For years, Supreme Court watchers — a group of people similar to those who build model railroads in their basements — have been waiting for Justice Clarence Thomas to say something. Anything.
For nearly seven years, that group of nerds, er, scholars, has been disappointed as Thomas has uttered not a single word — not one! — during oral arguments before the court.
Worst Week in Washington
Chris Cillizza grants the award to the Democrat, Republican, West Wing dweller, Capitol Hill insider, K Street dealer, business guru, sports hero, think tank scribblers or other inhabitant of Planet Beltway who experienced the absolute worst week.
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That all changed Monday, when Thomas spoke during arguments about the qualifications of a lawyer in a Louisiana death-penalty case. But what did he say? No one really knows. The supposition, as expertly explained by The Washington Post’s court correspondent Robert Barnes, is that he was making a joke about lawyers trained at his alma mater, Yale Law School. (Thomas has a famously combative relationship with Yale; in his memoir, he wrote that going to the school was a “mistake.”)
In the past, Thomas has explained his silence as a matter of principle and philosophy. “I think you should allow people to complete their answers and their thought, and to continue their conversation,” he said in a 2009 C-SPAN interview. “I find that coherence that you get from a conversation far more helpful than the rapid-fire questions.”
That the justice broke his vow of silence not to weigh in on matters of high jurisprudence but to supposedly tell a joke — which almost no one heard — is a piece of irony so delicious it makes the Fix hungry. On the bright side for Thomas, his streak of not asking a question during oral arguments remains intact.
Clarence Thomas, for finally speaking yet not being heard, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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