Supreme Court

When Joe Biden Tried To Paint Clarence Thomas as a Crazy Libertarian

The episode reflects poorly on Biden.


How long has Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden been in the political game? Long enough to have been at the center of a smear campaign during the Senate confirmation hearings of the longest-serving member of the current U.S. Supreme Court.

The 1991 showdown over Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas is mostly remembered today for the accusations of sexual misconduct leveled by Anita Hill. But the hearings actually kicked off with Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Joe Biden trying to discredit Thomas as a crazy libertarian and reckless judicial activist.

"I assure you I have read all of your speeches, and I have read them in their entirety," Biden told Thomas shortly after the nominee's opening statement. "And, in the speech you gave in 1987 to the Pacific Research Institute, you said, and I quote, 'I find attractive the arguments of scholars such as Stephen Macedo who defend an activist Supreme Court that would'—not could, would—'strike down laws restricting property rights.'"

"It has been quite some time since I have read Prof. Macedo," Thomas replied. "But I don't believe that in my writings I have indicated that we should have an activist Supreme Court."

Biden claimed that he didn't buy it. "Quite frankly, I find it hard to square your speeches," he told the nominee, "with what you are telling me today."

Thomas gave the speech in question at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco on August 10, 1987. It touched on a number of issues, including the views of Stephen Macedo, then an assistant professor in the government department at Harvard University and the author of The New Right v. the Constitution, a 1987 book published by the libertarian Cato Institute. The book made a case for "principled judicial activism."

Macedo's book was basically an extended critique of Robert Bork, the highly influential conservative legal thinker who championed a thoroughgoing doctrine of judicial deference. The "first principle" of the U.S. system, Bork insisted, was majority rule, not individual rights. What Bork's view meant in practice was that the federal courts should defer to lawmakers in most cases. "In wide areas of life," Bork argued, "majorities are entitled to rule, if they wish, simply because they are majorities."

Macedo advanced the opposite view. "When conservatives like Bork treat rights as islands surrounded by a sea of government powers," he countered, "they precisely reverse the view of the Founders as enshrined in the Constitution, wherein government powers are limited and specified and rendered as islands surrounded by a sea of individual rights."

Which brings us back to Thomas. Here is his 1987 Macedo quote in full:

I find attractive the arguments of scholars such as Stephen Macedo who defend an activist Supreme Court, which would strike down laws restricting property rights. But the libertarian argument overlooks the place of the Supreme Court in a scheme of separation of powers. One does not strengthen self-government and the rule of law by having the non-democratic branch of the government make policy. Hence, I strongly support the nomination of Bob Bork to the Supreme Court. Judge Bork is no extremist of any kind. If anything, he is an extreme moderate, one who believes in the modesty of the Court's powers, with respect to the democratically elected branches of government.

So yes, Thomas said he found Macedo's arguments "attractive." But then Thomas immediately faulted Macedo and endorsed Bork, the very figure that Macedo was trying to bring down. In other words, Biden ripped Thomas' words out of context to give them the opposite meaning of what Thomas actually said.

The whole episode reflects poorly on Biden.

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  1. Clarence Thomas: a black man democrats hate.

    1. A traitor to his race, they say. But then if you’re African American and don’t vote for Biden, then “you ain’t Black.”

      1. If you’re African American and don’t vote for the white plantation master, the you ain’t Black.

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    2. The closest we’ve got to a libertarian Justice though.

      1. I’d take 8 more Clarence Thomases in a heartbeat

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      2. Clarence Thomas didn’t need to be much of a libertarian at all, to be radical libertarian compared to Biden.

      3. Gorsuch?

        1. In most things, yes, but only Thomas wanted to hear the qualified immunity cases. Man, we really are screwed, aren’t we?

    3. Clarence Thomas has proven to be the exact opposite of an activist during his time in the Supreme Court. Contrary to that, he’s followed the Constitution. Just one other thing Biden got wrong…

      1. Easy to follow the constitution when it’s your job to interpret it.

        1. Sometimes they get it wrong. Just look at RGB.

          1. Okay, you’re right, Ruth Gader Binsberg is a cooler name.

    4. They have goodthink, so they are permitted to be outright racist.

    5. Democrats hate all black men. The democrat party is the party of slavery. The democrat party literally fought the civil war to maintain slavery.

      1. I don’t like the democrats either, but they didn’t fight the war to retain slavery. They fought the war to repel the union invaders. The Confederate States of America was another country and Lincoln invaded it. That’s an act of war.

  2. Biden never read any of Justice Thomas’ speeches or decision. His staff cherry picked it so he could have his 5 seconds of fame on camera. Senate and HR hearings are jokes. They know they are on television. Like social media when they have an audience they become the worst version of themselves. Eventually it becomes their whole personality.

    1. “Spartacus” would agree with you.

  3. Damon, bubby- have you been holding a grudge that long? I often wish for Reason posters to talk about stuff other than what is trending on Twatter, but this is *really* off the beaten path.

    Do it again!

    1. talk about stuff other than what is Jack Dorsey manipulated into trending on Twatter


  4. “The episode reflects poorly on Biden.”

    As do most time’s Joe Biden encounters/spars someone with a IQ above room temperature.

    1. ” . . . with a IQ above room temperature . . . ”

      Room temperature before or after the looming global climate warming change catastrophe?

      1. Room temperature before or after the looming global climate warming change catastrophe?

        The way Biden’s going? Centigrade.

    2. LOL

      Just wait until Biden humiliates Drumpf in the debates.


      1. >>#BidenIsAsSharpAsEver

        low floor.

        1. sub floor; basement level.

      2. I intend to find the frequency that Biden’s handlers are using to feed him things to say during the debates, and override them with recordings of Achmed, the Dead Terrorist.

      3. “Joe Biden? Nice boy, but about as sharp as a sack of bowling balls.”

        ~F. Leghorn

    3. Why can’t there be any politicians with IQs that are around room temperature Kelvin?

      Probably because truly intelligent people don’t tend to be power-crazed charlatans.

  5. The episode reflects poorly on Biden.

    You might want to keep that quote handy, maybe in a .txt file where you can copy/paste it whenever you write about Joe Biden. Something tells me you’ll be needing it quite often.

    1. Yeah, it reflects poorly on Biden.

      And will end up mattering as much as the sexual assault allegations against him will.

      1. Oft times is matters as much what the MSM doesn’t report, as what it does.

  6. Biden [at Thomas’ Senate Judiciary hearing]: “I know what I’m talking about, You know what I’m talking about, No one else knows what we are talking about, but we know what we’re talking about.”

    Thomas: “I had no earthly idea what he was talking about.”

    1. Damn, Biden is a prophet.

    2. That is Biden’s primary defense against being senile. He has always been scatterbrained.

      1. True, he’s as sharp as ever.

        1. That is to say, he has ALWAYS been about as sharp as a soap bubble.

  7. >>”I assure you I have read all of your speeches, and I have read them in their entirety,”

    looking for what to carp.

    1. I don’t believe him.

      1. ya me neither but it didn’t fit my plagiarism joke

  8. In other words, Biden ripped Thomas’ words out of context to give them the opposite meaning of what Thomas actually said.

    The more things change the more they stay the same.

  9. “The episode reflects poorly on Biden”
    Which episodes reflect well on Biden?

    1. Episode 5, season 23. The one where he was not in the script.

    2. I, II, and VIII

      1. i’d include VII too.

  10. “The episode reflects poorly on Biden”

    As does his support of various crime bills and variations in drug sentencing that put generations of Black men in prison, providing military equipment to police, relying on the Liberal media to cover up his sexual assault of Tara Reade, and his continual hair sniffing and shoulder fondling.

  11. Clarence Thomas is no Stormy Daniels.

    1. Nor Long Dong Silver

  12. Biden has always been a Democrat party hack and none too bright attack dog. How he gets touted as unifying candidate is beyond me. Except that the rest of his party has flown off the deep end.

    1. He is the wing man.
      While he is presenting as a ‘moderate’, the real candidate is the VP nominee, anointed by the party elite out of sight.
      Read the 25th amendment carefully. I think it will be impossible for the democrats to take the White House (to be renamed the rainbow house) without a sweep so broad as to take the Senate and keep the house. So a simple law could designate the DNC as the ‘other body’ who gets to determine if the sitting President gets to stay in office.

      1. “Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.”

        I did, and you are not correct. Even if the DNC is designated as a body to vote that the president is unfit, as you suggest, there still has to be a 2/3 vote in congress to actually remove him from power.

    2. He is unifying in that he brings together all of the branches of the Democrat Party: pedophiles, sexual predators, Fascists, racists, the corrupt, the entitled, the dinosaurs and the incompetent. The only two he misses being one of are people “of color” and women — and if he gets a chance to speak without his handlers’ oversight, we may hear claims to the opposite . . .

      1. Do you think that non-standard English (Democrat Party) is persuasive here, or is the impulse to channel Joe McCarthy simply irresistible?

    3. They are using him to pick a VP that has already been rejected by voters that the DNC wanted to be nominated. They know Biden won’t make it a year and the VP will actually be the president. Kind of an end around to once again circumvent what the voters wanted. The only reason Biden is their candidate, which they attempted to prevent, was because of how bad the rest of the crowd was. They panicked again when Bernie was winning and only had Biden to stop him.

  13. The episode reflects poorly on Biden.

    One hardly needs to go back to 1987 to find something that reflects poorly on Biden.

    1. Can we actually find anything that reflects well on Biden?

      Biden strikes me as interchangeable with McCain: ignorant, vain, arrogant, greedy, authoritarian, and willing to do anything for power.

      1. “Can we actually find anything that reflects well on Biden?”

        Well, for the most part he’s keeping his mouth shut now, which is what he needs to do to get elected. That shows that he’s that smart. If Trump had been able to do that he would probably win again. But he can’t.

        1. That’s not Biden, that’s just Biden’s handlers. And the Democratic party is clearly trying to use COVID as a shield for Biden and his increasing senility and incoherence.

          As for Trump, I’m not going to defend his tweeting; I think it’s atrocious. Trump clearly could improve his messaging. But whether it’s going to cost him the election remains to be seen.

          I’m not sure Biden can keep hiding in his basement and expect to get elected. On the other hand, a single real, live debate would destroy him and his candidacy.

  14. Macedo’s book was basically an extended critique of Robert Bork, the highly influential conservative legal thinker who championed a thoroughgoing doctrine of judicial deference. The “first principle” of the U.S. system, Bork insisted, was majority rule, not individual rights.

    I don’t see how someone like that can possibly be called “conservative”.

    Good thing we got Thomas rather than Bork.

    1. We got Kennedy rather than Bork. Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall.

      1. I wasn’t talking about specific slots; I was commenting on the fact that Thomas got confirmed while Bork didn’t.

        1. Gotcha. Yeah, Ted K and Biden prematurely blew their wads on Bork, thankfully.

          1. Judicial bukkake? (Retches miserably)

    2. Sounds awfully similar to John Roberts.

      1. Extremism in defense of moderation is no vice? I’m not feelin’ it.

        1. Ha!

    3. What individual rights do undocumented aliens get, in your view?

  15. Poppycock!

    1. Malarkey!

      1. I’m gobsmacked that words like that are still in use.

  16. Joe Biden’s campaign slogan: “You can’t fix stupid, so don’t try, but he could be your next president!”

  17. In Joe’s defense, he was probably just too stupid to understand Justice Thomas’ point, and wasn’t deliberately misrepresenting it.

  18. Yeah but they made up later. Was sitting on the curb outside the circle K in Florence Kentucky. Last $40 in my pocket. Transmission on the crappy Toyota blown.

    So these two guys pull up in a black trans-am. They have a paper bag full of road food and a couple six pacs of beer. Having little choice I got up and asked if they were headed to Louisville. Told them my situation and how I needed to get to my sisters place there.

    The one guy, kinda portly, black, seemed nice enough. The other one, white guy, was quiet. So the first guy says “well, you seem decent enough, tell you what, we are going through there. Just hop in the back. Can’t promise you door to door service. There is this Paul guy in this state“… then they laughed.

    So I grabbed my duffle bag and got in. After a few miles we hit the I-71 split and headed for Louisville. If you have been on that road, especially at night, it is long and dark with few exits. So the guys, driving is “Big C.” The silent one is “uncle Joe”. Joe has not said a word. Joe hands me a beer and a bag of Combo pretzels. He opens the glove compartment and pops in a cassette tape. Eagles Hotel California which he sings along to in perfect pitch.

    So it went all the way to Louisville. The guys drop me off at a roadside gas station and I call my sister. Somebody I know from Michigan had a job lined up for me if I could get there.

    I swear it was those two dudes. Biden and Thomas.

    1. Sounds plausible to me.

  19. “Long enough to have been at the center of a smear campaign during the Senate confirmation hearings of the longest-serving member of the current U.S. Supreme Court.”
    Did I actually read in Reason magazine that the Thomas hearings were a smear campaign an Joe Biden was a participant in the smear? Kudos Damon.
    Your juniors over there have already begun to lay out the libertarian case for Joe Biden. You know, all that horrible shit this scum eating bottom feeder did 40 years ago was just his youthful enthusiasm and the wisdom of age or senility has neutralized the threat because he’s all woke and shit now. Who do you suppose Billy and Christian will vote for?

    1. Just remember and tell everyone you know….unreason aint libertarian and the LP is full of Lefties, RINOs, and Democrats who want weed, buttsex, and mesicans.

  20. “Listen, Black…”

  21. For extra cheese weirdness, Biden also tried to paint Judge Robert Bork as a crazy anti-libertarian:

    “I believe all Americans are born with certain inalienable rights. As a child of God, I believe my rights are not derived from the Constitution. My rights are not denied by any majority. My rights are because I exist. They were given to me and each of my fellow citizens by our creator, and they represent the essence of human dignity.” – Senator Joe Biden, during Robert Bork’s confirmation hearings.

  22. EVERYTHING reflects poorly on Biden.

    It’s PELOSI and SCHEMER who don’t show up in mirrors.

  23. Do libertarians really care who is POTUS? Don’t we boycott the whole mess? And don’t give me that old, “Yes, but…” which really means, no, I want to play politics with their political paradigm, while trying to change it to mine.
    When you use it (their paradigm) you promote it!
    The only way to get a new paradigm is to stop using the old one.

  24. Do libertarians really care who is POTUS?

    Of course we do. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of mediocre.

  25. To be fair, Joe was probably just trying to stop the Supreme Court from devolving into jungle warfare:

    Unless we do something about this, my children are going to grow up in a jungle, the jungle being a racial jungle with tensions having built so high that it is going to explode at some point.
    Sen. Joe Biden (1977)

    Poor Joe. He’s probably actually always been mentally retarded.

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  29. “The episode reflects poorly on Biden.”

    Nearly everything in the man’s history does…..

  30. The democrat slave owners did not hate blacks. There was a well established hierarchy, accepted by most slaves, as well as whites. Uncle Tom’s Cabin illustrates that hierarchy quite well.

    On the other hand, there were slaves such as Nat Turner who refused to accept their slavery. For that, the democrats killed him.

    When slavery was eliminated as a result of the civil war, democrats created the KKK as a means to continue to subjugate blacks. Those blacks who continued to acquiesce just as they had done as slaves, had no problems. Those that resisted or became Republican activists, were lynched.

    Fast forward 150 years, and NOTHING has changed.

    1. Sure things have changed. The parties realigned ideologically during the civil rights era. They realigned specifically over civil rights. It’s all there in any history book or fact checker you can find.

      1. You can’t name a Dixiecrat that became a Republican.

    2. When the democrat party abandoned the working American narrative, they failed to realize that millions of those blue collar workers would be Black Americans.

      Democrats are desperate because they know how bad the electoral college results will be. If they were going to win in the landslide the liars in the media predict, then why waste money and political capital on riots and other criminal enterprises where it can get Trump reelected?

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