There is no Supreme Court justice more wrongly vilified and inaccurately described than Clarence Thomas. Thomas is a conservative with his own jurisprudential approach. He especially deserves plaudits as a strong advocate of Free Speech. This page has links to articles by and about Justice Thomas. This article at The New Republic makes some solid points.
Justice Thomas is now in the news again because The Drudge Report claims that Bush has called for an evaluation of nominating Thomas as Chief Justice if Rehnquist retires next June (an event made very likely by the Chief Justice's current health problems). The president has often said he likes Thomas and Scalia and would like to appoint more justices like them. A Thomas-for-Chief Justice nomination would cause Bush to spend a lot of that political capital he's built up recently -- it means arm-twisting Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe the two mildly liberal Republican Senators from Maine, it means leaning hard on the Majority Leader to ensure that the nomination gets approved in the face of liberal screeching and moaning on a scale that would make the Bork confirmation hearings look like a picnic.
But one reason The Monk thinks that the president allowed this information to be leaked to Drudge (and don't doubt that this is an authorized leak, considering the issue and the nature of the Bush White House) is that the president is playing quiet hardball with the Republicans in the Senate AND with Arlen Specter. If Specter pops off about a potential Thomas nomination, the Republican caucus will dump him from the Senate Judiciary Committee chairmanship that is his current raison d'etre. If Specter lays low (more likely, despite Arlen's love of the cameras), the potential nomination of Thomas, and Specter's previous statements disapproving Thomas and Scalia, may influence Republicans to ensure Specter does not become the Judiciary chairman. This ball is now in Bill Frist's court and Frist has something to prove to both the President and the conservative base with regard to Frist's ability to get the President's appointees confirmed.