Tue, 05 May 2009 20:25:44 +0000 – By S.E. CuppConservative Commentator/Author, "Why You're Wrong About the Right
President Obama tipped his hand more than just a little during a press conference last week on his eventual Supreme Court appointment. Among other things, he admitted that he wants his pick to have "empathy" and to identify with the "hopes and dreams" of the American people.
Though his vague and somewhat saccharine description sounds more like something a beauty queen would say in an answer about world peace, this was an honest and upfront declaration of President Obama's views on the role of Supreme Court justices, and one that should make folks on the left andthe right very concerned.
A vapid platitude is nothing new for the Obama machine, so hearing the president wax rhetorical about the Supreme Court is hardly an oratorical anachronism -- despite the significance of choosing a new judge and the impact it will have on the president's legacy.
But the idea that the president, a former constitutional law professor himself, would describe the job of Supreme Court justice in such subjective and interpretive terms says a lot about just how subjective and interpretive he seems to think the Constitution is.
And the literary vacancy of his words leaves us with more questions than answers.
What is "empathy," exactly? Heinz Kohut, an Austrian-born psychoanalyst, said, "Empathy is the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person." Does our legal system really hinge on our judges' ability to think and feel themselves into the inner life of plaintiffs and defendants? Sounds more like a job for Oprah or the dog whisperer.
The word "empathy," according to its Greek derivation, means "physical affection, passion, and partiality." I thought Aristotle said the law is reason freefrom passion? And, if justice is blind, I'm fairly certain she's also impartial.
But more importantly who is on the receiving end of it by Obama's definition?
How do we administer an empathy test? Will the Judiciary Committee present potential appointees with a hypothetical empathy stress test? "Box of Puppies: Good or Bad?"
And what are the "hopes and dreams" of the American people? While I like to think most people are good, upstanding citizens, I certainly know there are plenty whose "hopes and dreams" may involve graft, greed, corruption, sloth, theft, dishonesty, and even violence. Serial murderers have dreamsabout killing people. O.J. Simpson probably hopeshe'll be paroled. Are these the hopes and dreams Supreme Court justices must protect?
Even if we don't play with semantics so mischievously, what about the hopes and dreams of religious Americans who don't want to see their values trampled on by an activist judge on an ego trip? Will President Obama select a judge who will fight for those Americans' hopes and dreams? Or just the hopes and dreams of the ACLU and MoveOn.org, which, so far, have enjoyed alarmingly more than just the president's ear during his first 100 days. Obviously a smart betting man would drop a wad on the latter.
The problem with Obama's Montessori School vision of the Supreme Court is that empathy is ambiguous. So are hopes and dreams. Worse, though, they are irrelevant. As former Republican Party chair Ed Gillespie said on "Meet the Press," "I may have empathy for the little guy in a fight with a big corporation, but the law may not be on his side."
The president's poetic obscurities are made more unnerving by the Democrats' push for symbolic, liberal pieties, and an overt desire to turn this appointment into some kind of 70s-era social protest. "I think we should have more women," said Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy, Democrat of Vermont. "We should have more minorities." As embarrassing as the push for Caroline Kennedy to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat was -- the result of pressure from feminists to put another woman in office -- Democrats like Leahy are gearing up once again to ignore qualifications and experience in favor of anatomy and skin color. And Republicans are supposedly the bigots?
Empathy, hopes and dreams should play no part in selecting a Supreme Court justice. The leadership on President Obama's revamped Office of Faith Based Initiatives should have "empathy." The administrators of his "volunteer corps" should want to identify with the "hopes and dreams" of the American public. Supreme Court judges need only interpret the Constitution of the United States.