The underpinnings of Judge Thomas' philosophy

Mike Royko

September 18, 1991|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

JUDGE THOMAS, in a speech you delivered in 1987, you said, and I quote: 'I believe it is the responsibility of every decent

person to wear clean underwear, so that in the event of an accident, you will not be embarrassed in front of the nurses in the emergency room.' Is that quotation accurate?"

"Yes, senator, it is."

"Now, you went on to say that if a person does not have an automatic washer and dryer, that person should wash his or her underwear by hand. And if that person does not have hot water, he or she should make do with cold water. Is that accurate?"

"Yes, senator, I believe it is."

"Do I take it, then, that you believe every individual, regardless of their means, is responsible for their own underwear?"

"Let me put it this way, senator. When I was a poor child, one day my grandfather saw me slipping my tattered trousers over yesterday's underwear, and my grandfather told me ..."

"Judge Thomas, are we going to have to sit through still another one of your grandfather stories? I'm starting to hallucinate that your grandfather has been nominated for the Supreme Court."

"I appreciate that, senator, but I was taught as a poor child that the cleanliness of one's underwear was a measure of one's character."

"I think we would all agree on that, and you are to be much admired for your high-mindedness, as well as the cleanliness of your underwear. And I want to take this moment to compliment you on the members of your fine family, all of whom I would assume have clean underwear. But I have to ask you: Do you believe that having clean underwear is part of natural law?"

"Senator, I don't believe that I have ever said clean underwear is part of natural law."

"Ah, then you don't believe it is part of natural law."

"Senator, I have never said that, either."

"Then what is your position? Is clean underwear part of natural law or isn't it?"

"I don't believe it would be appropriate for me to give an opinion on that."

"Then you will not tell us how you feel about the decision, Nurse Jones vs. Grungy Joe, which dealt with the issue of dirty underwear in emergency rooms?"

"Senator, as my grandfather once said about speaking without all the facts ..."

"Judge Thomas, I absolutely refuse to listen to one more of your grandfather stories. I would like to know this: What if a person has no washer and dryer, no hot water and the cold water pipe is frozen. How do you propose that this person obtain a clean change of underwear?"

"Senator, that is a hypothetical case. But if that person had a stove and a pot and could borrow some water from a neighbor, he or she would have the means of heating water and washing the underwear."

"True, judge, but what if that person didn't have such means?"

"Senator, is there a hypothetical Laundromat near this hypothetical person?"

"This hypothetical person can't afford a Laundromat. So would you not agree that in some cases society should provide the means for this person to obtain a clean change of underwear?"

"Well, as my grandfather said, 'Better to be free and wash your own socks with a hole in the big toe than to walk in a rich man's Gucci shoes.' "

"Judge, I haven't the faintest idea what that means."

"I don't either, senator. My grandfather wasn't real good at old sayings."

"Judge Thomas, with all respect, even Judge Bork was willing to share with us his personal philosophy on the question of clean underwear for those who have a need."

"Yes, senator, but look what happened to Judge Bork. Besides, Judge Bork's old grandfather might have had a different opinion on this issue than my old grandfather, who always said ..."

"We stand recessed."

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