Not all politicians are schmucks. The first day of hearings on the Sonya Sotomayor nomination surely produced some inane comments, but at least one very bright moment as well. Senator Whitehouse's (D-RI) opening statement was both insightful, forceful and oh so reasonable at the same time. It's a shame that words like these are the exception that prove the rule. Whitehouse gave a great summary of what is meant by "empathy" in deciding cases:
The question for this hearing is: will you bring good judgment to that wide field? Will you understand, and care, how your decisions affect the lives of Americans? Will you use your broad discretion to advance the promises of liberty and justice made by the Constitution?How's that for a litmus test: "Will you ... advance the promises of liberty and justice made by the Constitution?" What if politicians asked themselves this before every vote, action, speech or comment? Sure, people can disagree about what advances liberty and justice and what doesn't, but just asking the question would enlighten the debate.
Whitehouse quoted from Jeffrey Toobin's New Yorker article on Justice Roberts:
In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff.When I first read that article, I thought that it had to be an exaggeration. I would like it to be a gross exaggeration, but I haven't heard anyone rebut it. If someone has, please tell me. What really strikes me is that Roberts is a Christian. Sure, he believes in Christ, but does he follow him? (Rhetorical)
Getting back on track, Whitehouse had some force of his own:
For all the talk of "modesty" and "restraint," the right wing Justices of the Court have a striking record of ignoring precedent, overturning congressional statutes, limiting constitutional protections, and discovering new constitutional rights: ...Which he goes on to list. Why is it that conventional wisdom has a right wing bias? Is it because we're a conservative country? (Okay, no more of those)
Keep up the good work, Senator Whitehouse.