Empathy is just alright if your name is Samuel Alito
Glenn Greenwald wrote about this yesterday and I finally got to post about it today.
With regard to that last point -- how completely different is the reaction to Sam Alito and Sonia Sotomayor -- just consider this exchange that took place at the beginning of Alito's confirmation hearing (h/t sysprog):
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Judge Samuel Alito's Nomination to the Supreme Court
U.S. SENATOR TOM COBURN (R-OK): Can you comment just about Sam Alito, and what he cares about, and let us see a little bit of your heart and what's important to you in life?
ALITO: Senator, I tried to in my opening statement, I tried to provide a little picture of who I am as a human being and how my background and my experiences have shaped me and brought me to this point....
Anyone who is objecting now to Sotomayor's alleged "empathy" problem but who supported Sam Alito and never objected to this sort of thing ought to have their motives questioned (and the same is true for someone who claims that a person who overcame great odds to graduate at the top of their class at Princeton, graduate Yale Law School, and then spent time as a prosecutor, corporate lawyer, district court judge and appellate court judge must have been chosen due to "identity politics").
But the attacks thus far -- not just from the Right but from the sterling Respectable Intellectual Center -- say far, far more about the critics than they do about her. How can her "empathy" views possibly be distinguished from what Sam Alito -- at Tom Coburn's urging -- said when he was confirmed?...read on
Glenn has the entire transcript up from the Coburn questioning and should be read. The idea that our own personal experiences do not shape the way we view life is absurd and Alito used it to try and sell himself to Congress, but for Sonia Sotomayor, that's a disqualifying event.
Yesterday I dashed off this glib little bon mot, which deserves a much more serious treatment:
One can't know for sure that the fact that Chief Justice John Roberts, who has so far voted every single time with the ruling elites, was affected by his personal experience as a privileged white male -- coddled, groomed and rewarded from his earliest days by the conservative establishment he served -- but it certainly isn't unfair to think he might have been.
This idea that Sotomayor saying that she is influenced by her Latina heritage and her experiences as woman is somehow evidence that she can't be "impartial" is absurd, of course, because every human being is a product of their own experiences.
What seems to be at issue here is that Sotomayor admits that her life experiences are part of her and is, therefore, presumed to be inclined to give "her own" special treatment. That the conservative white (and one black) males who sit on the court might do the same thing is not even considered...read on
Dave Meyer of C&L's 'Third Branch' writes:
We've gone almost four full years since Bush restaffed the court with Alito and Roberts, yet there has been little examination of their impact on jurisprudence. That's changing. As the fight over Obama's first appointment picks up and attention turns to the future of the Court, we can expect examination of the Court's present. Jeff Toobin gets the ball rolling, noting that its Chief Justice is a wingnut...