The idea that an originalist such as Clarence Thomas doesn't believe in the Bill of Rights is nothing short of preposterous, yet that's what The Journal Gazette tries to sell. In a short editorial today, the JG says that remarks made by Thomas at a March 31 event dedicated to the Bill of Rights suggested "that he was anything but supportive." What remarks were so scary? These:
"Today there is much focus on our rights,” he said. “Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights. I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances. Shouldn't there at least be equal time for our Bill of Obligations and our Bill of Responsibilities?”
“It seems that many have come to think that each of us is owed prosperity and a certain standard of living. They're owed air-conditioning, cars, telephones, televisions,” Thomas told the students, who would most likely not consider those conveniences symbols of prosperity.
Do the JG editors truly not understand the difference between rights as a pre-existing human possession, whether "natural" or "God-given," that government must be kept away from, such as the right to speak freely and to enjoy the fruits of ones labor, and "rights" granted as a favor by those in power, such as possessions that might be dispensed to favored groups and withheld from disfavored ones, a situation this nation was founded to get rid of? Could it possibly be that Thomas was lamenting the fact that Americans seem to be turning their backs on the real meaning of the Bill of Rights, that they are so willing to trade their hard-won freedom for security? Well, let's check another part of that speech (pdf file)the paper didn't quote:
I think Jefferson felt that our freedoms were transcendent and that they were inherent rights, and in order to be governed we were willing to give up some of those rights. So ... I tend to agree to Ronald Reagan when he said it, and I think he was simply paraphrasing Jefferson, "our freedoms do not come from the government, the government comes from us."
By golly, I think that's just what he was doing. So, which is it? Was the JG being dense or disingenuous?