May 10th, 2009
01:14 PM ET
5 years ago

Reliable Sources: Obama's search for 'empathy'

Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein weighed in Sunday on the President's announcement that he is search for a Supreme Court justice who has empathy for people's hopes and struggles.
Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein weighed in Sunday on the President's announcement that he is search for a Supreme Court justice who has empathy for people's hopes and struggles.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The pundits on cable were hot and bothered by one of President Obama’s requirements for a Supreme Court Justice.

“I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes,” Obama said last week at a White House press briefing.

Washington Times columnist Amanda Carpenter explained conservatives’ concern about the “empathy” issue on Reliable Sources with Howard Kurtz Sunday morning. Several conservatives on cable, radio and in print argued that “empathy” is a code word for “liberal.” On Fox News, Sean Hannity said that Democrats “want the courts to take over and engage in social engineering.”

"Empathy, it's an emotive term. I mean, Barack Obama is calling for a judge who will take their emotions into account when making a judicial decision," Carpenter told Howard Kurtz.

"This is hilarious," TIME Magazine’s Joe Klein said in response. "This is 'Exhibit A' of what I was just talking about. The Republicans, when they hit the word 'empathy,' are being hateful and ugly."


Filed under: State of the Union • Supreme Court
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Jackson

    Darth Cheney strikes again. As an independent minded democrat I would welcome Colin Powell to the party.

    May 10, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  2. Alex

    true that, republicans only care about money and themselves. Of course they would hate the idea of empathy, duh.

    May 10, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  3. Sue - OH

    Joe Klein. Thank you,. Well said.

    Republicans are parsing words and just spewing out their HATE. Why would any sane person subject themselves to these people? The GOP isn't disappearing; they are throwing people off the bus left and right.

    May 10, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  4. darko

    interpreting the constitution (which is spelled out in very plain english) to our laws has little room for empathy. To say that the past and current judges share no 'empathy' is insulting.

    For someone who studied constitutional law, Obama hasn't got a clue. Judges #1 rule is impartiality.... you can't have it both ways.

    This is Obama's justification for nominating an activist... and he's using 'populist speak' to keep the public outcry down.

    May 10, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  5. gary davis Harbor Oregon

    if the republican snooties don't start reaching across the the table and begin to use their brain and not their ass . the party will be gone .

    listening to this week with george he speaks to John McCain
    John is still trying to run for President ..come on John wake up.

    you had Sarah and her idiot husband and they are still hanging around your neck and the party...

    May 10, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  6. Georgia Gal

    Well I'd want them to be empathic too. Is there something wrong with that?? I'm about convinced that all Republicans are just morons.

    May 10, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  7. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Republicans need to show some empathy instead of being just down right hateful and ugly. You'd think they would have learned something after the election but remain on the same old train track of collison.

    May 10, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  8. Says Cession

    Of course Obama wants empathy...unless the person has empathy for babies in the womb, christians, victims of crime, future taxpayers...come to think of it,...what does empathy mean to this clown?

    May 10, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  9. js007

    This just shows how heartless and out of touch conservatives have become. What I've never been able to understand is what "Christians" are doing as part of the right wing coalition? Jesus was all about helping others and compassion, and by that he did not mean giving tax cuts to Billionaires.

    May 10, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  10. MELODY

    No politician, supreme court justice or leader of a country should make laws or decisions through religious beliefs, personal beliefs, or personal opinions. Religious doctrine belongs in places of worship. Governing nations of many religions, races, and cultures, judges have to follow the law not interperate it through thier beliefs. Having empathy ( understanding ) for "all" people no matter what income level is a must. I am a christian. I also believe Jesus didn't seek to rule over people, didn't demand and force people to live as he did, he didn't speak to them to make them feel less than he, he didn't make them feel unworthy, and most importantly he didn't teach that "we" seek power over others. Nations ruled by one religion have fought wars, upreising, and commited genocides over religion. This is why people all over the world see each other as ememies and are separate. Jesus taught unity and brought people of many religions and cultures together.

    May 10, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  11. Proper Jurisprudence

    Empathy should be an irrelevant quality in a Supreme Court Justice where instances of judicial review are concerned. Justices should be impartial and look to the principles codified in the Constitution when arriving at just decisions and outcomes, not their emotions.

    Constitutional interpretation is not by default a happy/feel-good profession. It can be, but only if the Constitution deems it so.

    May 10, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  12. 0nce upon a horse

    EMPATHY is a word that most far right conservatives neither have nor know the meaning of. I do have some friends that tend to lead to the right and one of our biggest differences is that they have no empathy towards anybody, seem to care less what a person is going through as long as it's not a loved one or themselves. And they just can't seem to get a grasp on why it upsets me that they are that way. Must be part of the conservative way of thinking so I am not shocked that when President Obama claimed that he was looking for a candidate with empathy that the GOP would take him to task on it.

    May 10, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. OReally

    So............I guess we can eliminate any need for empathy when considering criminal charges against those involved in the rationalization of torture as defined by US and International laws? The law is the law, right?

    May 10, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  14. xargaw

    Empathy is about being human and understanding how your decisions impact others. That is essential to being in a leadership position such as a judge. Empathy is an integral part of being a mature person. All this garbage talk is just the GOP and the media making hay over nothing. The GOP is looking for anything they can spin negatively and media is falling for it to fill air time. Both display a lack of intelligence insulting their listeners.

    May 10, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  15. Independent

    Don't you just love it, the Fox people can read minds now, what a JOKE they all are....

    Gee, Rove saying they were careful who they picked, I wonder if his memory has taken a lapse, does the name "Harriett Myers" come to mind??????????

    May 10, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  16. I laugh at Limbaugh daily

    It was ok for them to lie and call themselves Compassionate Conservatives.An oxymoron if ever there was one,haha.

    May 10, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  17. IMHO

    The GOP is currently being lead by people totally devoid of human empathy and consideration – Limbaugh, Hannity, Palin, Cheney – who only care about their own political gain, regardless of what it does to others or our country.

    No wonder they're bothered by the word, "empathy" – they don't know what it means!

    May 10, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  18. Larry

    I thought the people in our country needs and wants someone that knows and follows the laws of our country,not an emotional view point:

    Noun 1. empathyempathy – understanding and entering into another's feelings
    fellow feeling, sympathy – sharing the feelings of others (especially feelings of sorrow or anguish)

    This is the opposite of what we want !!!!

    May 10, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  19. Skeeve

    Nah, republicans prefer the word "compassion" like in "compassionate conservatism :). Usually it means that the conservatism is compassionate to those who are conservative and the more conservative you are the more compassionate it gets.

    May 10, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  20. JonDie

    Of course, "conservatives" hate empathy in general since conservatives only empathize with the tiny rich and powerful minority they serve.

    May 10, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  21. Mel of Alexandria

    The verdict is in the issue.The Republicans did not get it and so they do not have it. That explains their inhumanity and disconnection from what the average person is enduring.

    May 10, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  22. Donna from Colorado Springs

    Conservative Republicans don't understand what the word empathy means because they have none of it in their narrow little world! Empathry is a code word for liberal? Give me a break! Sean Hannity saying something intelligent? That will never happen either! Why are they so afraid of someone understanding the feelings of another human being? Because they

    May 10, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  23. We truely Love Sarah

    "This is hilarious," TIME Magazine’s Joe Klein said in response. "This is 'Exhibit A' of what I was just talking about. The Republicans, when they hit the word 'empathy,' are being hateful and ugly."

    Can Joe Klein be more correct?

    Strange how the party for America tries everything it can to stop helping Americans!

    May 10, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  24. wishing

    Did Solomon have empathy when he suggested that the child in the case before him be cut in half?

    God help us if our legal system has no empathy. Even within the legal system, there is some degree of discretion. Where there is room for discretion, err on the side of humanity. That's all most Americans want. That is why we are all, ALL, innocent until proven guilty.

    May 10, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  25. pam Eugene OR

    The President will pick someone like mined and he has every right to do that. Why on earth would he select a person who identifies with the far right extremest view. Bush picked like minded people and President Obama will do the same. Stop complaining Repugs he has not even given a name yet. You cry wolf way too often.

    May 10, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
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