Cory Booker

Clarence Thomas Mocks Cory Booker's 'Spartacus' Grandstanding

"If you can't debate hard issues honestly, with honor, with integrity, how do we keep a civil society?" Thomas said.


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Without naming the New Jersey Democrat, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas mocked Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) for grandstanding last week at Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings.

Booker caused quite a stir as Kavanaugh, the nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Court, answered questions from lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Booker claimed he was risking Senate expulsion by releasing supposedly confidential emails from Kavanaugh's time as a lawyer in the George W. Bush administration. "This is the closest I'll get to an 'I am Spartacus' moment," Booker said, referring to the famous quote from the 1960 film.

The emails, though, had already been cleared for release, so Booker wasn't actually risking anything. And while he drew attention to one email with the subject line "Racial Profiling," that message wasn't the smoking gun Booker hoped it would be. Kavanaugh wrote at the time that while he "generally favor[s] effective security measures that are race-neutral," it's still necessary to "grapple…with the interim question of what to do before a truly effective and comprehensive race-neutral system is developed and implemented."

In an interview with Leonard Leo, vice president of the conservative Federalist Society, Thomas couldn't help but mock Booker's "Spartacus moment." The interview took place last week, but aired on CSPAN yesterday.

"Honorable—if we could use that word about more people who are in public life, people who actually ask the questions at confirmation hearings, instead of 'Spartacus,'" Thomas said.

His remark garnered laughter from those in attendance, but then he got more serious. "If we could use the word honorable more often, think about the difference it'll make," Thomas added. "Then, you'll have a legacy. We will have left the country in better shape, morally, structurally than we found it."

"Honorable" is not the right word to describe how some Senate Democrats acted at Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings. As Reason's Damon Root noted, the first day of hearings had barely started when Judiciary Committee Democrats interrupted Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa) with repeated motions to adjourn. The senators didn't want to continue until tens of thousands of documents related to Kavanaugh's tenure in the Bush administration were released.

The grandstanding didn't stop there. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) challenged Kavanaugh's position on assault weapons bans by falsely claiming that assault weapons have been used in "hundreds of school shooting…in recent history."

And other prominent Democrats—including Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.)—used a deceptively edited video to distort Kavanaugh's statements on birth control and argue that he believes birth control is an "abortion-inducing drug." In reality, Kavanaugh was simply citing someone else's belief, not his own (though that didn't stop Hillary Clinton from spreading this particular piece of fake news).

Thomas didn't talk about any of those instances in his interview with Leo, but he may as well have when he referenced those who focus on their own "interests, or scoring points, or looking cute, or being on TV."

"If you can't debate hard issues honestly, with honor, with integrity," he added, then "how do we keep a civil society?"