- - Thursday, March 31, 2022

There used to be a rule in Washington that families are off-limits, but our media referees only throw flags on one team. So as Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, finds herself at the heart of a manufactured firestorm over leaked text messages, it’s worth asking why the party that demands civility feels free to savage her for having strong opinions.

Are Supreme Court spouses supposed to shut up and stay in the kitchen?

Mrs. Thomas’ sin, as her opponents see it, is that she urged former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to question the 2020 election results at a time lawyers were claiming irregularities in several states. Her private texts are sleazily summarized as urging him to “overturn the election,” when that phrase appears nowhere in the communications.

Mrs. Thomas is a private citizen. Her objections to the certification of President Biden’s election were no more subversive than supporters of Democrats Andrew Jackson in 1824, Samuel J. Tilden in 1876, Grover Cleveland in 1888, Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, or Hillary Clinton in 2016. They all urged those candidates to fight to win in court what they’d lost at the ballot box.

I admit to bias because I know the human beings targeted by one of the longest smear campaigns in U.S. history. Ginni and Justice Thomas had a long friendship with my late boss, Rush Limbaugh, and I’ve been privileged to spend time with both.

The Thomases have strong opinions, mostly on Nebraska Cornhusker’s football and RVing. No doubt other Supreme Court spouses have hot takes, too, if the media ever chose to hack their phones. They are not, as former State Secretary Hillary Clinton refused to be in 1992, “standing by my man like Tammy Wynette,” sequestered in the kitchen baking cookies.

It’s laughable that any husband or wife controls their partner; anyone familiar with Ralph Kramden or Lucy Ricardo’s antics knows as much. “Clarence doesn’t discuss his work with me,” Mrs. Thomas told the Washington Free Beacon, “and I don’t involve him in my work,” and there’s not a shred of evidence that she was involved in the shameful breach of Jan. 6.

I’ve met two other associate justices and interviewed a number of former clerks who served black robes nominated by Democrats and Republicans. Were texts by their spouses exposed, no doubt they’d provide endless fodder for whichever cable news network opposes their side.

As Senate Judiciary Committee chair, Mr. Biden led the attacks on then-Judge Thomas’ 1991 confirmation hearings. Mr. Biden had opposed integration by busing, bragged about getting an award (of which there’s no record) from segregationist George Wallace, and boasted that Delaware was a slave state that would have joined the Confederacy if not for inconvenient geography.

But even Mr. Biden didn’t savage Mrs. Thomas in that early version of what we now call “cancel culture,” and if he truly sought unity as he claims, he’d spare a word in defense of those precious norms and traditions we’re lectured so much about in Washington but see so little in practice.

In the documentary “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words,” Justice Thomas described a realization about who was blocking the entrance to the Supreme Court building just as they’d once stood in the Little Rock schoolhouse doors. “I felt as though in my life I had been looking at the wrong people as the people who would be problematic toward me.”

“We were told that, ‘Oh, it’s gonna be the bigot in the pickup truck; it’s gonna be the Klansmen; it’s gonna be the rural sheriff.’ But it turned out that through all of that, ultimately the biggest impediment was the modern-day liberal.”

No doubt Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson would agree if she found her husband, Dr. Patrick G. Jackson, facing blatantly bigoted jibes about her interracial marriage the way the Thomases have about theirs.

Certainly, no leftist paper would publish a piece along the lines of the conservative New York Sun’s endorsement of Judge Jackson’s nomination, saying that while they disagreed with her judicial philosophy, “We have little appetite, though, for a court without ideological diversity.”

If you can’t criticize judges (another slashing penalty that the referees always miss on Justice Thomas), an outspoken better half is a soft target. But Mrs. Thomas has every bit the right to share her opinions in private as any other Supreme Court spouse, and none of the current attacks are going to send her scurrying into the kitchen — although if they do, her cookies would no doubt blow your mind.

• Dean Karayanis @HistoryDean is a producer for the “Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show,” longtime Rush Limbaugh staffer and host of the “History Author Show” on iHeartRadio.

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