Fantasy Island

Published: August 11, 2023

By Jim Lichtman
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Wasn’t that the fantasy/drama show from the 70s?

Welcome to Fantasy Island, the reality show in Washington, DC.

On the South side of the island, we have the octos (octogenarians).

Democrat Dianne Feinstein, at 90 years old is clearly frail and recently fell in her San Francisco home. Retiring? Not a chance.

Republican Mitch McConnell, 81, stopped in mid-sentence during a recent press conference. Party members believe he may have suffered a stroke. Retiring? “Get out of my office!”

All of these elected leaders live in the Washington bubble, a fantasy island where they can pretty much stay as long as they want as long as voters sing their praises and they’re still breathing. In the case of Feinstein and McConnell, their infirmities should require them to step aside and allow the governors of their respective states to appoint interim legislators to complete their terms. But there is no such requirement and Feinstein and McConnell are in no hurry to be shown the door.

And President Biden? At 80-years-old, he still appears to have his wits about him, but if he wins the presidency in 2024, he’ll finish his term at 85. Will he still have his wits during his second term?

On the North side of the island, we have two folks who suffer from severe moral infirmities. While the former president lives it up in a private villa on the island paradise, the current Grand Poo-bah resides on his throne on the highest court of the land: Justice Clarence Thomas who succeeded Civil Rights icon, Thurgood Marshall.

While Marshall stated that he would commit to his lifetime appointment to the bench, in 1991 he announced his retirement. When asked “what’s wrong with you?” Marshall replied:

“What’s wrong with me? I’m old. I’m getting old and coming apart!”

Voluntarily stepping down? That’s character.

With all the fantasy-filled extravagances accepted by his replacement from wealthy Republican donors, Clarence Thomas is no Thurgood Marshall.

According to ProPublica, a non-profit group of journalists that reports abuse by public officials, “During his three decades on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas has enjoyed steady access to a lifestyle most Americans can only imagine. A cadre of industry titans and ultra-wealthy executives have treated him to far-flung vacations aboard their yachts, ushered him into the premium suites at sporting events, and sent their private jets to fetch him — including, on more than one occasion, an entire 737. It’s a stream of luxury that is both more extensive and from a wider circle than has been previously understood.

“Thomas’ leisure activities have been underwritten by benefactors who share the ideology that drives his jurisprudence. Their gifts include:

“At least 38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas; 26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, typically perched in the sky-box; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast.”

“‘In my career, I don’t remember ever seeing this degree of largesse given to anybody,’ said Jeremy Fogel, a former federal judge who served for years on the judicial committee that reviews judges’ financial disclosures. ‘I think it’s unprecedented,’” he told ProPublica.

In a 12-page letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts and Attorney General Merrick Garland, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington writes, in part:

“Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington respectfully requests that the Chief Justice as the presiding officer of the Judicial Conference of the United States3 and the Attorney General for the Department of Justice (“DOJ” or the “Department”) as the chief law enforcement officers of the United States investigate Justice Thomas’ conduct to determine whether he violated the Ethics in Government Act by repeatedly accepting private plane travel and luxury vacation trips over two decades without disclosing them as gifts or in-kind travel-reimbursements on his financial disclosure reports and by engaging in real estate transactions without properly disclosing them on his financial disclosure reports.

“Additionally, the Chief Justice should investigate whether Justice Thomas violated his ethical obligations under the Judicial Conference Gift Regulations when he accepted private plane travel, luxury vacation trips overseas and domestically, and other gifts on a basis so frequent that a reasonable person would believe that his public office is being used for private gain. . . .

“Justice Thomas said that ‘early in [his] tenure’ he ‘sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary’ and was advised that these ‘sort’ of trips were ‘not reportable,’ but this statement borders on disbelief.

“It’s hard to fathom that any member of the federal judiciary when fully informed of all the relevant facts and circumstances would have advised Justice Thomas to accept luxury travel aboard the private plane and super-yacht of a ‘real estate magnate and Republican megadonor,’ let alone advise him not to disclose it.”

Based on clear and compelling evidence, none of these people who claim to represent the highest and best motives of the country appear capable of recognizing the difference between right and wrong.

That reason, alone, should disqualify them from public service.

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