Bush tries to blunt criticism Thomas foes "out of touch," president says.

August 07, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- President Bush is attempting anew to blunt the barbs aimed at his choice for the Supreme Court, charging that the interest groups weighing in against Judge Clarence Thomas are "out of touch with mainstream America."

In what amounted to yet another testimonial for his embattled nominee, Bush contended yesterday that "everyone who's fair and open-minded" was impressed by Thomas and his record. The chorus of opposition, he suggested, was no more than a sounding of "ideological attacks."

The attempts to minimize the criticism marked a further effort by the White House to regain a momentum that some feared was lost as Thomas came under coordinated attack in recent days from civil rights and labor groups.

Another civil rights organization, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, planned to announce its opposition today, officials of the group said.

A member of the executive committee said that the organization would focus on Thomas' record as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and contend that he failed adequately to enforce civil rights laws while serving in that post.

Thomas, a black conservative, was officially opposed last week by the NAACP and has not yet been endorsed by a major civil rights group.

But White House officials insist that the nomination is not in jeopardy. But rather than permit sour notes to linger as official Washington leaves for its summer vacation, they have sought in recent days to create a mood that is more upbeat.

But Bush said his nominee enjoyed "across-the-board support" and was "overwhelmingly supported in minority communities."

Bush issued a written statement of support for Thomas Monday after meeting with the principal aides charged with shepherding the nomination through the Senate. And in an appearance before a law enforcement audience yesterday, the president set aside his prepared text in a forceful bid to minimize Thomas' critics.

Those critics have made clear, however, that they do not intend to let the matter rest.

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