Should Clarence Thomas's Wife Get Out of Politics?

Debating the proper role of a Supreme Court spouse

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It can be uncomfortable when the spouses of Supreme Court justices get involved in politics. For obvious reasons, it can tarnish perceptions of a justice's judicial independence. And that's been the growing liberal complaint about Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Ginni co-founded the conservative political group Liberty Central, a Tea Party-affiliated group that strongly opposes Democrats and President Obama. On Monday, it appeared that Ginni was caving to liberal demands and stepping down as leader of the group, a fact that Liberty Central's spokesperson relayed to The Washington Post. However, the group is now denying that Ginni is leaving or changing her role within the organization. The whole affair has sparked a discussion about the propriety of her role as activist and Supreme court spouse:

  • The Washington Post Story Never Made Any Sense, writes Steve Taylor at Outside the Beltway. He points to the quote from a Liberty Central spokesperson saying the organization wanted to avoid the "distractions" of Ginni's celebrity status:

The thing that I find odd/amusing about that statement is that up and until recently, no one considered Virginia Thomas a “media celebrity” (and I am not sure that they do so now).  Moreover, the media attention that she has received of late has been almost exclusively of her own making. ...

Further, Liberty Central itself (Thomas’ own, recent, creation) is a publicly oriented, Tea Party linked group.  I am pretty sure that part of the point was acquiring media attention.

Also, if one is a spouse of a sitting SCOTUS Justice and one says that one’s organization exists to oppose the “tyranny” of the sitting president’s political party, that is pretty much a guarantee to garner the interest of the press.

You can bet that Ginni's tenure would not have been as distracting had she not been married to one of only nine people in this country who decide what the law is. She didn't help matters much last month when she asked Anita Hill to apologize for alleging in 1991 that she had been sexually harassed by then-nominee Thomas. In the end, Ginni's foray into political activism may have been misguided from the start, but I can't help but feel some sympathy for someone who has to essentially lower her voice because of a spouse's job.
  • Seems Like Ginni's Being Duplicitous, writes Nitasha Tiku at New York magazine:
Thomas probably doesn't want the negative spotlight to detract from the noble work of calling out President Obama's leftist "tyranny" or accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in anonymous donations when you're directly tied to a court that prizes its judicial objectivity.
  • She Needs to Stay Out of Politics, says liberal MSNBC host Rachel Maddow:

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