WASHINGTON -- Like many Americans who are curious about Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume is looking for clues in the Senate confirmation hearing.
Mfume, D-7th, is neutral on Thomas' nomination. Although the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus voted to oppose the nomination, Mfume did not vote, despite reservations about Thomas.
"Now I have some very serious problems," Mfume said yesterday, listing concerns about Thomas' views on abortion, affirmative action and the 1954 Supreme Court case that led to school desegregation.
Mfume said he hopes the hearing will bring out information on Thomas' past performance as head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and his current role as a federal appellate court judge.
"I think many people have been neutral in this because Clarence Thomas has been a question mark to many people."
Some black leaders have been willing to support Thomas, despite misgivings, because he is black.
Mfume said Thomas' views, not his race, are the issue that concerns him.
Mfume's background is not unlike Thomas' in that both men overcame poverty and other obstacles. Acknowledging this, Mfume questioned whether Thomas recognizes the sacrifices of previous generations.
"They laid down their bodies, made their bodies a bridge so we could run across," Mfume said.
"I haven't forgotten that and I don't know if Clarence Thomas has or not."