New justice, new day

October 16, 1991

At the close of the endlessly rancorous hearings into his fitness to serve on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas said he was a different man than the one who had been nominated some 100 days earlier.

And he is most assuredly a more free man today than he has been for most of the past 10 years. Now confirmed for life as a member of the highest court in the land, he will have the opportunity to separate himself from the positions he took as a member of an administration that was perceived as so hostile to the interests of black Americans that 90 percent of them voted against Ronald Reagan when he ran for re-election in 1984.

At the age of 43, Thomas is roughly at the midpoint of his life. Whatever errors he may have made along the way, there is no denying that he can claim significant achievements -- even though we did not believe those particular achievements qualified him for the Supreme Court.

But now that he is there, he and he alone can erase the doubts about that paucity of qualification. Now that this bitter fight over his confirmation is over, it is time to lay aside reservations and give Justice Thomas a fair chance to prove whether will be a good judge, a bad judge -- or just a time server.

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