Liberals are twitching with indecision over Thomas

Mike Royko

July 24, 1991|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

MY FRIEND George the Knee-Jerk Liberal was highly agitated. I could tell because both knees were twitching and he was gulping, rather than sipping, his white wine.

"I have such a political and social dilemma," he said.

You usually do. What is it this time?

"The nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. I had dinner with friends last night -- an excellent little Thai place, by the way -- and I found myself . . . "

He paused and seemed to choke on the words. " . . . I found myself . . . not . . . sure . . . what . . . my . . . position . . . is."

What? You, unsure? I can't believe that. I refuse to believe it.

"Yes, I know it is shocking, but it's true. I don't know where I stand."

But it should be childishly obvious. You are a 100 percent liberal. And Clarence Thomas is a conservative. Therefore, you have no choice in the matter. You must oppose his confirmation.

L "It's not that simple. Remember, he is an African-American."

So?

"I'm uncomfortable opposing him. It makes me feel racist."

There's no reason to feel that way. Remember, he is being opposed by Jesse Jackson and all 26 members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

"Oh, it's easy enough for them, the lucky stiffs. They can oppose him without feeling racial guilt. They should try being white liberals sometime. Then they'd know what it is to agonize."

Then why don't you just oppose him for ideological reasons? Affirmative action, for example.

"That's true. He has spoken against it in the past. Yes, I can focus on that."

On the other hand, he is a beneficiary of affirmative action himself. That's really how he got into Yale Law School. And one might even say that his appointment to the Supreme Court bench might be affirmative action

and filling an unstated quota. So that might be a reason for you to support him. I mean, if you really believe in affirmative action and quotas.

"I don't understand. If he doesn't believe in them, why should I support him."

Because if you truly believe in these concepts, you should be applauding this as the highest-level affirmative action in American history.

"But I want to see the most qualified person appointed."

L Hah. That's what opponents of affirmative action always say.

"Wait, I am in favor of affirmative action, but we're talking about the Supreme Court of the United States."

So?

"Shouldn't we have the very best available?"

You don't want the very best. Be honest. You want a liberal and you would cheer him even if he drooled and didn't have enough experience to find his way to traffic court.

"Well, if he didn't drool constantly . . . "

Yes, I believe that you are morally obliged to support Judge Thomas.

"But you told me that I had to oppose him because he was a conservative."

That was before I thought it over. Don't you believe that government should undo present injustice and compensate when possible for past injustice?

"Absolutely, and I will gladly place my hand on Ted Kennedy's head and take an oath to that."

Then you must agree that it was wrong for national social attitudes to cause Judge Thomas to have been born into an environment of poverty, discrimination and deprivation in the rural South.

"A blight on our national conscience."

And don't you believe that if he had been born white with the comfort and privileges you had since birth, he might have gone to Yale Law School without help from anyone?

"Yes, yes. Of course, he also might have grown up to be a suburban rowdy. But yes, yes, I agree."

Then you can't support his nomination.

"But you just said I could."

That was before I gave it further thought. No, he doesn't deserve your support because he has not confessed that he could not have done it without liberal support. He gives the impression that he did it mostly on his own, with a little help from his gramps and those nuns. The old bootstraps trick.

"That's true, the ingrate. Yes, I am against him."

On the other hand, you can't be certain that he is a conservative.

"But what else could he be?"

He could be a sly fellow. Maybe he figured that with most blacks being Democrats, the field was kind of crowded. So he would pretend to be a conservative Republican, where he'd have more running room. Remember, Chief Justice Earl Warren, who became a liberal monster to all conservatives, was a Republican appointed by Ike.

"That's true. So you think maybe Thomas might pleasantly surprise us all once he is on the court?"

Probably not.

Then that's it. I'm against him." Don't be hasty. Remember, he did admit to taking a few puffs of joints while he was in college. That should count for something.

You're right. I could support him if I could just be certain...I wish......"

Certain of what? What do you wish?

I wish he'd said he rolled the joints."

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