Dick Armey offers some parting thoughts on his congressional career, including these sentiments about Justice Thomas:
Mr. Armey explained that in one of his offices he ordered "big-shot" photos removed, because only two are worthy: Ronald Reagan and Clarence Thomas.
Mr. Armey's friendship with the much-maligned Supreme Court justice came by way of Mr. Thomas's wife, the former Ginny Lamp. She was a lobbyist with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce when Mr. Armey arrived in Washington in 1985. Together they successfully fought the push for a feminist economic theory called "comparable worth," under which a government panel—instead of the labor market—would set workers' wages. "Ginny was my pal," Mr. Armey says, "and she introduced me to Clarence."
In Clarence Thomas, Dick Armey saw another fighter. When the Senate Judiciary Committee took up Mr. Thomas's nomination to the Supreme Court, the official White House strategy was to play up the nominee's attractive biography, including his rise from a humble upbringing. His opponents' strategy was to hammer him with vulgar attacks based on evidence that did not stand up to scrutiny. The accusations were humiliating, but Mr. Thomas didn't break. He rejected his White House handlers' advice and went on the offensive himself; he tore into his opponents and said he was not going to be the passive victim of a "high-tech lynching."
"Who has seen such a moment of such personal courage and conviction larger than that in this town? Not I," Dick Armey said. "For me to have been able to sit and watch that example and experience all the emotions of fear, and hope, and awe, and respect, and then be able to say, 'That's my personal friend.' He gave me a gift of experience I don't think I'll ever see duplicated in my life. I will love him forever for the example he gave to me."
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Mr. Armey next year will no longer have in his office lovely 19th-century landscape paintings on loan from the Smithsonian, but he does take satisfaction from having changed the American landscape. "We have stumbled a little bit," he said. "There are times we looked a little foolish. I guess I have been misrepresented in terms of my character, my intention more times than I like. But I've never suffered the way our Lord or Clarence Thomas suffered by falsehoods. I don't have much regret.... There's an old line from Willie Nelson, 'The highs outnumber the lows.' The blessings are too many to count."