The Senate confirmation hearings for Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, began this morning with an opening statement from Vermont Senator, Patrick Leahy. In it, he said of Judge Sotomayor that “Hers is a success story in which all Americans can take pride. … Let no one demean this extraordinary woman.” This was a reference to the fact that she made her way up from a poor family. Well, I’m sorry, Mr. Leahy, but Law, Justice and the Constitution have little to do with one’s personal story, and whether one was born to a rich or poor family. It would make a fine movie – and I guess that’s what aggravates me. We live in a time of Hollywood Politics.
Two years ago this Friday, Barack Obama spoke at a Planned Parenthood conference and made the following statement about his approach to Supreme Court nominations: “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.”
Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feeling of another.
Jump forward to 2009. Within a few months of Obama’s presidency he made his first nomination to the highest court in the land – Judge Sonia Sotomayor. If confirmed by Congress she will be the first person of Latin descent to fill such a position. Within days of her nomination the following quote, from a speech in 2001, was made famous: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” It means exactly what it says – if you want the context the New York Times provides the transcript here.
Call it empathy – I call it racism. But that’s not the point I’m after.
What is being heralded by the progressive movement today is that “Justice” in our society can be achieved through eliminating social advantages and making everyone feel like life is “fair.” They want total economic equality, and they see the Supreme Court as the best way to change society, because it doesn’t require a vote. By putting activists in the Court, they believe they can write and rewrite the foundations of our legal system in order to do this. In essence, they want to give the “losing team” the whistle; to put their player in the umpire outfit. Instead of interpreting the Constitution according to its meaning, they want a new constitution.
To them, law is not natural and inherent – it is invented by people in power. And since law is not natural, it is not definitive. Since it is not definitive, it cannot be sought out, only created.
I must ask, then, what is the purpose of a law if it can be traded for new ones every election cycle? What value is a law that can be created by one generation to be erased the next, and so on? Are our fundamental rights based on a tried and true natural law or not? If not, we may as well flush the Declaration of Independence down the toilet.
I believe that human rights are concrete. The constitution had specific intentions to protect those rights. Having empathy has nothing to do with it. Life experiences have nothing to do with it. What do you need to be an excellent Supreme Court Justice? First, you should spend a considerable amount of study time on the Constitution, the transcripts and journals that documented the debates over it, and the personal diaries of the men involved. You should also understand the political philosophies that influenced their judgement. And you should be a generally wise and intelligent person in order to put all of these things together and apply them to modern conflicts.
Good judgement in American civil law is a result of understanding the foundations of that law, and is completely separated from personal opinions, personal experiences and personal feelings. The ability to withhold these things and make objective judgments, allowing the Constitution – and the spirit under which it was written – to be the authority, is what separates a Supreme Court Justice from a political activist. But they want it so badly, that as far as they are concerned the end justifies the means. But do we want an end which seeks to place itself above the law?