Justice Clarence Thomas Laments Washington D.C. is ‘Broken’

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said the capital of the United States is “broken” because of the people’s failure to “think things through” and respectfully discuss differing viewpoints.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is seen in his chambers at the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S.
Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said the capital of the United States is "broken" because of the people's failure to "think things through" and respectfully discuss differing viewpoints.

Celebrating his 25th anniversary in the Supreme Court, Thomas spoke at the Heritage Foundation and commented on the presently prevailing culture of not practicing respectful disagreements.

"You know, there's always hope," Thomas said when he was asked if there is still hope for a better judicial confirmation process, "but this city is broken in some ways."

"I've been here most of my adult life. And I think we've become very comfortable with not thinking things through and not debating things," he added. "That's one of the things I love about the court - you can actually talk to people about things."

Thomas said instead of confronting disagreements with others, "we simply annihilate the person who disagrees with us," and doing so is not beneficial in a "republic or civil society."

Thomas emphasized the importance of being able to discuss differences in opinion without launching personal attacks against the person who disagrees. He gave as an example how he handles contrasting ideas with his colleagues.

"I don't attack personally my colleagues; I disagree with them strongly," he said, "because I think it's important for me to leave them standing and leave the institution standing and just sharply just have the contrast in the points of view."

He fondly remembered close friend Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away earlier this year. He described how they would debate about something and still remain warm, cordial and respectful toward each other, despite the fact that Scalia was often "unfairly" depicted as "aggressive."

However, Thomas did not put the blame entirely on the executive and the judicial branches of government. He pointed to the Supreme Court as well.

"What have we done to gain their confidence?" he asked. "Perhaps we should ask ourselves what we have done to not earn it or to earn it."

He also said the Supreme Court is obligated to make the Constitution "accessible to citizens."

Thomas also touched other subjects, such as the Affordable Care Act, whose name he considered to be a "misnomer considering all the things that are going on." There have been recent reports about premium increases for Obamacare.

He also talked about personal preferences, such as reading only from trusted sources like the solicitor general's office and the American Civil Liberties Union.

He also fondly shared about his 17-year-old RV, which he and his wife had taken to 40 states to meet with people.

He recounted a time when a man approached him while he was refueling the RV and told him, "Anybody ever tell you you look like Clarence Thomas?"

Thomas said the best part of their RV trips is seeing the people.

"Most of all you see the citizens of this country," Thomas said. "An RV park is very democratic with a small d.-- it is some of everybody."



Tags : Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia, legislative branch, executive branch, judiciary branch, Affordable Care Act, Obamacare