Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Rule of Law?

Now that Justice Souter has graced us all with stepping down from the bench, my thoughts have turned back to the issue that made the 2008 election one that I believed would create a legacy that would extend into the lifetimes of my kids: the make-up of the Supreme Court. (btw, I have since come to realize that most of what our President has done will create a legacy from which our country may never recover and for which our kids will, literally, be paying $$.)

Obama voted against Chief Justice Roberts' (one of the most respected legal minds of his generation) confirmation with some mincing and hand-wringing about justices needing to involve themselves personally and on an emotional level in the cases before them, and that their decisions be guided by their sense of empathy.

That sounds like ok advice for a mother in determining an appropriate response to a wayward kid, but not for someone whose sworn office it is to simply interpret the Constitution. Where is the rule of law in this "judicial" philosophy?

When I came across this from Ramesh Ponnuru today, I could not resist reposting it here. (And if you are not reading the corner, you should be.)

In 2007 then-presidential candidate Barack Obama explained how he would pick federal judges: "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 criterion by which I'm going to be selecting my judges."

Note that the "empathy" Obama has in mind does not extend to black inner-city schoolkids who would like options beyond their failing schools . . . or small-business owners, or homeowners, all of whom have interests in Supreme Court litigation. Or, needless to say, unborn children: Obama made his remark at a Planned Parenthood event.

When President Obama says that he wants judges to have "empathy," what he means is that he wants judges who are political liberals—and who allow their politics to influence their judicial decisions. Isn't that what his quote really demonstrates?

Also, I would just like to say that I love George Will again (I was dismayed by how critical he was of Bush and McCain--wasn't the liberal press already on top of that?) and came across this oldie but goodie from him ("goodie" is hyperlinked to the article, which you should read!). I love that he even gets to the subject of how one-sided the "compassion" in this "liberal compassion" theory is.

Steven Calabresi, a law professor at Northwestern, had this response to Obama's judicial philosophy:
On this view, plaintiffs should usually win against defendants in civil cases; criminals in cases against the police; consumers, employees and stockholders in suits brought against corporations; and citizens in suits brought against the government. Empathy, not justice, ought to be the mission of the federal courts, and the redistribution of wealth should be their mantra.

In a Sept. 6, 2001, interview with Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ-FM, Mr. Obama noted that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren "never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society," and "to that extent as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical."

Every new federal judge has been required by federal law to take an oath of office in which he swears that he will "administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich." Mr. Obama's emphasis on empathy in essence requires the appointment of judges committed in advance to violating this oath. To the traditional view of justice as a blindfolded person weighing legal claims fairly on a scale, he wants to tear the blindfold off, so the judge can rule for the party he empathizes with most.

And with the Left's success in blocking Bush's appointments to the vacancies in the federal district and appellate courts, Obama will have ample grounds in which to plant judges who will decide cases on the basis of their political empathies rather than on what the law actually says.

I know so many, many people who went from supporting Mitt Romney to voting for Obama, a(n) (il)logic I cannot fathom. But I would be very interested in hearing someone out there defend our President on all of this.


Troy and Nancee said...

Enjoyable as always. Thanks for sharing. I will be interested to see if anyone can defend Obama. We just don't get it.

As for 17 Again, don't pay full price, but it is worth renting.

Tat said...

I agree with you on Obama's ridiculous judicial philosophy, as it is quoted here. The only explanation I can think of is that he was pandering to the crowd at the time (Planned Parenthood), which is not a valid excuse for intellectual folly.

Regarding the $$ our children will be paying because of Obama's policies, shouldn't at least some of that blame be laid at Bush's feet for the budget deficit that was created during his terms in office?

Alexandra said...

As for his ridiculous judicial philosophy, it would be bad enough if he were lying to please a crowd, but it is actually worse. He has said this sort of thing on multiple occassions and he backed it up by voting no on Roberts' confirmation. So no, this is real and this is what the judges he will apppoint will do.

As for fiscal irresponsibility, it is true that Bush was irresponsible. We were running deficits. No doubt about it and it drove me crazy. But Obama has taken this to levels unimagined previously. He has done it all on its own. It makes Bush look like a miser, which I am the first to admit he was not.

No, there is no room left to blame Bush for what Obama has done to America's treasury. Only people who don't want to know the truth will do that.

Jessica and Matt said...

I very much agree with the point that Obama is simply using the catch-phrase "empathy with the poor" as a front for "empathy with the liberal agenda". Across the board, Obama is full of similar twists and apparent contradictions. Not surprising for someone who claims the moral high ground on the humane treatment of suspected and known terrorists, yet advocates the legality of murdering innocent unborn babies.

Gina said...

I always like to read your thoughts and think you make good arguments. I am disappointed with Obama on many levels (and proud I didn't vote for him) and appreciate the comment that people just don't want to see the reality of him, because that is the truth. My only hope is that the pendulum will swing fiercely and there will be someone who can come in with real solutions once he completes his term (hopefully not terms).

Bill Smith said...

The wonderful thing about our Constitution is that it allows the people of America to decide what what our laws will be through the our elected officials. When judges ignore the words of the Constitution and render their decsions based on their own personal sense of "empathy" then the our whole system of government is threatened.
Liberals should just as concerned as conservatives. Suppose, for example, that someday the majority of people in every state enacted statutes which allowed abortions under all circumstances. And then suppose that five justices on the Supreme Court felt "empathy" for the fetus and ruled that a fetus is a "person" under the Constitution, thus invalidating all the statutes and making all abortions illgal. How many readers think that this particular "empathy" hypothetical example would appeal to President Obama and supporters of the "empathy" philosophy of interpreting the Constitution?
I believe that the majority of the American people decide what our laws should be and judges should make determinations based on the words of the Constitution, not their own personal notions of "empathy".

Alexandra said...

Dad, funny that you should write this, as I was about to comment using exactly the same example as an analogy.

Nana said...

"The truth is that the judge who looks outside the Constitution always looks inside himself and nowhere else."
-- Judge (should read 'Justice') Robert H. Bork

"The Constitution is not a living organism, it is a legal document."
--Justice A. Scalia

Sarah said...

Very true. His policies for selecting Judges will probably do more damage than anything else he does in office. Which probably means there will be an enormous amount of damage left in his wake. Thanks for your thoughts and the interesting article and excerpts.

Carrie said...

This was one of the main reasons that I just couldn't stomach voting for Obama.

Well said, Alexandra.

Nana said...

Regarding 'the rule of law':
Framer James Madison wrote in
Federalist No. 51
"In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

Ashley said...

I don't know what happened to your Mother's Day post but it was so beautiful--I laughed and cried and then read it out loud and was going to link to it. I loved it.

Nat said...

Hey, this is Carrie's husband Nat. (remember me from XC skiing way back when?) She's been telling me I'd enjoy your blog, so I thought I'd check it out and found out she was right.

The current political/economic climate has got me re-reading Atlas Shrugged, and just a few days after the empathy quote from Obama, I came across the following line: "Those who grant sympathy to guilt grant none to innocence."

Of course, empathy and sympathy aren't the same thing, but it's still a fitting point; and, while the context had nothing to do with jurisprudence, it highlights the old-fashioned idea that judges should be deciding cases on the merits of the arguments.

familia Bybaran said...

Hey there,

You know that we are different on this and I have been following all of this closely and would love to defend Obama (who was my choice since before the primaries). If you ever want to talk about all this (as well as our similar interests in books), I would love to. Maybe just to get a (strong) opinion from the other side that is not uninformed. I do love to hear your thoughts though even if I may see things differently.