Today at 9:30 am ET, Sonia Sotomayor returns to the Senate Judiciary Committee to continue the confirmation hearings for her nomination to the Supreme Court. Sotomayor herself will finish today, followed by witnesses to testify for and against her appointment to the Supreme Court, including my friend Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life:
Sotomayor’s confirmation is a foregone conclusion, but that doesn’t mean that the Republicans haven’t been effective in their questioning of the nominee — and in painting Barack Obama as a radical activist on judicial philosophy. Sotomayor threw Obama’s empathy standard under the bus in an attempt to save herself, James Taranto concludes at the Wall Street Journal:
It’s easy enough to explain away Sotomayor’s repudiation of Obama’s judicial philosophy as a nominee’s saying what she must in order to ease her confirmation. It would be politically unwise, to say the least, for Sotomayor to say, “When deciding a case, I follow my heart.”
This explanation, however, is incomplete. You would expect someone who managed to get elected president to be at least as politically savvy as someone who’s spent the past 17 years on the bench. Why did Obama say he wanted judges with empathy–a statement so embarrassing that his own nominee was forced to repudiate it? …
Empathy denotes an awareness and understanding of the feelings and experiences of others. But because it has become an intellectual conceit, its connotations are the opposite. When people say that they have or value “empathy,” they end up conveying an ivory-tower detachment or disdain.
In Obama’s case, the paradox is compounded. By saying he wants judges with “empathy,” he demonstrates his lack of awareness of the actual experience of being a judge–that is, of serving in a role that requires one to adopt an attitude of detachment from the parties affected by one’s decisions.
If the GOP can drive that point home in these hearings — and they’ve managed to get Sotomayor herself to agree with them on it — then they’ve had as much success as they can get with only 40 members in the Senate Republican caucus.