The Obsession with Clarence Thomas Posted by: McQ
on Sunday, October 07, 2007
Of course the obsession rests mostly with the left. Thomas, as you might imagine, just isn't appreciative enough of everything they've tried to do for blacks. That's because he's actually a conservative and opposed to affirmative action. Both of those, according to some intellectual lightweights on the left prone to stereotyping, makes him (and any black that description fits) "self-loathing".
This could be seen most vividly on "60 Minutes," when he revisited a parable about the evils of affirmative action that is also a centerpiece of his memoir: his anger about the "tainted" degree he received from Yale Law School. In Mr. Thomas's account, he stuck a 15-cent price sticker on his diploma after potential employers refused to hire him. By his reckoning, a Yale Law graduate admitted through affirmative action, as he was, would automatically be judged inferior to whites with the same degree. The "60 Minutes" correspondent, Steve Kroft, maintained that Mr. Thomas had no choice but to settle for a measly $10,000-a-year job (in 1974 dollars) in Missouri, working for the state's attorney general, John Danforth.
What "60 Minutes" didn't say was that the post was substantial — an assistant attorney general — and that Mr. Danforth was himself a Yale Law graduate. As Mr. Danforth told the story during the 1991 confirmation hearings and in his own book last year, he traveled to New Haven to recruit Mr. Thomas when he was still a third-year law student. That would be before he even received that supposedly worthless degree. Had it not been for Yale taking a chance on him in the first place, in other words, Mr. Thomas would never have had the opportunity to work the Yalie network to jump-start his career and to ascend to the Supreme Court. Mr. Danforth, a senator in 1991, was the prime mover in shepherding the Thomas nomination to its successful conclusion.
And here again the power and usefulness of the blogosphere comes into play. Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracyshreds Rich's contention about as completely as such a thing can be done. Kerr does a little research - apparently google searches are beyond Rich's abilities - and finds out that the Thomas version is the much more credible version.
So is Rich correct that Thomas "worked the Yalie network" to get a "substantial" job, that of "Assistant Attorney General," the suggestion being, I gather, that this was the kind of plum position that perhaps only a Yalie could get?
I don't think so. As I understand it, in Missouri the title "Assistant Attorney General" is the standard job title given to an entry-level attorney hired in the state Attorney General's Office. It's not exactly a common destination for those "work[ing] the Yalie network"; my googling around suggests that most Assistant Attorneys General in Missouri are hired straight from Missouri law schools.
Perhaps Rich was misled by the fact that in the federal government, the job of Assistant Attorney General is indeed quite a job. It's a Senate-confirmed position, often heading hundreds of attorneys.
But state governments are different. In many states, that lofty title is given to entry-level lawyers. My sense is that this is the case in Missouri. If you look at the listings of job openings in that office, they are all for the position of Assistant Attorney General.
Kerr establishes that not only is this not a job which would be something any Yalie would be seeking, that it is more likely one none would seek. And that was born out by a little further googling:
As best I can tell, these individuals who were hired as Assistant AG in Missouri did not have "the opportunity to work the Yalie network to jump-start [their] career[s]." I can find no other Yale graduates who had this job, and for that matter I haven't been able to find anyone who attended an "elite" school either at the undergraduate or graduate level who had it.
To be clear, I think these sorts of jobs are terrific. I think an entry-level job at a state AG's office is a simply wonderful way to get real legal experience and serve the public. But Rich's suggestion that this was some kind of highly sought-after job among the New Haven set — and that Thomas never could have had it without affirmative action, because he could only get that job from Yale — appears to be pretty clearly false.
The title of Rich's piece?
"Nobody Knows the Lynchings He’s Seen"
Chalk up another failed attempt. But don't hold your breath for a Rich retraction.
Clarence who? Is that upppity *november* making trouble again? We gave him a good credential, what more does he want? He didn’t actually expect a job with a Wall St. law firm or clerking for a real judge, did he? Ungrateful, that’s what he is.
When Frank Rich was a teenager he read THE FOUNTAINHEAD, but he had a different reaction to it than many teenagers. Intsead of seeing Howard Roark as the good guy, he fell in love with Ellsowrth Toohey and has been emulating him ever since. It’s important for people to have role models.
I never cease to be amazed by the vilification of Thomas. He has long been my favorite SC justice and it’s only recently that his quiet brilliance has begun to be appreciated. I can recall saying I thought he was the best justice on the court in 2003 and 2004. People thought I was nuts.