Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Empathy and Justice

President Obama spent paragraphs in his introduction of appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor telling the Teleprompter how judges should follow the law and not their personal preferences. David Limbaugh was not impressed.

True to form, President Barack Obama... said he was doing one thing while doing the exact opposite. He articulated his criteria for the optimal nominee yet chose someone who falls squarely outside those criteria -- as best we can tell.

That's because, in her speeches and her actions as a judge, Sonia Sotomayor has demonstrated pretty clearly that she belongs to the "empathy" school of jurisprudence. Never mind the law, vote your heart.

Of course, the law has always recognized, in the words of a famous fictional woman lawyer, that the "pound of flesh" in a contract must always be leavened with the quality of mercy. That's because if you bite too hard on the letter of the contract, it will end up biting you back.

But we know what liberals mean by "empathy." They mean that they will put a thumb on the scales of justice to make sure that the result is correct. Sonia Sotomayor understands what it means. That's what the mandatory quote about a "wise Latina woman" is all about. It's OK to upend centuries of white male jurisprudence if it helps the poor and the weak in their struggle with an oppressive world.

If that were all, it wouldn't be so bad. But empathy leads quickly to injustice, as the New Haven firefighters case so conveniently demonstrates. After all, who deserves empathy there? The black firefighters that didn't come close in the promotion exam, or the dyslexic Italian American who studied night and day to pass the exam? Does race trump disability? No doubt the lawyers that prepared the case for the firefighters knew exactly what they were doing in setting up two liberal enthusiasms to fight each other.

I keep coming back to the same point. The progressive educated class has dominated the culture and the public square for the last century. In or out of office they have had the power to enforce their view of government and society upon America. After a while, however idealistic the revolution that brought it to power, a new elite becomes just another ruling class. It is not that they are bad people, although there are always bad applies in the barrel. It is just that an established ruling class becomes insensitive and unable to understand the injustices that they inflict upon the people they rule.

In a way, our liberal masters understand this. That is why President Obama is always saying one thing and doing another. As Rush Limbaugh puts it: liberals can't admit who they are. On this view the Obama campaign and presidency thus far have been masterpieces of misdirection. Yes, he's all for Hope and Change, but his policies mean more of the same Big Government.

In the Wall Street Journal today Bret Stephens invokes the South Park "Gnomes" to explain this. These gnomes are running around South Park episode in 1998 collecting underpants.

What's the big idea? The gnomes explain: "Phase One: Collect underpants. "Phase Two: ? "Phase Three: Profit."

That seems to be the way that the Obama administration works. The all important Phase Two always gets elided. How do we get to actually close Gitmo while keeping those high-value terrorists in custody? How do we lower costs in health care while providing universal coverage. And how do you do "empathy" on the Supreme Court without sacrificing justice?

Go ahead, Mr. President. This is your moment. What is your plan? You do have a plan, don't you?

The trouble is that President Obama really does have a plan. It is bigger government. It is more of the cruel, corrupt, unjust, wasteful, and deluded liberal administrative state.

Understandably, he can't tell us that because if he did, the American people would upchuck him immediately.

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