Supreme Court Nominations

Forget Empathy. Obama Wants Court Pick Who Understands ‘Ordinary Americans’

Last year, President Obama insisted that he wanted a U.S. Supreme Court nominee with empathy. This year, he wants someone who respects “the voices of ordinary Americans.”

Obama apparently gave up the “empathy” goal after the word became “radioactive,” the New York Times reports. Critics thought empathy meant putting aside the law’s requirements and ruling based on the desired outcome. The criticism of “empathy” was so pronounced that last week, reporters “could not bait White House press secretary Robert Gibbs into even saying the word,” the Washington Post reports.

The Post notes Obama’s pledge to find a justice who understands how the law affects ordinary Americans, but says none of the three rumored front-runners appear to fulfill the requirement. Those three—Solicitor General Elena Kagan and federal appeals judges Merrick Garland and Diane Wood—all have similar backgrounds.

None have Sonia Sotomayor’s “projects-to-Princeton story,” the newspaper says. All clerked for liberal Supreme Court Justices and all worked in the Justice Department.

Related coverage: “Granholm Among Those Who Support a Court Pick Outside ‘Judicial Monastery’ ”

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