Lesson in how to smear your opponents, Supreme Court edition

Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool

It’s no secret that the Left has decided that a Supreme Court that is not a wholly-owned subsidiary is a liability, neither an asset nor a feature of a legitimate government. Such niceties as the constitutional order quit mattering to them at about the time that Woodrow Wilson got elected.


FDR did his best to pack and then suborn the Court, but the Left gave up on destroying its reputation when it took control over its decisions in the 50s and 60s.

But when Donald Trump managed to wrangle control out of their hands the Left went mad with rage and has been on a mission to destroy the Court, or at least its conservative members, ever since. It has gotten so ridiculous that all 9 Justices have unanimously fought back, both defending the integrity of the Court and its place in the Constitutional order.

Yet the effort lives on, because that is just how the Left rolls.

The latest shot across the bow is particularly low and stupid, and it comes from that great defender of norms and fairness, The Guardian.

The premise of the hit piece is simple: a law clerk of Clarence Thomas apparently took bribes from lawyers who had business before the Court.

If true, it would be scandalous. While it would not be evidence that Thomas himself took bribes–the Left has insinuated that because Thomas is close to a billionaire–it certainly implies that the Court’s business itself may have been influenced through the strategic application of dollars.

Several lawyers who have had business before the supreme court, including one who successfully argued to end race-conscious admissions at universities, paid money to a top aide to Justice Clarence Thomas, according to the aide’s Venmo transactions. The payments appear to have been made in connection to Thomas’s 2019 Christmas party.

The payments to Rajan Vasisht, who served as Thomas’s aide from July 2019 to July 2021, seem to underscore the close ties between Thomas, who is embroiled in ethics scandals following a series of revelations about his relationship with a wealthy billionaire donor, and certain senior Washington lawyers who argue cases and have other business in front of the justice.

Vasisht’s Venmo account – which was public prior to requesting comment for this article and is no longer – show that he received seven payments in November and December 2019 from lawyers who previously served as Thomas legal clerks. The amount of the payments is not disclosed, but the purpose of each payment is listed as either “Christmas party”, “Thomas Christmas Party”, “CT Christmas Party” or “CT Xmas party”, in an apparent reference to the justice’s initials.



We pay people to do things. We get paid to do things. What was Rajan Vasisht PAID to do, huh?! Huh?!

I bet it was to improperly influence Clarence Thomas to become a conservative Justice! Without these Venmo payments, which were so scandalous as to be openly viewable by the public, Thomas might have sided with Ketanji Brown Jackson!

Notice something about who paid Vasisht–former Thomas law clerks. Notice what they “paid” him for–the Clarence Thomas law clerk Christmas Party.

It was a party–a get-together of people connected to Thomas–and everybody chipped in. It wouldn’t even surprise me if they bought a modest gift for Thomas, or had a Secret Santa, although maybe not.

Kedric Payne, the general counsel and senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, said that – based on available information – it was possible that the former clerks were paying their own party expenses, and not expenses for Thomas, which he believed was different than random lawyers in effect paying admission to an exclusive event to influence the judge.

He added: “But the point remains that the public is owed an explanation so they don’t have to speculate.”

We don’t have to speculate. All the people who chipped in were Thomas’ former law clerks–each of whom makes a ton more money than anybody in Thomas’ office or even Thomas himself and who, I would speculate, have more expensive tastes than the government employees can afford–and each of them made clear in their “payments” that it was for the Christmas party.


Such things happen all the time, and worse. How many times does a President stay at a billionaire’s beach house? How often do Members of Congress fly on private jets owned by contributors? How many junkets do Congressional aides take at a corporation’s expense? How much did Fauci and other NIH employees make in royalties from pharma companies?

Each of these seems to be a bigger deal than a Christmas party. And how much attention does the MSM give to these things? Almost none.

For that matter, how many reunion parties do Supreme Court law clerks have, other than those who work for Clarence Thomas? Who knows, because nobody cares, including the MSM. People chipping in to fund a party is not a scandal. Even The Guardian knows that.

All of this is done to create a lot of smoke SUGGESTING a scandal, and the hope is that once enough smoke exist people will simply assume that there is a fire. Nobody believes the acts they complain about are actually important, but the target of their ire needs to be destroyed. So they busily throw smoke bombs.

It often works. Not just because each accusation chips away at the perception of integrity for the target, but also because, well, we get tired of the controversy, as does the target. Everybody just wants the controversy to go away, even if doing so is not fair or right.

Plus, it throws off the target–they and their supporters are too busy fighting the perception and debunking the accusations that our ability to defend the principles involved–we are arguing about Clarence Thomas the man, not Clarence Thomas’ legal opinions.


In Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky outlines this strategy: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

The Left has been doing this to Thomas since his appointment. They chose him as a target and polarized opinions on him. They made the criticisms personal. Now people’s opinions are set and reinforced.

That is how smears work. It is disgusting, but it often works.

This is how the MSM does business. Day after day and year after year they create smoke and doubt, imply awful things, and suggest that very normal things are somehow extraordinary when conservatives do them. This, among other reasons, is why you simply must support independent media like Hot Air. When the MSM screams “Censorship!,” we reveal that a book was moved from Elementary School libraries to the Middle School section. When the MSM screams “Bribe!,” we reveal that it was chipping in for a Christmas Party. We do our best to round out the story so you get a fuller picture.

We need YOUR help to keep doing that. I know it gets tiresome for us to keep harping on this, but Bud Light isn’t tossing us advertising dollars and GM isn’t going to push its electric Hummers on our site. We need you to help us do our work. And since you are here, you value it.

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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024