Sen. Barack Obama’s weekend remarks demeaning the quality of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ jurisprudence and legal thought brought harsh criticism from defenders of Thomas this week.
Speaking on Saturday at a televised presidential candidates’ forum at the Saddleback Church megachurch in Lake Forest California, Obama answered church pastor Rick Warren’s request to name a Supreme Court Justice he would not have appointed.
Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, named Clarence Thomas.
"I don't think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation, setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretations of a lot of the Constitution," Obama explained, according to Cybercast News Service.
Rachel Brand, former assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush, called the remarks “condescending.” She noted that Thomas had been confirmed by the Senate to three positions, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which Brand called the “second-most prestigious court in the land.”
Wendy Long, a former law clerk to Thomas, said Obama’s statements were “ludicrous.”
“They reveal that Obama is ignorant of facts and history, misunderstands the Constitution, and contradicts himself in his own alleged criteria for Supreme Court nominees,” she said.
Obama supporter Douglas Kmiec, a constitutional law scholar at Pepperdine University, said he was “disappointed” Obama mentioned Thomas.
“First of all, I think Justice Clarence Thomas is one of the best appointments that have been made by Republican presidents – or any presidents, for that matter – in recent times,” Kmiec told Cybercast News Service.
Kmiec said Thomas is the only Supreme Court Justice who prior to his appointment “recognized the relationship between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution – that the Constitution is a means of indicating the inalienable rights that are traceable to our Creator.”
Obama also said he would not have appointed Justice Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts, though he said he found the latter to be a “very compelling person” in individual conversation.
Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, responded to Warren’s request by saying he would not have appointed four of the Supreme Court justices considered to be most liberal: Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and David Souter.