Book Review: My Grandfather’s Son by Clarence Thomas

Taking it easy today, I read Clarence Thomas’ memoir My Grandfather’s Son, which covers the time period from his early childhood until his swearing-in as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. He describes his journey from poverty in Georgia to becoming a radical while in college and law school to returning to the conservative roots of his grandfather, who raised him from his youth.

Much of the book is taken up with incidents showing the lack of respect most liberals have for blacks, while claiming to be their stalwart supporters. His philosophy that blacks can succeed through hard work and taking responsibility for themselves drew harsh reactions from liberals throughout his career, even leading other blacks to shun him for his views. He was reminded time and again that liberals are fine with blacks who mind their place on the liberal plantation.

While reading his first experiences of this sort, I was attributing it to liberal racism which Thomas notes he experiences much more frequently than racism from conservatives, although conservatives aren’t completely innocent in that area either. But upon further reflection, I realized that it’s not necessarily racism, although racism and condescension towards blacks does inform much of the liberal view on race relations; rather, it’s arrogance. We see it all the time from liberals as they attack those who disagree, no matter their skin color.

It’s sadly infrequent that you hear a liberal discuss an opponent’s arguments any more; instead they fall back on ad hominem attacks attacking a person’s character or intelligence. Sometimes this is because they lack any ability to argue a position on its merits (think of a local blog with the initials “D.L.”), but other times it’s because they are so convinced of their own righteousness and brilliance that anyone who disagree with them is, ipso facto, corrupt or stupid. The possibility that a person can, in good and informed conscience, disagree with them is incomprehensible to them. I think, in some respects, this informs their philosophy of top-down, controlling government; they’re so sure of the merits of their position that they are willing to impose it on all, regardless of the merits of any arguments against their proposals. It’s why I’m especially looking forward to Jonah Goldberg’s upcoming book Liberal Fascism. (already pre-ordered from Amazon!). The seal with which the Left seeks to impose their “solutions” on people does bring to mind the zeal with which Fascists would impose their will on their subjects.

Thomas does share his opinions of those who he came into contact with in his sojourn through Washington. Many unnamed Reagan Administration officials come off badly as they seemed to care little about improving the state of blacks in America. Reagan himself comes off favorably as Thomas records the sincere hurt that Reagan felt over the accusations of racism thrown his way by those who disagreed with his policies. (See above paragraph.) Thomas similarly has glowing remarks about the first president Bush, describing him as a man of honor and decency. Our own Senator Biden comes off as a self-seeking liar, while he does have warm comments for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, his college on the DC bench and later (although not discussed in this book) on the Supreme Court., among many other Democrats. (My favorite comment about a Democrat was when Thomas relates that Gore said he would vote to confirm Thomas if Gore decided not to run for President, otherwise he would vote no. While acknowledging the political calculation and lack of conviction behind such a statement, Thomas grudgingly admired the honesty, especially compared to some of the clear dissembling by some of the other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.) He has nothing but praise for Jack Danforth, who gave him his first job out of law school, sought him out to bring Thomas to Washington upon Danforth’s election as Senator and stood by him through the “high-tech lynching” of his nomination to the Supreme Court. Without my going into the deeper details, he describes Anita Hill an ambitious, but lackluster employee, who turned out also to be a liar.

Definitely worth a read if you want to get a sense of the man. (Hube might be interested in his comments on education policy during his time at the Department of Education.) I was disappointed to see he didn’t cover his time on the Supreme Court, but I guess that’s understandable since he’s still there. (It’s especially disappointing since it didn’t cover his return to the Catholicism of his youth after joining the Court.) It’s a quick read, I started it after 9 this morning and finished it by 3:30 or maybe earlier. And that includes making my self some lunch, taking a shower, etc. It’s worth the read.