Question: If you were a U.S. Supreme Court justice, would you accept lavish vacations from a billionaire who might be nudging you to return verdicts that comport with his narrow worldview? Wait, don’t answer right away! What if the billionaire in question also had a giant cache of Nazi stuff, including a signed copy of Mein Kampf and two Hitler paintings? Would that sweeten this briny bucket of sauerkraut for you?
Well, maybe you can resist such overtures, but you haven’t been exposed to the same kinds of temptations that have long bedeviled Clarence Thomas, the SCOTUS with the Mostess brazen conflicts of interest.
By now you’ve no doubt read or heard about the bombshell ProPublica report tying Supreme Court Justice Thomas to billionaire weirdo/GOP megadonor Harlan Crow. According to ProPublica, Thomas has accepted luxury trips from Crow nearly every year for more than two decades—and has failed to disclose any of them. But that’s not all! Crow also has a world-class collection of Nazi shit. Oh, and he also has a statue garden adorned with the graven images of history’s most egregious despots, including Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
Crow, the billionaire heir to a real estate fortune, has said that he’s filled his property with these mementoes because he hates communism and fascism. Nonetheless, his collections caused an uproar back in 2015 when Marco Rubio attended a fundraiser at Crow’s house on the eve of Yom Kippur. Rubio’s critics thought the timing was inappropriate given, you know, the Hitler stuff.
“I still can’t get over the collection of Nazi memorabilia,” says one person who attended an event at Crow’s home a few years ago and asked to remain anonymous. “It would have been helpful to have someone explain the significance of all the items. Without that context, you sort of just gasp when you walk into the room.” One memorable aspect was the paintings: “something done by George W. Bush next to a Norman Rockwell next to one by Hitler.” They also said it was “startling” and “strange” to see the dictator sculptures in the backyard.
Yeah, good idea to split up Dubya and Hitler with a Norman Rockwell painting. People need a palate cleanser between the war criminal’s dilettantish doodles and Hitler’s stuff.
In 2014, when Crow’s house was included in a public tour of historic homes, a reporter from the Dallas Morning News visited. Apparently, Crow was visibly uncomfortable with questions about his dictator statues and Hitler memorabilia, preferring to discuss his other historical collections: documents signed by the likes of Christopher Columbus and George Washington; paintings by Renoir and Monet; statues of two of Crow’s heroes, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
Wait, he thought he could deflect attention from his Hitler collection by mentioning Christopher Columbus, the Genocidal Genoan? Dude!
Of course, as a far-left radical liberal, I’m deliberately eliding the fact that Thomas and Crow’s friendship is a longstanding and organic one—which coincidentally began five years after Thomas became a Supreme Court justice. I imagine them playing Call of Duty well into the night, playfully bickering over who gets to be the Germans. That would no doubt devolve into a boisterous tickle fight, whereupon they’d proceed to bicker over who gets to be Eva Braun.
That said, elements of the ProPublica report were concerning, to say the least.
Through his largesse, Crow has gained a unique form of access, spending days in private with one of the most powerful people in the country. By accepting the trips, Thomas has broken long-standing norms for judges’ conduct, ethics experts and four current or retired federal judges said.
“It’s incomprehensible to me that someone would do this,” said Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton. When she was on the bench, Gertner said, she was so cautious about appearances that she wouldn’t mention her title when making dinner reservations: “It was a question of not wanting to use the office for anything other than what it was intended.”
Virginia Canter, a former government ethics lawyer who served in administrations of both parties, said Thomas “seems to have completely disregarded his higher ethical obligations.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time Thomas’s objectivity and ethical conduct have been questioned. There’s that whole “his wife is a far-right goofball who tried to end American democracy” bit. But that doesn’t mean conservatives have run out of excuses for his sketchy behavior.
That said, imagine if the right’s ubiquitous bugaboo George Soros flew Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson to Gstaad for a three-day ski weekend. Republicans would freak. Hell, imagine if Soros took any one of them out for a frogurt. Tucker Carlson would be compelled to do a two-hour investigative report.
But hey, being a Republican means never having to say you’re sorry. Or, rather, never actually saying you’re sorry. For the record, Thomas should apologize. But we all know he never will.
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