Thomas Explains Obama as First Black President


Justice Clarence Thomas gave a talk at Duquesne Law School last month and did an interview in which he offered his perspective on Barack Obama being elected as the nation’s first black president. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that he was downright catty about it.

Asked if Obama’s election as the first black president came as a surprise, Thomas said it didn’t, claiming that he’d always believed a black person would become president one day. He went on to say, however, that Obama had only been elected because the president won over the elites and media, something Thomas argued most black people must do in order to advance.

“The thing that I always knew is that it would have to be a black president who was approved by the elites and the media, because anybody they didn’t agree with, they would take apart,” Thomas said in a clip that surfaced on Friday. “You pick your person. Any black person who says something that is not the prescribed things that they expect from a black person will be picked apart.”

Thomas’s comments have since been picked up by a number of outlets and are being considered by some as a subtle jab at Obama. Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California School of Law, told Mother Jones that the remarks were out of character for a sitting Supreme Court justice.

“Thomas seems more interested in becoming a Fox commentator than preserving the integrity of the Court,” he said. “Justices should not take pot shots at the president. It’s beneath the dignity of the court.”

Thomas, like Sarah Palin, clings to and nurtures his sense of grievance like it was a newborn baby. And like Palin’s, it only seems to grow with time. And it is always amusing to me when conservatives talk about those mysterious and powerful “elites” as if they weren’t part of that group by any definition. Thomas is a supreme court justice, for crying out loud, one of the most powerful positions in the country and one that is held by very, very few people. There are 535 people in Congress right now; only 112 have been on the Supreme Court in the nation’s entire history. Elites, indeed.

Comments

  1. slc1 says

    I rather surprised that Thomas didn’t refer to his descent from slave ancestors to contrast with Obama’s non-descent from slave ancestors (except, apparently, through his mother who, it seems, was a distant descendant of the first slave in America).

  2. jameshanley says

    Oh, it’s only black presidential candidates who get picked apart by elites, eh? I’m sure Rick Santorum will be surprised to hear that.

  3. says

    “Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California School of Law, told Mother Jones that the remarks were out of character for a sitting Supreme Court justice.”

    They are not, however, out of character for Clarence Thomas.

    “Elites” is one of those words that the republicans have successfully redefined. It no longer refers to people of a high socio-economic status or who wield a lot of personal power. It now means “anyone who finished high school and holds views we don’t like.”

  4. says

    Anyone want to make any bets on how long it will be before his wife gets drunk and starts leaving creepy messages on other people’s phonemail?

  5. Doug Little says

    He went on to say, however, that Obama had only been elected because the president won over the elites and media, something Thomas argued most black people must do in order to advance.

    I’d say that this is just pretty much par for the course if you want to become president these days. Of course you could look at this like it is a jab at the typical conservative voter (not an “Elite”) who would be less likely to vote for a person of color.

    One other point is that I hear Obama had the media on his side but I’ve never seen any actual evidence that this was the case, I be more inclined to think that the media coverage was a wash when you look at both left and right leaning media sources. Obama definitely made better use of social media but I don’t think that is what Thomas is referring to.

  6. scienceavenger says

    Any black person who says something that is not [consistent with current and historical realities with regard to race in America] will be picked apart.”

    FTFY.

  7. MyPetSlug says

    What’s funny to me is Obama was “approved by the elites and the media”, as opposed to whom? How is this in any way descriptive of any president? Would a President Romney not have been approved of by the elites and media being the son of a Governor and a super rich white dude with Fox News backing. How about GWB before Obama? Was he not approved of by the elites, a religious conservative coming from a wealthy and powerful political family? Exactly which President does this not applies to?

    I agree, this is like Palin, pretending these powerful nameless “elites” (who are of course bad) are for your opponents but never for you. As if, Thomas, nominated by the elite of the elite and approved of by a political body made up of elites did not have their backing himself. As if every time a Republican president is asked what type of Supreme Court judge they would nominate, his name isn’t mentioned as an example.

  8. baal says

    The misuse of ‘elite’ is not an accident and part of the on-going plan to hang irrelevant noise and confusion on any word or words that can be used to derogate the oligarchs.

    As to Thomas, I feel dumber every time he does speak and see his his role on the SCT as evidence of a failure of the US FEDGOV.

  9. Larry says

    I didn’t know Clarence Thomas could talk.

    Especially without Scalia’s fist up his puppet ass.

  10. slc1 says

    Re Larry @ #12

    How can you say such a thing. Have you not read Brayton’s many comments purporting to demonstrate that Scalia and Thomas are not joined at the hip?

  11. says

    I’m glad to know that Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers and all those people who donated billions to all those PACs trying to defeat Obama aren’t “elites” … just part of the common folk.

  12. says

    You pick your person. Any black person who says something that is not the prescribed things that they expect from a black person will be picked apart.

    Well, yes. Except that Thomas was a black person who was picked by a Republican. Obama was not, and so he has been picked apart….by Republicans.

  13. thebookofdave says

    @Larry #12

    Gods damn it! You beat me to the punch line. Anyway, if Clarence Thomas is angling for the Bryan Fischer Award, he’s up against much more aggressive competition. But thanks for playing.

  14. says

    ““Elites” is one of those words that the republicans have successfully redefined. It no longer refers to people of a high socio-economic status”

    It means, “Them”.

    “He went on to say, however, that Obama had only been elected because the president won over the elites and media, something Thomas argued most black people must do in order to advance.”

    That does not seem to have hampered Clarabelle in any appreciable way.

  15. Ben P says

    What’s funny to me is Obama was “approved by the elites and the media”, as opposed to whom? How is this in any way descriptive of any president? Would a President Romney not have been approved of by the elites and media being the son of a Governor and a super rich white dude with Fox News backing. How about GWB before Obama? Was he not approved of by the elites, a religious conservative coming from a wealthy and powerful political family? Exactly which President does this not applies to?

    Two answers I guess.

    My guess as to what Thomas is thinking is that he as a “black conservative” is not “approved by elites and the *liberal* media.” That’s his internal sense of grievance at the way he’s usually portrayed and compared to say, the liberal Thurmond Marshall. The latter is widely venerated, where Thomas is….not. Both of them have fairly compelling life stories though.

    The second answer is probably true, and is perhaps either more or decidedly less controversial. That is, as you say, every president has to be approved by the “elites and the media.” I think there is a racial and socio-political dimension to that. What comes to mind is Biden’s foot-in-mouth description of Obama as “articulate, bright, clean and a nice looking guy.” It’s not politically correct to suggest this, but the essence of what Biden was saying is that Obama, for the most part, acts “white.”

    If a white person, particularly a politician, were to stand up and suggest that African Americans ought to conform to white cultural standards (i.e. refrain from speaking what the NYT calls the black dialect and dress and act like white culture expects) they’d be criticized as racist. Bill Cosby suggests this and even he gets criticized for saying it. But I think it should be mostly beyond argument, if perhaps controversial, that an African American who does not adhere to white culture would have a very difficult time obtaining national office, primarily because they’d never gain the support of the moneyed class who, by in large, finance political campaigns.

  16. says

    Here’s the thing:

    Whatever else, history will remember Barack Obama as America’s first African-American president.

    Clarence Thomas will be remembered for pubic hair on a Coke can.

  17. Nomad says

    Thomas is lying through his teeth. Look, of course part of the implication of who the elites are is the media. Right? The liberal media? I can’t be bothered to look up a citation to this, but someone did a study on how the media treated Obama and either just Romney or maybe the entire collection of GOP presidential candidates during the last presidential election cycle. And guess what? The media was more negative on Obama.

    I like the interpretation of elites meaning “anyone with an education who doesn’t agree with me”, but I take a slightly different view. I think it means “anyone who will call someone on it when they make an incredibly stupid, untrue, statement”. When someone like Bachmann or King opens their steaming lie hole and issues forth another whopper and someone calls them on it, that someone is, by definition, an elite. Whereas, I suppose, the party hacks who constantly lie by calling Democrats on things they never did are clearly not elites as demonstrated by their disregard for the truth.

    Honestly, given the behavior of the GOP lately, I think I can come up with another, very ironic interpretation of elite. Poor people. All the whining about the welfare moms and unemployed people who were being paid for their votes with free health care and contraception, does that really sound like the elites approved of him? It sounds like the elites being mad that the poor people voted for him. It sounds like the elites being mad that their money might flow out of their constricted circle and towards the majority.

  18. says

    Nomad:

    There are two commonly held misperceptions about U.S. media outlets (I can’t speak to what goes on in other countries).

    The first is that most media publish news that is fact based, reserving opinion for editorial functions.

    The second is that there is some sort of numeric, resource or other advantage of the “liberals” over the “conservatives”.

    The truth re: the first misperception is easily demonstrated by spending an hour or two listening to, watching or reading any material disseminated by Fox or other Murdoch holdings.

    The second is to think of what national, deep pocketed organizations are spreading the manure. Here’s a hint, no commies in that group.

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