Conservatives have curiously decided that one of the best ways to battle Obama's first Supreme Court nominee is by declaring a war on empathy. When he described his criteria for selecting a replacement for Justice David Souter, Obama said
, "I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook, it is also about how are laws effect the daily realities of peoples lives.... I view that quality of empathy
, of understanding and identifying with peoples' hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes."
This is, apparently, a bridge too far for conservatives, and, at least in the minds of some on the right, political gold. But while they continue to mock the idea--and while the media by and large passes their objections along uncritically--they seem to have forgotten that one conservative Justice was also sold to the public
as a man of great empathy.
"I have followed this man's career for some time," said President George H.W. Bush of Clarence Thomas in July 1991. "He is a delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor."
The Thomas confirmations ultimately became the stuff of legend--but not because Democrats decided to go all in on attacking Thomas' "empathy."