Memo To: Maureen Down, NYTimes columnist
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Justice Thomas
Even with your sarcasm, you got close to the truth in your column June 25 about Justice Clarence Thomas and affirmative action, ("Could Thomas Be Right?"). I've worried about the consequences of affirmative action for decades while at the same time believing whites had to do more to repair the damage done to blacks from enslavement on. One of my oldest and closest black friends, a next-door neighbor in Morristown when I was on the WSJ editpage in the 1970s, was so sure he was being elevated at a major NYC bank just because he was black that he had what might be called a "nervous breakdown," resigning his post at at the bank and taking a job teaching finance at a small black college in Texas. Eventually the bank president himself helped persuade the man to try again, be his executive secretary on the bank's strategy committee. The man would tell you what a psychological burden it is to work in an environment where you believe your fellow workers resent your promotions, even though they may be deserved. To this day, he has those scars.
Even now, Justice Thomas lives in that environment, where liberal commentators constantly point out that he would never have been appointed to the SCOTUS if he were white. That may be true, but there has been for many decades a "black seat" on the Court, just as there had been a "Jewish" seat and now a "female seat." In that context, when he picked Thomas, President Bush picked who HE believed to be the most qualified man for the "black seat." I know you still believe he went after Anita Hill, but you are almost certainly wrong on that score. I've not only gotten to know Justice Thomas over the years, but also men who have known him far better than I, men who know he how incapable he is of being the kind of bad actor Anita Hill remembers.
As for Justice Scalia, who I've also known since 1977 when we were both fellows at the American Enterprise Institute, he is perfection when it comes to filling the one seat on the Court that should always be filled by a strict constructionist. There can be eight loosey-goosey constructionists, but there should always be one who is uncompromising. Liberals hate him not because he has one vote that might make a difference, but because they really do want nine loosey-gooseys, with no reminder of what the Constitution might really say regarding the powers of the judicial branch. Note Dick Gephardt promising that as president he will trump any SCOTUS decisions he does not like with an executive order. Hmmm. Your June 29 column on Scalia was a bit mean-spirited, I thought.
PS My friend Minister Louis Farrakhan told an audience of my clients in 1997: "If the government gives a black family free food, free clothing, free housing, free education and free health care, what is there left for the man of the house to do?" Affirmative action in that sense emasculates. You might say "it's a boy thing," Maureen. The kind of affirmative action Min. Farrakhan does favor involves policies aimed at improving the lives of blacks in general, not selective blacks chosen by quota systems. What first? He would have the federal and state prison systems require that prisoners attend classes to learn skills that could enable them to support themselves and their families when they are released.