Wash. Post again advanced falsehood that Obama doesn't want justice committed to following law

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

Quoting a conservative lawyer criticizing President Obama for saying that he will be looking for potential judicial nominees who demonstrate "empathy," The Washington Post did not note the rest of Obama's statement: that he will seek a potential Supreme Court nominee "who is dedicated to the rule of law."

In a May 8 Washington Post article, reporter Dan Eggen advanced the falsehood that Obama said that he will seek a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter who demonstrates "empathy" and not a commitment to follow the law. In fact, Obama has said he will seek potential candidates who demonstrate both qualities. Eggen wrote that "[a]n early line of attack" for conservative groups "emerged last week when Obama told reporters that his eventual nominee would have, among other characteristics, a 'quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.' " Eggen then quoted Wendy Long, chief counsel of the Judicial Confirmation Network, saying, "What he means is he wants empathy for one side, and what's wrong with that is it is being partial instead of being impartial. ... A judge is supposed to have empathy for no one but simply to follow the law." But even though Eggen quoted Obama's May 1 citation of "empathy" as a desirable quality in a justice, Eggen omitted Obama's very next sentence, in which he said he would "seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role."

As Media Matters for America noted, in a May 6 Washington Post article, staff writers Scott Wilson and Robert Barnes did not note Obama's statements when they wrote that "[a]s White House press secretary Robert Gibbs put it, Obama is looking for 'somebody who understands how being a judge affects Americans' everyday lives.' Congressional conservatives have reacted anxiously to that qualification, fearing that it means a nominee who is more interested in making the law than in interpreting it."

From Obama's May 1 statement:

Now, the process of selecting someone to replace Justice Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as President. So I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.

I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes. I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time.

Moreover, several former Republican senators, including Strom Thurmond (SC), Al D'Amato (NY), and Mike DeWine (OH), have previously cited "compassion" as a qualification for judicial confirmation.

From the May 8 Washington Post article:

Conservative groups concede that they have little chance of derailing Obama's choice, barring a scandal. But Supreme Court nominations have long been a rallying point and a fundraising opportunity for interest groups, particularly on the right. And now, at a time of ideological drift among Republicans, a loose coalition of conservative organizations has begun mapping strategies.

The goal, they say, is to fire up supporters and shake up the debate in the Democratic-controlled Senate, in part as preparation for other court fights to come.

[...]

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who played a lead role in promoting the Roberts and Alito nominations, acknowledged that Republicans "have our work cut out for us," saying: "We have fewer senators. We have fewer staff. We have fewer resources, without the White House or the Department of Justice."

Nonetheless, conservatives say, they are pushing ahead with plans to use the Internet, cable television appearances and a limited amount of advertising to get their message out. An early line of attack emerged last week when Obama told reporters that his eventual nominee would have, among other characteristics, a "quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes."

Wendy Long, chief counsel of the Judicial Confirmation Network, a small Manassas-based group that has been active in conservative judicial battles, immediately pounced on the remark. "What he means is he wants empathy for one side, and what's wrong with that is it is being partial instead of being impartial," said Long, a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas. "A judge is supposed to have empathy for no one but simply to follow the law."

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments, The Judiciary
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
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