I suppose there can be legitimate differences of opinion on interpreting the rights enumerated in the Constitution. After all, if there was no need for interpretation of the Constitution, then there would be no need for a Supreme Court.
But what if a justice serving on the Court seems to not understand or agree with from the outset that their role is to interpret the actual Constitution, not to rule based on a fantasy constitution they may come up with? That would certainly be a breach of his oath, and it seems like Clarence Thomas is coming close to outright admitting such a thing.
Today's NY Times has a brief article about a speech and Q&A session justice Thomas had with a group of high school students. The piece focuses on Thomas' morose presence, on and off the bench, and includes the tidbit that he hasn't asked a question in two years.
But the real eye openers are these:
The evening was devoted to the Bill of Rights, but Justice Thomas did not embrace the document, and he proposed a couple of alternatives.
‘Today there is much focus on our rights," Justice Thomas said. "Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights."
"I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances," he said. "Shouldn’t there at least be equal time for our Bill of Obligations and our Bill of Responsibilities?"
How is this man allowed to serve on our Supreme Court when he seems to have no idea what is contained in the Constitution? He does not "embrace" the Bill of Rights?
Clarence, here's a radical idea that may not have occurred to you yet: Look at the fucking Constitution, you dipshit. It sure as hell contains a Bill of Rights, but does not contain any sort of Bill of Obligations or Bill of Responsibilities.
There should not be "equal time" for "our" Bill of Obligations or Bill of Responsibilities because they do not exist in the Constitution. The founders wisely set forth a Bill of Rights to protect the freedoms of society.
Is Clarence Thomas basing his rulings on the contents of fictional Bills of Obligations and Bills of Responsibilities that he incorrectly thinks are actually in the Constitution? Or does he know they are not in the Constitution but is basing his rulings on what he think ought to be there? If so, he is either unfit to serve or violating his oath.
We all know how conservatives love to bitch and moan about "activist" judges when an interpretation of the Constitution doesn't go their way. So I'm sure they will call for Thomas to resign now that he has almost proposed not even basing interpretations on the actual Constitution, right? Well, we all know the answer to that.
There are some other choice quote indicating that in addition to not understanding the very basics of our system of government, Thomas might be completely off his rocker in general:
"I have to admit," he said, "that I’m one of those people that still thinks the dishwasher is a miracle. What a device! And I have to admit that because I think that way, I like to load it. I like to look in and see how that dishes were magically cleaned."
Perhaps someone who thinks a dishwasher is 'magic' is not up to the task of protecting the constitution of the United States in the 21st century.
Update: Thank you for inclusion on the rec list. To address some concerns that I've read in the comments, these quotes are not proof, in of themselves, that Clarence Thomas doesn't understand or doesn't intend to apply the actual Constitution to his decisions. But to me, they certainly hint at that, and it is very scary and telling that he so casually dismisses grievances that result from people being deprived of their Bill of Rights protections - protections actually unambiguously codified in the Constitution - and in the same sentence invokes competing legal standards (the Bills of Responsibility and Obligations) that just don't exist in constitutional law. At a minimun, he should be forced to clarify that he does indeed understand that 1) the rights enumerated in the Bill Of Rights are not conditional upon individuals or groups in society doing anything in return to earn or keep them, 2) the Supreme Court must interpret the Constitution as written, and that 3) there are no competing Bills of Responsibility on which Constitutional rulings can be based.
Update 2: For an alternate perspective, from the comments - jlowery was actually there for this event and says that these quotes were taken out of context:
I was there, and this mischaracterizes Thomas
The particular quote that the paper pulled out completely mischaracterizes what Thomas was saying. The "too many rights" thing was a shot at Roe, privacy rights, etc. and not a general disavowal of the Bill of Rights. And he was not citing a "Bill of Responsibilities" as something he should that someone could bring up.
His essential point was that too many people come to court claiming they have rights that entitle the government to do something for them, and that instead we should be focusing on service and what obligations we have to each other and to America. It was a Kennedy "Ask Not" point, only wrapped more in legal language. And when talking to a bunch of smart high school students, can you really complain about him making that point?
Overall, I disagreed with a few of his throwaway comments in the speech - talking about how he loved the "flag and cross" in his school, making fun of the entire idea of privacy rights and a couple of other right-wing canards - but his speech and Q&A were fairly non-controversial and mostly admirable.