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Is Thomas Qualified for the Supreme Court?

The author of the opinion-page column "Background and Ability Qualify Thomas for Court," Sept. 12, states that Judge Clarence Thomas's judicial fitness should not be determined by his philosophies on a few key issues (such as abortion or affirmative action) but "by his independence, integrity, ability, and life experience."Yet the author then goes on to cite Thomas's rulings and opinions regarding criminal law, business cases, and civil rights as "the best measure of [his] judicial fitness." Strangely, the author seems satisfied with judging Thomas by his judicial record, providing that his opponents not do the same thing. Michelle R. Boyd, Hampton, Va.

Bush couldn't have been more Machiavellian in his choice of a Supreme Court nominee. Not only does Clarence Thomas need to be scrutinized, but so does the president who nominated him. As a candidate for the Senate, Bush opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and in his bid for the presidency gave us Willie Horton ads. As president, he vetoed the civil rights bill of 1990 and is opposed to legislation that would permit women and the disabled to collect punitive damages if they prove discrimination. Then there's Judge Thomas. Tragically, it appears that all Thomas has in common with Thurgood Marshall is his skin color. There's something frightening about a man who, in his blind ambition to climb to the top, ignored the rights and human suffering of his race, and who shows that he's willing to diligently work to push shut on minorities and women the doors that were opened to him by the bloodshed and efforts of others. There's something even more frightening about a president who would give him to us. Chris Niebrzydowski, Pittsburgh National Organization for Women

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Poor Judge Clarence Thomas! Just because he defied a stereotype and had the courage to pursue a pathway of hard work, courage, self-reliance, and assertive success, he is blamed for threatening the liberal claim to know what is best for minorities in this country and accused of "acting like a white." Why shouldn't blacks expand their options and have successful role models in people like Gen. Colin Powell and Judge Thomas rather than perpetrating a single paradigm endorsed by self-serving minority-rights groups? Olgard Dabbert, San Diego

Liberals suggest that Clarence Thomas is not qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, despite the fact that he is better qualified for the job than was one of the leading liberal justices of this century, William O. Douglas, when President Roosevelt appointed him to the high court in 1939. Douglas was then 41 years old - two years younger than Judge Thomas - and he had no judicial experience whatsoever. Thomas had been a federal judge for more than a year. These differences aside, the backgrounds of the men are remarkably similar. Both grew up fatherless and poor and were transformed by adversity into strong, self-confident individualists - outspoken and frequently controversial. Such people invariably are subject to heavy criticism. But if William O. Douglas was good enough for the Supreme Court, so is Clarence Thomas. Thomas Stewart, Virginia Beach, Va.

After listening to the Clarence Thomas nomination hearings, I think perhaps the grandfather of Judge Thomas should have been the nominee. Allan B. Hall, Fullerton, Calif.

Teachers' performance and pay Regarding the article "Who Will Nurture the Nurturers?," Sept. 10: In bad economic times, even the valuable employee must bear a financial burden with the business of which he is a part. Whether times are good or bad, it is never wise to negotiate one's salary independent of one's performance. Teachers' demands for money should not exceed their level of performance, nor should they expect to be immune to bad times, which the rest of us must struggle through as well. The teacher is a person with a job to do, and should do it well and be paid fairly. The value of our children shouldn't determine the level of their teachers' salaries. Teachers can ask for more money, but they should not be surprised when financially burdened citizens look at their performance and say, "No!" Bruce R. Barrow, East Falmouth, Mass.

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