Unhinged Clarence Thomas Muses Publicly on Childhood, Our 'Proliferation' of Rights and Why Dishwashers Are a 'Miracle'

Human Rights

The New York Timesran an op-ed this weekend calling for term limits on federal judges -- and, frankly it comes not one moment too soon. A short piece today by Adam Liptak provides an unnerving peek inside the brain of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a man who has not uttered a word from the bench since February 22, 2006 and who is not often seen in public. "Glimpses of Justice Thomas in less formal settings are rare," writes Liptak, so it must have come as a bit of a surprise when the judge agreed to deliver the keynote address at a DC event honoring high school student winners of the "Being an American" essay contest sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute.

Whether the evening went according to plan, we can't be sure. But the thoughts Justice Thomas chose to share with the high school students (while perched, for some reason, at a "fancy hot-pink lectern that glowed from the inside") were a mixed bag, to say the least. "I tend to be morose sometimes," Thomas told the audience, before holding forth on subjects ranging from his nostalgia for his religious upbringing to his belief that there are too many rights, to the wonders of modern appliances (most notably, the dishwasher.)

"I am rounding the last turn for my 18th term on the court," he told the audience, referring to his work on the bench as "this endeavor," "or, for some, an ordeal."

"That's one thing about this job," he said. "You get a little tired."

Admitting that when he gets "a little down," he goes online and looks up "wonderful speeches" -- preferably military speeches -- Justice Thomas also said he likes to go down to the basement to watch Saving Private Ryan. ("I can't tell you why that particular movie, except we have it and it’s about something important in our lives -- World War II.")

He also admitted he likes to think about his more youthful days.

" ... How can you not reminisce about a childhood where you began each day with the Pledge of Allegiance as little kids lined up in the schoolyard and then marched in two by two with a flag and a crucifix in each classroom?" he asked.

As Liptak points out, "the evening was devoted to the Bill of Rights, but Justice Thomas did not embrace the document, and he proposed a couple of alternatives."

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