The new 'empathy' mongers, same old liberals

Karl Rove:

Both President Barack Obama and Republicans get something they want from the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor.

Mr. Obama said he wanted to replace Justice David Souter with someone who had "empathy" and who'd temper the court's decisions with a concern for the downtrodden, the powerless and the voiceless.

"Empathy" is the latest code word for liberal activism, for treating the Constitution as malleable clay to be kneaded and molded in whatever form justices want. It represents an expansive view of the judiciary in which courts create policy that couldn't pass the legislative branch or, if it did, would generate voter backlash.

There is a certain irony in a president who routinely praises America's commitment to "the rule of law" but who picks Supreme Court nominees for their readiness to discard the rule of law whenever emotion moves them.

Mr. Obama's pick also allows him to placate Hispanic groups who'd complained of his failure to appoint more high profile Latinos to his administration. After the Democratic share of the Hispanic vote increased to 67% in 2008 from 53% in 2004, Latino groups felt they were due more cabinet and White House posts.

Mr. Obama also hopes to score political points as GOP senators oppose a Latina. Being able to jam opponents is a favorite Chicago political pastime. Besides, the president has been reluctant to make comprehensive immigration reform an issue, so a high-profile Latina appointment buys him time.

The Sotomayor nomination also provides Republicans with some advantages. They can stress their support for judges who strictly interpret the Constitution and apply the law as written. A majority of the public is with the GOP on opposing liberal activist judges. There is something in our political DNA that wants impartial umpires who apply the rules, regardless of who thereby wins or loses.

Mr. Obama understands the danger of heralding Judge Sotomayor as the liberal activist she is, so his spinners are intent on selling her as a moderate. The problem is that she described herself as liberal before becoming a judge, and fair-minded observers find her on the left of the federal bench.


He also shoot down the suggestion that opposing a Hispanic will have political costs for Republicans, using the example of Miguel Estrada who was abused by the Democrats who blocked his nomination. There also seems to be a growing consensus among conservatives that the way to frame this debate is over the damage than can be done by a liberal judiciary legislating from the bench.


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