Harry Reid and Clarence Thomas: The Furor is Not Dying Down

Project 21 notes the furor over Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s December 5 remarks about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is not dying down:

In the wake of the hurtful and racially-insensitive comments made by incoming Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) about U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, members of the black leadership network Project 21 are demanding the liberal senator immediately apologize. They further demand Senate liberals pledge to allow fair and timely hearings and votes on judicial nominees regardless of their race and political beliefs.

“Senator Reid has revealed the intolerance found on the political left for minorities who do not reside on their ideological plantation,” said Project 21 member Wendell Talley. “Justice Thomas has been in the public eye for approximately 15 years and conducted himself with integrity. Reid seemed to be around just 15 minutes before he made a fool of himself. He should apologize to Justice Thomas for his comments.”

While being interviewed on the NBC News program “Meet the Press” on December 5, Senator Reid was asked about the possibility of Justice Thomas replacing current Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who is currently being treated for thyroid cancer. Reid called Thomas “an embarrassment to the Supreme Court” and said his “opinions are poorly written.”

In the same interview, Senator Reid praised Justice Antonin Scalia, calling him “one smart guy.” Scalia and Thomas share many views. Scalia, of course, is white.

Legal scholars are not as critical of Justice Thomas’ legal prowess as are liberal politicians and activists. Commenting on liberal criticism of Thomas’ jurisprudence, University of Wisconsin Law Professor Ann Althouse wrote: “It is my observation that liberals tend to lapse into the lazy belief that those who don’t agree with them must be stupid or evil, and to me Reid’s remarks look a bit like that… I realize the senators can’t get away with opposing a judicial nomination on the grounds that they simply disagree with their opinions… but to attack Thomas’ intelligence is shameless.”

“I consider Senator Reid’s comments against Justice Thomas to be among the boldest and most unambiguously racist public attacks since the day when lynchings were commonplace and Orval Faubus and Bull Connor openly used their political power to keep blacks down,” said Project 21 member Mychal Massie. “The fact that Justice Thomas may become our nation’s first black Chief Justice is a tremendous civil rights milestone, but it will be a tremendous step backward if he were undermined simply for being a black conservative. Not only will it hurt Justice Thomas personally, but it could stifle future generations of black Americans from expressing independent and diverse political opinions.”

During the eight days since Reid’s comments, the furor over his remarks has not died down.

* Editorialist Armstrong Williams wrote of Reid’s remarks in USA Today and elsewhere over the weekend: “The United States now confronts a modern edition of Jim Crow. If you are born white, you may aspire to achieve greatness as a liberal, conservative, moderate, independent or otherwise. There are no intellectual no-go zones. But if you are born black, your ambitions will be crushed unless you ape black power brokers.”

* In a December 12 Los Angeles Times op-ed, the Claremont Institute’s Thomas L. Krannawitter wrote: “…we must ask why a Democrat would go on national television and criticize the second black Supreme Court justice in history while praising fellow-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia as ‘one smart guy’?”

* The Washington Times editorial page noted on December 12: “What is most striking about the comments Mr. Reid made about Justice Thomas and the NYT made about Justice Scalia is how glibly they describe their targets as an ’embarrassment,’ or ‘retrogressive’ or ‘ultraextreme’ without providing any evidence to substantiate their attacks.”

* In a nationally-syndicated column distributed December 13, attorney and Project 21 member Horace Cooper wrote: “Senate Democrats should realize that just because you disagree with someone it doesn’t make them stupid or evil. Memo to the war room: Sliming blacks you disagree with is not the pathway to an electoral majority. It will more likely lead to the opposite.”

* On December 13, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal made sport of Harry Reid’s writing ability in his Best of the Web column, calling Reid’s allegation that Thomas is a poor writer “projection,” and analyzing Reid’s maiden speech in the Senate for quality.

Project 21 members have been outspoken about the need for senators to allow for timely confirmation hearings of judicial nominees and full floor votes – a practice routinely blocked over the last four years by liberal senators and their staffs at the urging of liberal special interest groups…

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