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Butch Harlan & The Sundance Clarence

Some readers objected to a recent The Saunders Report column because they think we impugned the ethics of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for hanging out with a billionaire whose interests came before the Supreme Court.

We did.

We thought it was unethical for a justice to just be chillin’ - enjoying a billionaire’s billions – when it could eventually pose a conflict of interest.

Clarence apparently thought that was fishy, too, since he kept secret his travels with Harlan Crow and the largesse Crow bestowed upon him. Since that piece ran, the public has learned that Ol' Harl did have business before the Court, and Thomas refused to recuse from hearing it.

If I have one shortcoming, it's that I always give people – even Clarence Thomas - the benefit of the doubt. Thus, I’ll acknowledge that there are reasons other than rank avarice and influence-peddling for Justice Thomas to be hanging out guzzling Dom Perignon while circumnavigating the globe on the billionaire's luxury yacht and private jet.

For instance: It's conceivable that Clarence, as a master of self-deception, thought he was the secret weapon Harlan and other members of the Billionaires Boys Club employed when they went clubbing at international hot spots.

Revealing this may be a breach of “man code,” but most groups of men have that one handsome, cool dude that we use as chum to attract women when we go out on the town.

Isn’t it possible that Clarence thought he was that dude?

Since I’m petty, I wish I’d been in the kitchen the morning he discovered that he was not, in fact, that dude, and that it was something other than his wit, grace, savoir faire and piercing brown eyes that had wealthy, influential people clamoring to reach out and touch the hem of his judicial garment.

Ginni Thomas: What’s the matter, Clarence. You’ve hardly touched your egg-white omelet.

Clarence (Tossing the newspaper angrily onto the table): It’s this fake news, Gin. It’s got me all out of sorts. These danged reporters are writing that Harlan only invited me on those trips and let me play with his Hitler memorabilia because I’m on the Supreme Court. That can’t be true, can it, sugar?

Well, can it? What’s the matter? Why aren’t you answering me?

Ginni: Oh, Clarence. There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you for 31 years, but I just didn’t know how. It’s… It’s… your robe, Clarence. Your robe and your position as a Supreme Court justice that has everybody eager to curry favor with you.

Clarence: Unh unh. What about all of those trips Harl and I took on his yacht and private jet, those discotheques we hit in Rio de –

Ginni: Discotheques? What discotheques?

Clarence: Stay on-topic, Gin. Harlan likes me. He really likes me. So do all of those rightwing organizations that pay you and me thousands of dollars to mouth inanities to them for 25 minutes.

Harl’ would never seek to use me just because I’m a member of this august body whose rulings can change the trajectory of this nation for the next 100 years.

We are genuine amigos, Harlan and me. Why, he had matching tee shirts printed up calling us Butch Harlan & the Sundance Clarence. With our pictures on them and everything. Remember that night we commandeered the karaoke machine in Martinique and performed Biz Markey’s Just a Friend? That was our theme song. He’d go

♫ Oh Clarence you - you've got what I need

But let's say you're just a friend

We'll say you're just a friend. ♫

Then I’d go

♫ Oh Harlan you – you got what I need

Let’s sail to Martinique

And there I won’t have to sneak

To give you all

the secrets you need

Far from from prying eyes

And we’ll need no alibis.♫

Clarence: Gin hon, you believe me, don’t you, when I say that Harlan and I share something special?

Watch this. I’m going to call H.C. right this minute on his super-private line and put an end to this unseemly speculation about our relationship.

(Operator’s voice): We’re sorry, but the number you have dialed is not in service. Please hang up and don’t call back here again, Clarence.


Apr 27, 2023

Gotta love your creative and oft humorous perception of people and politics. As a Scotland County native, I find it amazing that such intellect could possibly arise by a native from our western border😁


That's no malarkey





Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  


Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 


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