Ginni Thomas: Boomer with Internet?

Does it matter whether she's a rube or a mastermind?

“Ginni Thomas” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Bulwark editor Jonathan Last asks “What Is Ginni Thomas?” It’s meant to be a rhetorical question.

Here is a secret no one in Washington is willing to say out loud: Ginni Thomas is an idiot. The only reason she was texting the president’s chief of staff instead of being the angry cat lady on Facebook is because she married a man who got himself appointed to the Supreme Court.

The Thomases were never a duo of intellectual equals, or a power couple where each member had their own thing going on, and where the merger of the two was like Voltron coming together.

This isn’t James Carville and Mary Matalin. Or Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter. Or Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb. Or any number of other famous couples. Heck, this isn’t even Sonny and Cher.

No. The Thomases are more like Ivanka and Jared: The senior partner in the arrangement held a position of such high importance that their society scrabbled around to find something for the dimmer partner to do in order to make them feel important. In Jared’s case, that has been destroying newspapers, losing money on real estate, and being tasked with brokering peace in the Middle East.

For Ginni Thomas it has meant creating makework for her at various conservative “activist” groups and letting her participate in listservs with people who have real jobs.

Aside from this being a thing that apparently everyone knows, he produces as evidence some emails she sent to various listservs that she’s on by virtue of being Mrs. Clarence Thomas. They’re as nutty as the texts she sent to Meadows and some are from several years ago.

Everything about these emails—from the bizarre capitalization and punctuation,3 to the references to “Facebook friends,” to the obsession with talk radio and her genuflection before grifters like [James] O’Keefe, [Sheriff David] Clarke, and [Joe] diGenova shows that what we’re dealing with isn’t an intellectual, or even a smooth operator, but a Boomer with an internet connection, an important spouse, and too much time on her hands.

It’s certainly plausible. No serious political professional takes these people seriously and she positively gushes over them exactly like I’ve seen Facebook friends do. She does the same with Rush Limbaugh call screener “Bo Snerdly.” It’s frankly bizarre. And I suppose “dim bulb allowed at the grown-ups table by virtue of her spouse’s station” is as satisfying an explanation at “nut.”

Reagardless, I’m not sure what, exactly, I’m supposed to do with this insight.

The main—probably only-–reason we’re concerned about Mrs. Thomas’ conduct is because it creates a conflict of interest for Justice Thomas. How thinking of her being dim rather than devious change that? Are we to infer that he doesn’t value her opinion? That seems unlikely.

If the takeaway is that she’s not really a lobbyist or activist but paid sizable sums for what amounts to make-work, isn’t that actually more problematic? If she’s the former, it’s a case of a power couple whose careers intersect in ways that are sometimes uncomfortable. If she’s the latter, than it would seem pure influence-peddling or influence-seeking.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Supreme Court, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Joe says:

    But hiring her for “consulting” or participating in a project with her was a way to signal that you were on the right team.

    – from the article

    And, if what Last says about her is true, she probably had no idea, the very example of privilege and the privileged.

    ReplyReply
    1
  2. wr says:

    The prime reason for destroying Ginni Thomas right now is to protect her husband. If the story can be sold that she’s just a moronic nutbag, but gosh the Big Fella just loves her so much he puts up with her, then people will stop wondering just how corrupt her husband is.

    I think the colloquial term for this has something to do with a bus…

    ReplyReply
    13
  3. drj says:

    The Thomases were never a duo of intellectual equals

    I’m not too sure about that.

    Thomas appears to be politically on the same page as absolute numbnuts like Boebert and Cawthorn. Why, then, would he be any smarter than his wife?

    Because he went to an Ivy League school? I’ve met quite a few people with such backgrounds who were charming, very self-confident, and not much else – but who did quite well for themselves.

    Or perhaps Thomas started out pretty sharp and ended up getting high on his own supply. Seen that a lot, too.

    I think odds are that there are at least a couple of justices on SCOTUS who would be into forwarding angry Facebook memes, if only their clerks would let them.

    ReplyReply
    6
  4. drj says:

    @wr:

    The prime reason for destroying Ginni Thomas right now is to protect her husband.

    QFT

    ReplyReply
    1
  5. Jen says:

    One of my longest-standing irritations is the political power that spouses wield. I remember one person in state House leadership back when I worked in politics who allowed his wife to decide who to hire. If you were female, you didn’t even bother to apply. Some wives got involved in campaigns, which almost always messed up campaign plans.

    The common thread was that this was an agreed-to setup. In not a single one of these cases was it worth bringing up with the elected official/candidate. They were in it together, for whatever reason.

    There is no “innocent spouse” get out of your problems free card here. Ginni Thomas’s behavior is conducted in full sight of her husband and if they are truly as close as he’s said (repeatedly), then they could have come to an agreement on what she could be doing that wouldn’t reflect so poorly on him.

    ReplyReply
    2
  6. MarkedMan says:

    Contra this narrative, she had a direct connection to the president’s chief of staff and he responded to her multiple times during the most chaotic day of his presidency.

    ReplyReply
    14
  7. @wr: Indeed.

    Also: I am willing to believe, as per the e-mails cited, that she is easily influenced by the same nonsense that “regular” people are influenced by. But, as I was trying to note on my post the other day, that’s the problem, because she was in positions of influence before she met Thomas.

    What I think this illustrates is that indeed, yes, mainstream people in the alleged mainstream party do take people like Rush, et al. seriously and this is part of why we are in the mess we are in.

    ReplyReply
    10
  8. gVOR08 says:

    One. Let’s stipulate she’s dumb as dirt and getting paid for makework. How does that make her any different than a lot of other conservative grifters?
    Two. She apparently gets paid very well for makework. This is Thomas monetizing his seat. It’s corrupt.
    Three. Even if she was ineffectual in her 1/6 efforts, even a hindrance, she’s still implicated and he’d better recuse his ass from any 1/6 case.
    Four. This is Jonathan Last’s opinion, not established fact. So he’d better recuse from any case in which she has ever had an interest. And fully disclose her activities so we can know.
    Five. If he doesn’t, there’s nothing we can do about it.

    ReplyReply
    10
  9. Scott O says:

    I don’t think Ginni is much outside the main stream of of the GOP.

    ReplyReply
    5
  10. Scott O says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I should have refreshed the page before I wrote my comment as you’ve already said it.

    ReplyReply
    1
  11. Barry says:

    On top of MarkedMan’s comment, ‘hiring’ Ginni was hiring the wife of a SCOTUS Justice. Bribery, pure and simple.

    ReplyReply
    3
  12. @gVOR08:

    Two. She apparently gets paid very well for makework. This is Thomas monetizing his seat. It’s corrupt.

    That’s a great point.

    ReplyReply
    9
  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    A man who says “…who put pubic hair on my Coke?” is not smart.
    And if Robert’s doesn’t do something about this, then he is not smart.
    Pelosi:

    “It is up to an individual justice to decide to withdraw if his wife participates in a coup.”

    ReplyReply
    2
  14. Jen says:

    Saw a meme earlier–photo of Clarence & Ginni with the caption “Putting the ‘coup’ in couple!”

    I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.

    ReplyReply
    5
  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    @gVOR08:
    @Steven L. Taylor:

    When it comes to the work and activities of spouses of high political office, that accusation can be thrown at anyone and has, mostly damaging office holders who are women. The interfering spouse criticism was prominently leveled at Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton, and neither worked outside the home.

    ReplyReply
  16. MarkedMan says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Sure, but Nancy Reagan served as a shadow chief of staff for her ever more senile husband, and Hillary Clinton is arguably the more wonky of that couple, and that’s saying something, because Bill Clinton is astoundingly wonky, for all his charm. Bottom line, the fact that haters are gonna hate doesn’t mean that the criticism isn’t sometimes valid.

    ReplyReply
    3
  17. Matt Bernius says:

    Two thoughts:

    First, while I tend to like Last, there is something about this that smacks as sexist to me. Ginny Thomas was already involved in politics and pretty well connected when she and Clarence met. She might not have had the exact same trajectory if he had not become a Supreme Court justice, but to some degree we can easily level the same complaint against Hillary Clinton.

    That gets to the second point: I think something that both sides can fall prey to is often thinking that at they ultimately see the world the same way and just act differently. What I mean by that is that someone like a Mitch McConnell (as an example) understands things like Climate Change is real and Trump was an awful president and still, cynically chooses to act a certain way for policy and power reasons.

    I think that makes the world, and the opposition, easier to understand and ultimately reinforces their view that there is really only one correct way to see the world (i.e. “theirs”). And that, in safe spaces, behind closed doors, the act gets dropped and folks talk about fleecing the rubes.

    Ginny Thomas is a prime example of the fact that models is often not correct. Likewise Trump and to some degree Putin as well (it seems like some folks appear genuinely surprised that his conservative views on Western culture might not be simply a wedge issue to try and split NATO allies).

    ReplyReply
    5
  18. Matt Bernius says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    And if Robert’s doesn’t do something about this, then he is not smart.

    What, pray tell, can Roberts do about it?

    I ask that as a serious question. The Chief Justice doesn’t have hire/fire powers. Perhaps if he united the conservative wing of the court against Thomas, but that’s something that Alito and Kavanaugh (being the two major partisans on the court will not support under a Democratic president regardless of who runs the Senate).

    And there are no ethical guidelines for the court. Thomas is there as long as he wants to be there.

    ReplyReply
    3
  19. Sleeping Dog says:

    @MarkedMan:

    So?

    Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, and Kamala Harris have all received criticism for the activities of their husbands and not to forget Kelly Loeffler as well. My point is that to cast aspersions on the spouse of government official has a well established boomerang effect.

    In the case of GT, there is ample evidence that she is a grifter, though a stupid one at that.

    ReplyReply
  20. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    And frankly, it is women in government that will take the brunt of such accusations.

    ReplyReply
    1
  21. Raoul says:

    As many posters have indicated, I don’t buy that everybody knows she is the dumb one in the relationship and no sourcing was provided to support this. Oh yes, she is definitely a kook as her texts show, but as fas as I can see, that’s all we know.

    ReplyReply
  22. sam says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    What, pray tell, can Roberts do about it?

    I think is was Justice Brennan who was running late for a SC conference, and the CJ sent a minion to tell him he was late. Brennan said, “Tell him I don’t work for him. I’ll be there when I get there.”

    ReplyReply
    1
  23. Sleeping Dog says:

    Kim Wehle takes a stab at the history of SC justice impeachment.

    At a minimum, Thomas’ apparent involvement in the subject matter of the Jan. 6 committee’s work must be fully investigated by the legislative branch. The committee has already signaled a plan to question Ginni Thomas, and could seek her husband’s testimony, as well. The Senate Judiciary Committee just held confirmation hearings on the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to fill Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat. It, too, could take up the task of ascertaining whether a sitting Supreme Court justice compromised his solemn vow to uphold the Constitution in connection with the peaceful and legal transfer of presidential power on Jan. 6, 2021. A decision in either body to undertake a formal investigation would not require a supermajority vote, mind you — just political courage around what is perhaps the most solemn task ever to face the U.S. Congress: protection of the American system of government itself.

    Despite AOC’s attention seeking bleatings, their is zero chance of Thomas being impeached and very doubtful that congress has the guts to even investigate. The best we can hope is that Thomas’ peers can convince him to recuse himself.

    ReplyReply
    2
  24. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Matt Bernius:
    Ultimately you are correct, there is nothing that can be done about a corrupt Justice.
    But 28 U.S. Code § 455 does read;

    (a)Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

    Emphasis mine.
    And it continues;

    (4)He knows that he, individually or as a fiduciary, or his spouse or minor child residing in his household, has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding, or any other interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding;

    Thomas tried to block the January six committee from getting communications that included his wife’s communications about criminally overturning a presidential election. Certainly Mrs. Thomas has an “…interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding.”
    SCOTUS has adopted the “historic practice” of deferring recusal decisions to the justice in question, with no review by the other members of the Court, but norms and traditions no longer mean anything in DC.
    Again…you are correct, nothing can be done about a corrupt Justice.
    And ain’t that sumptin’

    ReplyReply
    2
  25. Gustopher says:

    The Thomases were never a duo of intellectual equals […]

    No. The Thomases are more like Ivanka and Jared: The senior partner in the arrangement held a position of such high importance that their society scrabbled around to find something for the dimmer partner to do in order to make them feel important.

    Has Ivana ever been thought of as particularly smart? Among the adult Trump spawn she’s the least obviously mean, but she’s always had that “dumb as a stump” think going on.

    What I’m saying is that the Thomases might be intellectual equals, without either of them being brilliant.

    He did get his job on the Supreme Court by virtue of being in the right place and having the right skin color, and he famously asks no questions during court. He claims to have been “confused” by forms that require him to disclose his spouse’s income — we all assume he is lying, but why not take him at his word?

    And finally, there is also the possibility that the brain worms that have affected Ginni have also taken root in Clarance.

    Ginni Thomas might be the smart one.

    ReplyReply
    2
  26. DK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    The interfering spouse criticism was prominently leveled at Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton, and neither worked outside the home.

    Hillary Clinton worked outside the home, a prominent attorney specializing in children’s rights, patents, and intellectual property. Her career independent of Bill was a big cultural flashpoint.

    @Matt Bernius:

    She might not have had the exact same trajectory if he had not become a Supreme Court justice, but to some degree we can easily level the same complaint against Hillary Clinton.

    Does this comparison really works? Hillary was politically famous and touted as a potential first woman president before she met Bill, featured in Life magazine as early as 1969. It’s not unreasonable to think Bill has been a bigger drag on her advancement than boon to her. More than one person who was around them in the 70s is on record stating Hillary should have run for office herself before (or instead of) marrying him. But who knows?

    ReplyReply
    2
  27. DK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Again…you are correct, nothing can be done about a corrupt Justice.

    I guess technically, something can be done. It (impeachment) just won’t be done because the Congress is impotent and hopelessly divided.

    ReplyReply
    2
  28. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Also: I am willing to believe, as per the e-mails cited, that she is easily influenced by the same nonsense that “regular” people are influenced by.

    What I think this illustrates is that indeed, yes, mainstream people in the alleged mainstream party do take people like Rush, et al. seriously and this is part of why we are in the mess we are in.

    More importantly, to my mind, the Ginni Thomas affair illustrates that the alleged mainstream and minority party grows more comfortable with authoritarianism with each passing day. Believing generic nonsense is somewhat benign. Believing, “The GOP is anointed by God and the Dems are devil-worshipping, pedophilic traitors therefore any means to secure power, no matter how corrupt, is justified.” is fracking dangerous.

    ReplyReply
    4
  29. Matt Bernius says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Once again, the US Judicial Code of Conduct, despite it’s use of “Any” is superceded by the Constitution and does not apply to Supreme Court Justices.

    I realize that seems unbelievable (again due to the “Any”) but it is never the less still true.

    https://fixthecourt.com/fix/code-of-ethics/

    ReplyReply
    1
  30. Jen says:

    @DK:

    It’s not unreasonable to think Bill has been a bigger drag on her advancement than boon to her. More than one person who was around them in the 70s is on record stating Hillary should have run for office herself before (or instead of) marrying him.

    Yes. To put it succinctly, when Bill first started running for office some of her friends reportedly said “the wrong Clinton is running.”

    ReplyReply
    2
  31. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Matt Bernius:
    It does apply, but they are left on their own to apply it.
    Which, in the case of a corrupt Justice, means it doesn’t apply.
    And ain’t that sumptin’

    ReplyReply
    2
  32. Kathy says:

    I don’t quite get the headline. Wouldn’t “boomer with internet” describe like the vast majority of all boomers? Like saying “boomer with a face.”

    ReplyReply
    1
  33. @Sleeping Dog: I take the point, and recognize the problem inherent in this whole conversation.

    I do not have a well-developed position on this, but I will state that my instincts tell me that the nature of a SCOTUS seat is such that there may be room for special rules about spouses. That is inherently unfair to the spouse, potentially, but there are prices to be paid for lifelong appointments if such rules protect the public interest. (Again, this requires more thought on my part).

    ReplyReply
    2
  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jen:

    then they could have come to an agreement on what she could be doing that wouldn’t reflect so poorly on him.

    Or perhaps, he is so arrogant as to not believe that anything that she does reflects on him at all. Maybe he really believes all this “above the law” stuff about political elites (of the correct political viewpoint, of course).

    ReplyReply
    1
  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jen: “Putting the ‘coup’ in couple!”

    Wow! That’s almost as nasty as “[h]eck, this isn’t even Sonny and Cher.”

    And as for whether to laugh or cry, being able to laugh at these types of situations is what keeps ME out of the “guns can fix problems like this one” zone, for whatever that’s worth.

    ReplyReply
    2
  36. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @DK:

    More than one person who was around them in the 70s is on record stating Hillary should have run for office herself before (or instead of) marrying him.

    Maybeso, but as a “child of the counterculture,” I’m having a hard time envisioning ANY reality where she would have been elected to ANYTHING in Arkansas. But then again, I did destroy a lot of brain cells, and my memory isn’t what I ever thought it was.

    ReplyReply
    3
  37. Jen says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Maybe he really believes all this “above the law” stuff about political elites

    I’ve been operating under the assumption that after his confirmation hearings, he decided that he just didn’t care about anything. That basically he’s been operating with a MASSIVE chip on his shoulder, and DNGAF–he’s going to monetize the heck out of, and get everything he can out of, his position on the Court. In that light, all of this: the not caring about appearances, not recusing himself when he really should, his wife’s wackadoodle activities–all of it–becomes payback to what the “liberal elites” threw at him.

    ReplyReply
    2
  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: No, it ain’t “sumptin.” It’s how privilege and power have always worked. It’s more a “nothing new under the sun” than a “sumptin.”

    ReplyReply
  39. Jen says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite: Bill Clinton asked her more than once to marry him, it wasn’t a sure thing. If they hadn’t married, she wouldn’t have been in Arkansas, she’d likely have gone back to the Chicago area.

    This “other” path was the plot of the novel Rodham.

    ReplyReply
  40. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @Jen:
    Missed reading “Rodham.” I’ll take your word that she would have likely gone (back) to Chi-Town. Just not at all sure she would have had a future in politics there either, but then again, Washington elected Dixie Lee Ray as guv in the same time frame, so strange things do happen.

    ReplyReply
    1
  41. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If Thomas cared hoot about ethics, he’d recuse himself and if pigs could fly…

    With regard to spouses, the issue becomes where is the cutoff? The answer is for the SC to impose a standard of ethics upon themselves (since it doesn’t appear that congress can) and enforce it.

    Another example of where the writers of the Constitution developed a document to address 18th Century problems of governance has broken down in the 21st.

    ReplyReply
    1
  42. grumpy realist says:

    @Jen: There’s an interesting alternate-reality story floating around where Hillary Rodham marries Richard Feynman.

    ReplyReply
  43. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy:

    Wouldn’t “boomer with internet” describe like the vast majority of all boomers?

    In this case “boomer” is meant as a slur.

    ReplyReply
  44. Jen says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite: I haven’t read “Rodham” yet either, it’s at the local library but I keep finding other stuff that I’d rather read more. Reviews are mixed.

    ReplyReply
    1
  45. DK says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite:

    I’m having a hard time envisioning ANY reality where she would have been elected to ANYTHING in Arkansas.

    Well, she wasn’t yet living in Arkansas, so I doubt she would have run there. That was the debate between the couple and their friends in 1974, many of whom were other McGovern campaign and Watergate staffers. Her friends Marian Wright Edelman and Betsey Wright (who had taken a job at the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1973 specifically to further Hillary’s career) were apparently among those urging Hillary to stay in D.C. post-impeachment and/or run for local office in Massachusetts or Illinois. They believed she was a future senator and/or president.

    But Hillary was, by 1974, drunk in love by Bill Clinton, whose multiple proposals she had turned down to the relief of her friends. He had given up and moved home to Arkansas to start his political career.

    Hillary changed her mind when, still throughly distracted by Bill, she infamously failed the D.C. bar exam (along with an abormarly high percentage of her bar study class, which was using outdated materials according to Carl Bernstein). She took that as a sign to, in her words, “follow my heart, not my head.” She joined Bill in Arkansas the same month Nixon resigned. The rest is history.

    ReplyReply
    2
  46. DK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Or perhaps, he is so arrogant as to not believe that anything that she does reflects on him at all. Maybe he really believes all this “above the law” stuff about political elites

    This. It’s why he was willing to be the lone dissent in the 8-1 ruling ending Trump’s attempt to hide his Jan 6 communications. He knows he’s untouchable and does not care about optics, appearances, or his critics.

    ‘Yeah, I’m corrupt. And what are you gonna do about it? Nothing. Your liberal tears taste delicious!’ – Clarence Thomas, probably

    ReplyReply
    2
  47. Kathy says:

    @DK:

    Absent an idiotic opinion by the DOJ about the legal invulnerability of sitting associate justices, he can be charged and indicted if he has committed any crime.

    I know of no reason to suspect Thomas of having committed any, but corrupt people often do, especially if they think the law doesn’t apply to them. So I’d take a hard look.

    Of course, by my reading of the Constitution, even if he wound up behind bars he’d keep his seat unless removed through impeachment. And I can’t see the GQP convicting him even if he confessed to rape, murder, and voting for Joe Biden.

    ReplyReply
    1
  48. Matt Bernius says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    It does apply, but they are left on their own to apply it.

    Thank you for the correct. You are right. Additionally, that statute includes no enforcement structure. There is a separate statute about enforcement and it’s that statute that is interpreted as being superseded by the Consitution. I got the two mixed up (or rather smooshed them into the same statute in my mind).

    For those who are interested, her is a helpful write-up:
    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2022/03/29/justice-thomass-failure-to-recuse-may-be-wrong-but-its-not-judicial-misconduct/

    ReplyReply
  49. DK says:

    @Kathy:

    And I can’t see the GQP convicting him even if he confessed to rape, murder, and voting for Joe Biden.

    Hahaha I laughed out loud 🙂

    ReplyReply

Speak Your Mind

*