Am I the only one who noticed that ex-Nixon lawyer John Dean’s article “John Dean Knows How to Get Rid of Clarence Thomas” concludes thus: “In short, nothing is going to happen to Clarence Thomas.” Talk about false advertising!
But Dean left out of consideration one strategy, the same one that five years ago he argued against pursuing with Bush and Cheney, whom many of us at that time wanted removed from office. The strategy is the one now being advanced by RootsAction: Impeach Clarence Thomas.
The impeachable offenses have been well catalogued by Think Progress without a solution proposed. ProtectOurElections has proposed the same solution that John Dean suggests before dismissing it as hopeless: ask the Department of Justice, the one that just dismissed charges in 99 cases of murder-by-torture, to “investigate” Thomas. Investigate. As if the facts aren’t public already in sufficient quantity. William Rivers Pitt at TruthOut has had the sense to use a different I word: impeachment.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has, in fact, and beyond dispute, been very busy accepting gifts from organizations that file briefs before the court, attending political fundraisers, ruling on suits in which he or his wife have a conflict of interest, and hiding income. No wonder he hasn’t had time to ask a question from the bench in five years!
Of course, Thomas should be asked to resign! Of course the FBI should be pushed to “investigate” the case. Of course Eric Holder and the man who holds his leash, Barack Obama, should be pressured to investigate and prosecute. But the information is known. What’s needed is purely the will. To seriously take up the matter is to put Thomas in prison. It’s all or nothing. Where will we find the political pressure to make it happen, or to make Thomas resign in hopes of avoiding it? How can we create a climate in which Obama cannot comfortably refuse to act, or in which other means of accountability begin to look likely, or in which the level of shame and opprobrium actually become too great for someone like Clarence Thomas to continue to endure?
Here are three names to keep in mind:
1. Thomas Porteous. This federal judge was impeached in 2010 for charges of corruption and was removed from office.
2. Samuel Kent. This federal judge was impeached in 2009 for charges of sexual assault and abuse of power. He resigned.
And, most importantly:
3. Alberto Gonzales. This U.S. Attorney General resigned after Congressman Jay Inslee introduced — and dozens of his colleagues agreed to cosponsor — the following bill:
“Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary shall investigate fully whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to impeach Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.”
There’s that “investigate” word again. But there’s another important word here: “impeach.”
Congressman Chris Murphy has already written a letter to his colleagues asking them to sign on to a request to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith. Credo has depicted the request as one for an investigation of Thomas, but the letter actually asks for consideration of a bill that would apply the same ethical standards used in other federal courts to the Supreme Court. The letter mentions Thomas and two other judges as examples of why this is needed.
By all means, that hearing should be held and that bill be passed. But there exists a mechanism for enforcing ethical standards. It might require merely the same steps that were taken with Alberto Gonzales. No Republican House Committee is eager to hold hearings on Thomas, but what about a Democratic Senate Committee, prompted by a House move toward impeachment? Such a move could consist of 100 congress members, mostly Democrats, cosponsoring this:
“Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary shall investigate fully whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to impeach Clarence Thomas, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.”
You can ask your representative to cosponsor that through RootsAction. I encourage you to ask all your friends to do the same.
As John Nichols documented so well in his book “The Genius of Impeachment,” many successful impeachments have succeeded without conviction or even impeachment, and some without even the introduction of articles of impeachment. Alberto Gonzales was merely threatened with impeachment. There were powerful people he could have squealed on who probably urged him to leave, but that is likely to be true for Thomas as well. Gonzales was unable to find work in any law firm following his resignation. By contrast, the Congressman who proposed consideration of his impeachment is now a serious candidate for Governor of Washington.
Clarence Thomas richly deserves to follow in Alberto Gonzales’ footsteps.