Is Clarence Thomas’ Silence Disgraceful?

Slate's weekly political roundtable.
Feb. 28 2014 11:48 AM

The If You Listen Closely, You Can Hear Clarence Thomas Shouting Gabfest

Listen to Slate’s show about anti-gay “religious freedom” bills, Clarence Thomas’ silence, and Spike Lee’s anti-gentrification rant.

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On this week’s Slate Political Gabfest, Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz discuss “anti-gay segregation” laws, Clarence Thomas’ silence during oral arguments, and Spike Lee’s rant against the gentrifying hipster population of Brooklyn.

Here are some of the links and references mentioned during this week’s show:

  • Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a religious freedom bill in Arizona that would have granted legal protection to anti-gay discrimination.
  • Gay rights supporters threated Arizona with economic boycotts and even the loss of the Super Bowl if the bill passed.
  • Similar bills in Kansas, Ohio, Mississippi, South Dakota, Idaho, Georgia, and Tennessee have also died.
  • The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that a photographer had violated a state law against gay discrimination by refusing to photograph a same-sex marriage. The photographer has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • UCLA law professor and First Amendment absolutist Eugene Volokh has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in favor of the photographer.
  • In fall 2012 just 24 percent of Republicans supported legalizing same-sex marriage; now 40 percent do, according to a recent CBS/New York Times poll.
  • Economists refer to today's unemployed young people as a "lost generation."
  • New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin called Clarence Thomas' refusal to ask questions during oral argument for the past eight years "disgraceful."
  • Thomas' silence is no more disdainful than other Supreme Court justices' interactions with lawyers, James Taranto argues in the Wall Street Journal.
  • It's not disgraceful for Thomas to remain silent, but if he spoke up, he'd have a unique perspective to contribute, Garrett Epps writes for the Atlantic.
  • The documentary Anita tells the story of the sexual harassment allegations against Thomas during his confirmation hearing.
  • Spike Lee railed against the gentrification of Brooklyn during a speech at the Pratt Institute on Tuesday.
  • Lee's rant reminded David of The Bonfire of the Vanities: He says New York is still a playground for the wealthy, but they no longer fear that poor minorities will encroach on their turf.

John chatters about the theory of optography and its consequences for a very unfortunate albino rabbit.

David chatters about the first recorded case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in a young soccer player—soccer fans can no longer lord it over football players that their sport is safer.

Emily chatters about a peewee hockey player in Canada who disobeyed his coach's orders not to shake the other team's hands.

Topic ideas for next week? You can tweet suggestions, links, and questions to @SlateGabfest. The email address for the Political Gabfest is (Email may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Podcast production by Mike Vuolo. Links compiled by Rebecca Cohen.

Emily Bazelon was a Slate senior editor from 2005 to 2014. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.

David Plotz is Slate's editor at large. He's the author of The Genius Factory and Good Book.

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.



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