The typical Republican candidate’s response when asked about abortion is to pander to pro-lifers while trampling the constitution. It’s nice to see someone go back to the original argument against Roe v. Wade: that this is a state rather than a federal issue. The idea that the federal government has a role in prohibiting abortion may be a comforting view to a lot of pro-lifers.But it’s a liberal view, as Ron Paul points out.In that regard, here’s a column I did on the subject back in 2003. The views that Clarence Thomas was expressing then are the same views Ron Paul’s expressing now:For as long as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been on the national scene, liberals have been taking shots at him. Cheap shots. Part of the controversy surrounding his confirmation hearing, for example, centered on allegations that Thomas had a collection of Playboy magazines. It’s shocking that an adult male reads Playboy? Not to me. I don’t get it. But I must confess I didn’t get it either when Anita Hill leveled those allegations that Thomas said certain things to her in private that should preclude him from serving on the high court. A few years later, the liberals were busy defending Bill Clinton on far worse charges. And unlike Clarence, Bill liked to talk with his hands. But that was just politics. What really bothers me is when I hear critics say that Thomas is an intellectual lightweight. When I hear my liberal friends mouth this mantra, my response is always the same: Read some of his decisions. Thomas’ views would be particularly interesting to liberals in light of two issues that were in the national news last week. The first was that case in which the federal government prosecuted California’s so-called “ganja guru” even though he was distributing pot in full accordance with that state’s medicinal marijuana law. The second was that bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives making partial-birth abortion a federal crime. I think it’s fair to say that most liberals believe the federal government has no business passing laws regarding either medicinal marijuana or abortion. And I think it is also fair to say that Clarence Thomas agrees with them. If you doubt this, I invite you to read Thomas’ concurring opinion in the case of United States vs. Lopez. “The Federal Government has nothing approaching a police power,” Thomas wrote in the case, which centered on the question of whether Congress had the power to ban possession of guns in school zones. In that case, the majority of the court agreed with Thomas that Congress overstepped the authority granted it under the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution. But Thomas went much further than the majority. He went on to argue that the framers of the Constitution clearly intended to leave to the states almost all of the powers Congress has adopted under the commerce clause. If you dislike Attorney General John Ashcroft, in other words, you’ll love Clarence Thomas. Ashcroft loves nothing more than to meddle in affairs better left to the states. The key question for Thomas is whether, under the guise of regulating interstate commerce, Congress can pass criminal laws applying to activities that occur solely within the states. It can’t, writes Thomas. “It seems to me that the power to regulate ‘commerce’ can by no means encompass authority over mere gun possession, any more than it empowers the Federal Government to regulate marriage, littering, or cruelty to animals, throughout the 50 States,” Thomas wrote. “Our Constitution quite properly leaves such matters to the individual states.” Consider that abortion bill in this light. Its backers argue that abortion is murder. It may well be, but murder is not properly a federal crime. Thomas quotes approvingly an 1821 Supreme Court decision stating that Congress has “no general right to punish murder committed within any of the States.” It remains to be seen, of course, how Thomas will rule on a federal partial-birth abortion law if such a case ever comes before the court. But the pro-choice side could certainly have some fun citing his writings on the lack of a federal police power. As for pot-growing, as late as 1937 the federal government conceded it had no power to regulate the intrastate traffic in marijuana. Under the interpretation of the Constitution favored by Thomas, California would have the sole and complete power to deal with marijuana use that stayed within state lines. John Ashcroft could do little more than write a letter to the editor of the local paper expressing his displeasure. The rest of the court in the Lopez case did not endorse Thomas’ sweeping views on limiting federal powers. But he is openly campaigning for the full court to embrace his attack on the current view that the federal government has the power to regulate any activity that has “substantial effects” on interstate commerce. As Thomas points out, that view stems directly from the New Deal. “I am aware of no cases prior to the New Deal that characterized the power flowing from the Commerce Clause as sweepingly as does our substantial effects test,” Thomas wrote. In other words, but for the work of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Ashcroft’s views on drug use would be of interest to few people but his own children. And the idea that Congress could pass a law criminalizing abortion would have been similarly unthinkable before FDR started picking Supreme Court justices. But justice, as the saying goes, is blind. The court decision that helps you today may harm you tomorrow. That’s a powerful argument for limited government, and at the moment no one is making that argument better than Clarence Thomas.