Justice Clarence Thomas needled Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey for his conduct during Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, specifically Booker’s self-described “Spartacus moment” when he released purportedly confidential documents.
The justice’s remarks, which were made at a Federalist Society conference in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday, came as Thomas explained that the high court maintains its legitimacy with the public by doing its business with honor and decency.
“If we could use that word about more people who are in public life, people who actually ask the questions at confirmation hearings instead of Spartacus,” he said. When the audience interrupted with laughter and applause, Thomas said, “Hey, look, ‘300,’” referring to the 2006 film about the Battle of Thermopylae.
“But at any rate,” he continued, “if we could use the word ‘honorable’ more often, think about the difference it will make.”
“If you can’t debate hard issues honestly, with honor, with integrity, how do we keep a civil society?” Thomas added.
As Kavanaugh’s second day of questioning began Thursday, Booker announced that he had released confidential documents relating to Kavanaugh’s work on affirmative action and racial profiling in the George W. Bush White House.Set featured image
“This is about the closest I’ll probably ever have in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment,” Booker told the committee, claiming his publication of the records constituted a violation of Senate rules.
Republican Senate aides later advised reporters that the records in question had been cleared for release on Wednesday night, meaning and publicized Thursday morning.
As such, it does not appear that Booker actually violated Senate rules, though he has continued his release of confidential records in the ensuing days and believes such conduct is forbidden by internal edicts.
Senate rule 29.5 provides that any senator who breaches confidentiality may be expelled from the chamber.
It is not yet clear if punitive action will follow for Booker.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Thomas criticized unnamed individuals who grandstand for television or use the ordinary political process for point-scoring.
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