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This year came and went without Justice Clarence Thomas asking a single question from the Supreme Court bench. But Thomas was far from mute off the bench, beginning on Oct. 1 with the launch of his bestselling memoir, My Grandfather’s Son. Suddenly Thomas was everywhere, driving his RV with Steve Kroft of CBS’ “60 Minutes,” watching a Nebraska Cornhuskers football game with ABC’s Jan Crawford Greenburg. And then came the mesmerizing reality show of Thomas’ book party, held at the Capitol Hill home of his longtime friend Armstrong Williams and recorded by C-SPAN. Fellow justices are seen coming and going, and Thomas displays his talent at small talk. All to promote his memoir, for which he got a $1.5 million advance on royalties from publisher HarperCollins. It is a compelling story of growing up in poverty in the South and facing adversity in school, in his personal life, and in his career before joining the high court. If the book had ended there, it might have won more universal praise. But he offered his angry take on his contentious confirmation hearings in 1991 and the role of his “most traitorous adversary” Anita Hill. Former high court clerk Edward Lazarus in the Los Angeles Times attacked Thomas’ “polemical, score-settling approach.” Thomas said he left out his Supreme Court years to protect his cherished relationships with his colleagues, but during the book tour, he offered some revealing tidbits anyway. In a TV interview with Williams, Thomas said he takes his clerks to Gettysburg every year “so they can understand there is a price to pay for our freedom in a very real way.” And on the perennial question of why he is so silent during oral arguments, Thomas told ABC’s Greenburg he did not want to contribute to the “family feud environment” his colleagues have created. More bluntly, he told an audience in November, “My colleagues should shut up.”
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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