Farrakhan and the Black Muslim theory of self reliance — all of which would be fodder in his confirmation hearing.

In an interview, when asked whether it was legitimate for Bush to take his background and experiences into consideration, Thomas deflects the question.

"I have no idea," he says. "I'm glad we have the system we have, where you have presidents who nominate all sorts of different people.

And he makes a broader point that the questions people asked and the assumptions people made would never have been asked or assumed about a white nominee.

"Someone else could have been the child of some phenomenally wealthy person and gone to the exact same school, exact same courses, etc., and they would never be asked that, as long as they were white. Or if I had the right views, it would not be asked," he says. "That's part of the game. I understand that."

Thomas spends about a third of the book discussing his nomination and confirmation, and like the rest of the book, for him the issue of race hangs over all of it. He wrote that he went into the hearings — before Anita Hill's allegations became known — expecting opponents to play the race card: to play on racial prejudices, especially in the South, that he was unqualified and had a white wife. He suggests it was a strategy of giving southern senators cover to vote against him without antagonizing conservatives.

"From the very beginning, the quotes were, 'We're going to kill this guy. Who does he think he is?' And then they added the word 'politically' they were going to kill me," Thomas says. "It was mean from the very beginning. So there was no moment when you felt excited about it."

He is harshly critical of Senate Democrats and describes the NAACP as assuring the outside groups "it was now all right for them to smear a black man."

"What saddened me was the fact that an organization whose independence had once been a byword in the Deep South had been reduced to doing the bidding of the AFL-CIO," Thomas wrote of the NAACP.

He spent the summer preparing for his hearings, studying briefing books and meeting with senators. He wrote that his secretary at EEOC, Diane Holt, once asked whether Hill "would say anything negative about me." She had left EEOC after Thomas promoted another woman to be his chief of staff, and Thomas wrote in the book that she was incensed and accused him of favoring lighter-skinned women. He also describes her as combative and unpleasant to her colleagues.

But he says he also had wondered whether she, as a liberal, would be willing to testify on his behalf.

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