NYT: The Justice Looks Back and Settles Old Scores





... [His] Jehovah-like Daddy dominates the early chapters of “My Grandfather’s Son,” Justice Thomas’s selectively revealing, often harshly self-critical memoir. It’s a strange hybrid. The book begins as a moving evocation of a difficult childhood in the Deep South and, as Justice Thomas works his way though college and law school, takes on the outlines of an inspirational American success story.

The tone changes when Justice Thomas, fed up with liberal policies on race, accepts Ronald Reagan’s invitation to run the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, becoming an object of contempt and derision for mainstream civil rights organizations. Justice Thomas, recounting his years in government, adopts a defensive crouch, lashing out at his enemies, reopening old wounds and itemizing insults that should be forgotten....

All is prelude to the turbulent confirmation hearings for his appointment to the Supreme Court. Justice Thomas revisits this painful episode, fresh in his memory, and picks apart the charges leveled against him by Anita Hill, his former employee at the commission, in an earnest but ultimately pointless effort to set the record straight and settle some scores along the way.

Here, emotions get the better of him, as he portrays himself as a persecuted, almost Christlike figure singled out by the liberal establishment, at the behest of his civil rights enemies, not just for criticism but also for total annihilation. You wonder if, when writing these fiery chapters, Justice Thomas recalled his own admiring words about his grandfather.

“Despite the hardships he had faced, there was no bitterness or self-pity in his heart,” he writes in an early chapter. In this respect Justice Thomas is not his grandfather’s son....



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