Monday, January 24, 2022


At The New Republic, Michael Tomasky argues for impeaching Clarence Thomas.
In a sane world, Jane Mayer’s excellent piece on Ginni Thomas in The New Yorker would set off a series of events that would lead to her husband Clarence Thomas’s impeachment and removal from the Supreme Court. Ginni is involved with numerous far-right organizations and schemes that take very public positions on court decisions across a range of social and political issues, such as last week’s 8–1 holding that Donald Trump could not block the release of documents related to the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

Thomas was the lone dissenter in that case. His wife sat on the advisory board of a group that sent busloads of insurrectionists to Washington on January 6. In addition, she cheered the insurrection on Facebook. It’s just the most recent example where she has been involved in activities that directly or indirectly place her activism before the court, and her husband does not care how corrupt it looks.

They’ve been doing this for years. This first occasion was back in 2000, in a case Mayer doesn’t even go into, when it was revealed after that election that as a Heritage Foundation staffer, Ginni was screening résumés for the incoming Bush administration while the nation awaited a ruling from the court on the Florida recount. There was pressure then on Thomas to recuse himself.

A decade later, when the first major Obamacare case came before the court, it was widely noted that Ginni’s group, Liberty Central, called the law a “disaster” and urged repeal. Again, there were calls for Thomas to recuse.

He didn’t do so in either case. And in the first one, he was part of the 5–4 majority in Bush v. Gore, one of the most self-discrediting decisions in the court’s history.
Tomasky has more. He makes an excellent case for an intense focus on the Thomases, in Congress and in Democrats' day-to-day public statements. Democrats should always highlight Republican extremism. They should work hard to turn GOP extremists into suspicious characters.

But Tomasky loses me when he says Thomas should be impeached. He's certain Republicans would do it in a hypothetical situation in which the parties were reversed and a liberal justice were.
If there were a liberal justice on the court with a spouse who was involved in every major ideological battle of our time ... [t]hey probably would have impeached the justice, knowing that it would fail in the Senate but would tarnish said justice and any precedent of which he or she was a part.
But impeachment doesn't inevitably tarnish its target. Bill Clinton's poll numbers went up as a result of impeachment, and he left office a widely admired president. Surviving his first impeachment made Donald Trump seem like a conquering hero to Republican voters, and after his second impeachment he's the odds-on favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 (and he appears to be the favorite to win the general election).

Tomasky writes:
If the Republicans retake the House this November, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee is going to be Jim Jordan. He’s probably going to lead an impeachment of Joe Biden. Think he’ll be cowed because it’s hugely controversial?
He won't be cowed because it's controversial, but I think he'll be dissuaded because (a) impeachment will inspire Democrats to rally around Biden and (b) the inevitable Senate acquittal -- there's no way Republicans will get 67 votes in the Senate -- would make Republicans look like losers.

This doesn't mean that Republicans won't investigate the bejeezus out of Biden. They will. That's what worked for them in the run-up to 2016. Notice that they didn't impeach Barack Obama, even though their voter base would have been over the moon if they'd done it. Instead, they had hearing after hearing on Benghazi and other issues, and did everything they could to tarnish both Obama and likely presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (whom they couldn't impeach). It was a successful strategy. Impeaching Obama would have been a failure.

An impeachment of Clarence Thomas will make Democrats look like failures. If they succeed in the House, they won't get more than 50 votes in the Senate. (The upper limit is probably 48, for reasons that should be obvious.) But drawing the public's attention to the Thomases' radicalism is a worthy endeavor. It should have been done years ago, or at least as soon as this Congress was sworn in.

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