Barack Obama, asked by Rick Warren to say which Supreme Court Justices he would not have nominated, answered “I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas.” He started to say that Justice Thomas didn’t have enough experience at the time—a remarkable charge, given Obama’s lack of experience and qualifications for the Presidency. But he thought better of it. “I don’t think that he, I don’t think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation.” He continued by saying that he wouldn’t have nominated Justice Scalia because he disagrees with him, but also that Scalia was qualified. Pressed, he said something similar about Chief Justice Roberts.
The Wall Street Journal this morning points out that Clarence Thomas’s resume was far more impressive then than Barack Obama’s is now: attorney in the Office of the Attorney General of Missouri, Assistant Secretary of Education, Chair of the Equal Opportunity Commission, and Justice on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Moreover, anyone who was familiar with Justice Thomas’s work and writings at that time (as I was) knew them to be brilliant. I recall hearing about the appointment and thinking that Clarence Thomas was an outstanding choice. Justice Thomas’s opinions from the bench have confirmed that. I tend to agree with them, but, agree or disagree, anyone should admit that they manifest extraordinarily fine judicial thinking, fully on a par with that of Justices Scalia, Roberts, and Alito.
So, why single out Justice Thomas as the one he wouldn’t appoint? Hmmm… Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, Alito… which of these doesn’t look like the others?