OPPONENTS to President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas, intend to use the American Bar Association's lukewarm rating as ammunition to try to shoot down his Senate confirmation.A majority of the ABA's 15-member Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary found Thomas "qualified" for the high court, but two members found him "not qualified." Opponents pointed to the two votes of "unqualified" as reason for the Senate to reject him, although the White House said in a statement that Mr. Bush remained "confident that Judge Thomas will serve on the court with distinction." Bush's nomination of the conservative jurist has drawn opposition from liberal interest groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Arthur Kropp, president of People for the American Way, said: "The ABA rating is a direct contradiction of President Bush's assertion that Thomas is the best man for the job." But the White House expressed a different view. "We are very pleased that the ABA's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has found Judge Thomas qualified to be an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court," the president's spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater, told reporters at Bush's vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine. Senate confirmation hearings are slated to begin Sept. 10 on the appointment of Thomas, a black federal appeals court judge, to the high court seat vacated by retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall, who also is black. The qualified rating is a step below the group's highest "well qualified" ranking for appointees to the federal courts and one above its lowest rating of "not qualified." The last presidential nominee for the high court to have received "unqualified" votes from the ABA panel was Appeals Court Judge Robert Bork, who was rejected by the Senate.