Walter Russell Mead takes note of the recent reappraisal by some liberal intellectuals of the work of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas :
There are few articles of faith as firmly fixed in the liberal canon as the belief that Clarence Thomas is, to put it as bluntly as many liberals do, a dunce and a worm. Twenty years of married life have not erased the conventional liberal view of his character etched by Anita Hills testimony at his confirmation hearings. Not only does the liberal mind perceive him as a disgusting lump of ungoverned sexual impulse; he is seen as an intellectual cipher. Thomas silence during oral argument before the Supreme Court is taken as obvious evidence that he has nothing to say and is perhaps a bit intimidated by the verbal fireworks exchanged by the high profile lawyers and his more, ahem, qualified colleagues.
At most liberals have long seen Thomas as the Sancho Panza to Justice Antonin Scalias Don Quixote, Tonto to his Lone Ranger. No, says Toobin: the intellectual influence runs the other way. Thomas is the consistently clear and purposeful theorist that history will remember as an intellectual pioneer; Scalia the less clear-minded colleague who is gradually following in Thomas tracks.
If Toobins revionist take is correct, (and I defer to his knowledge of the direction of modern constitutional thought) it means that liberal America has spent a generation mocking a Black man as an ignorant fool, even as constitutional scholars stand in growing amazement at the intellectual audacity, philosophical coherence and historical reflection embedded in his judicial work.