Worst Week in Washington
A weekly award honoring inhabitants of Planet Beltway

Who had the worst week in Washington? Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

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.

Archive

More from Outlook

Loaded language

Loaded language

Gun metaphors riddle our slang.

Ma Joad for president

Ma Joad for president

From “Grapes of Wrath” to the White House.

Translating García Márquez

Translating García Márquez

An interview with the woman the novelist accused of “two-timing me with Cervantes.”

A year after Rana Plaza

A year after Rana Plaza

What hasn’t changed since the Bangladesh factory collapsed.

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 chris.cillizza@wpost.com.

Read more from Outlook, friend us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

 
Read what others are saying