Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Thomas Nomination Was Well Calculated

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Thomas Nomination Was Well Calculated

Article excerpt

POLITICALLY, the Bush appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court was very shrewd. Black leaders wanted another Thurgood Marshall. But they are finding it difficult to vigorously oppose a man who doesn't mirror Justice Marshall's views on civil rights.

Why? Because Mr. Thomas is not only black but he has knows what its like to start life in a sharecropper's shack. Many poorer blacks could regard him as one of their own.

Little wonder, then, that polls show a strong majority of American blacks favoring confirmation of the Thomas nomination while at the same time disapproving of his outspoken opposition to affirmative action.

Washington Post columnist William Raspberry, himself a black who would prefer a Marshall-style liberal on the nation's highest bench, offers this insight into the dilemma that Thomas's nomination poses for blacks:

"We're playing 'Let's Make a Deal' with a host who offers us a choice between a serviceable Chevrolet and a goat, and we're holding out for a curtain that conceals (we hope) a Mercedes Benz with an interior designed by Thurgood Marshall. Well, there's no Benz behind any of the curtains. If we're not prepared to deal with the goat, we'd better take the Chevy."

Raspberry thinks Thomas "is sufficiently acquainted with racism to recognize it when it comes before him on the Supreme Court, that he is independent enough not to see the critical issues in the light of his own experience and that he is smart enough to find in the Constitution protection against the presumptions of white privilege."

Raspberry is concerned, as are many other influential blacks, that should Thomas's nomination be turned back the next Bush appointee might be a white who would not only be conservative but also less sensitive to black problems.

I would argue that such an appointment might, like the Earl Warren selection by President Eisenhower, turn out to be surprisingly pro-black. But black leaders are leery about taking such a chance. …

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