Longform

The Merry Revolutionary

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Along with juggling several legal cases on opposite sides of the country and speaking engagements all over the place, Clint has been hard at work on his first novel. A psychological thriller, the idea came to him from a jetlagged nightmare he had years ago in South Africa, where he'd gone for a political conference.

In the story, a man falls in love with a beautiful woman with borderline personality disorder. They have a daughter together. The woman kills herself and the man raises the daughter, who then begins to act like her mother.

So maybe Clint Bolick does have a dark side.

He's finished 33 of 36 chapters. "It is so close to being done that I can taste it."

Given the fights he picked while he was there, it's amazing Washington didn't leave a bitter taste in Bolick's mouth. He insists not, although he admits it's not really his kind of town.

He says he knew it was time to leave when the Monica Lewinsky scandal hit. Bolick considers Ken Starr a friend -- they just finished working together on the Supreme Court vouchers case -- but lambastes those who tried to bring Clinton down based on a cigar and a stained blue dress.

"I just thought that entire ordeal was one of the ugliest episodes in Washington history. I saw the Lewinsky scandal and an effort to use personal dirt to bring down a career as precisely the type of reason why I wanted to leave Washington," he says.

So all these years later, is he disappointed to be remembered for taking down Lani Guinier? Articles are still written challenging Bolick's assertions about Guinier's credibility to fight for civil rights, accusing him of being a front man for conservatives annoyed with the rejection of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork and the tough time Clarence Thomas got. People still think of him as a racist.

The racist tag stings, but he rejects it without pause. And no, no regrets about Guinier, who is now a law professor at Harvard University. (She declined an interview request.) In fact, Bolick says, he thinks he did Guinier a favor -- she won more fame as a reject than she would have as an appointee.

"I really thought that that battle exemplified a fight over principle. And, indeed, the way that nomination battles really ought to be fought. No one was scouring people's personal lives or searching through garbage cans," he says. "The fact that she was able to walk away from that experience with her reputation intact was something I consider very important."

That is the kind of comment that wins Clint Bolick fans like Nina Totenberg.

"He is not a petty bureaucrat of the right," she says. "He is a big boy."

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.