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Clarence Thomas Should Not Recuse Himself from Election-Related Cases Because Joe Biden Was a Jerk in the '90s

(AP Photo/John Duricka, File)

Since most corporate media opinion pieces could rival The Babylon Bee in terms of satirical quality, this one comes as no surprise. Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King has decided that if the election results end up at the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas should recuse himself. King asserts this mostly because Joe Biden turned the confirmation hearings for Justice Thomas into a three-ring circus, and Thomas took note of it in his memoir.

Andrew Breitbart famously said that watching those hearings turned him into a conservative. That was not an uncommon feeling for many people who watched them. In the recent documentary, Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words, clips of the hearings are played. Joe Biden’s behavior was appalling, and one has to wonder if Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was suffering from deja vu as he sat through Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

So King, in his editorial, asserts that because Clarence Thomas was clear in describing Joe Biden’s behavior toward him during an acrimonious confirmation hearing, he is unfit to hear a case regarding election law. Given Democrats’ behavior during confirmation hearings since Robert Bork, whose last name became a verb, this seems to be a ridiculous contention.

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Beginning with Bork, it was Joe Biden who perfected the politics of personal destruction. It may be hard to believe now, watching the doddering septuagenarian, but he was a vicious political operator. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was a chief orchestrator of smear campaigns when it came to Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Biden wrote the playbook Senate Democrats used to smear Justice Kavanaugh. This type of character assassination is a feature, not a bug, when it comes to nominations made by Republican presidents. Neil Gorsuch only got a pass because his nomination would not change the basic composition of the Court. He was seen as someone with a very similar judicial philosophy to Justice Scalia, whom he was replacing.

The primary argument King uses in the column is that Thomas does not appear to believe that Biden is personally honest. Unfortunately for King, this is a well-known fact. Biden is a fabulist who has made up details about his personal life since the 1980s. The latest example is Biden’s claim that he began his education at Delaware State, a historically black college. This story was a flat-out lie, one that there was no apparent reason to tell.

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Thomas’ opinion of Biden personally has absolutely nothing to do with ruling on a case having to do with election law. It is likely the lawsuits would be against the states. They would be determining whether or not the election had followed state laws regarding deadlines and processes. We have already seen judges in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia override state election laws regarding election deadlines, effectively legislating from the bench. These issues have nothing to do with Biden personally, and the laws are pretty straightforward. Thomas has a long history of following the text of the law as written, and there is no reason to believe he would not in these cases.

It is highly likely Thomas’ history of fidelity to the text of the law has more to do with King’s desire for the justice to recuse himself. Biden’s manufactured attacks on Thomas during the confirmation are a nifty pretext. Now Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has said he would ask Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from an election lawsuit if she is confirmed. That would knock out two textualists. My guess is the next target will be Justice Kavanaugh. Vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris was an absolute shrew to him during his recent confirmation hearings.

Should Judge Barrett Recuse Herself From Election-Related Cases?

All of this is about switching the balance should an election lawsuit reach the Supreme Court. The left has successfully pressured Chief Justice Roberts in the past, and he is a swing vote at this point. Justice Thomas should not recuse himself for accurately recounting the story of his confirmation hearing in his memoir. Nor should Amy Coney Barrett recuse because of the timing of her nomination. The suggestion regarding Kavanaugh was a bit tongue in cheek, but it is not difficult to imagine Democrats calling for it.

Here’s a much better idea: Democrats should stop playing the politics-of-personal-destruction game every time the abortion lobby freaks out because their ability to kill babies might be limited. Maybe if they didn’t manufacture lies to smear nominees to the Court, they wouldn’t have to worry about personal animus. The possibility it exists is a direct result of the behavior they chose to engage in. A good start would be to make different choices over the next few weeks.

Joe Biden chose to behave dishonestly and discharge his duties as chair of the Judiciary Committee in a blatantly political manner. This fact is no reason to believe Justice Thomas would not be able to discharge his duties on the Court dispassionately. Instead, it seems Justice Thomas has always been the better man. There is no reason to believe that has changed.