Obama Loses 'Empathy' Line After GOP Sullies Phrase

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2009 12:58 PM CDT
Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor smiles as President Barack Obama applauds.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – “Empathy” was a key part of President Obama’s vocabulary when he first started talking about his Supreme Court nominee, Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times, but the word has disappeared. “Conservatives have hijacked empathy and turned it into an epithet,” Stolberg writes. When introducing Sonia Sotomayor, Obama spoke in “long-winded phrases” that can’t “be reduced into a convenient buzzword for the opposition.”

Empathy—which Sen. Orrin Hatch called it “a code word for an activist judge”—goes hand in hand with “feelings,” which the Republican opposition worries Sotomayor might act upon. Chuck Grassley swore that the Senate Judiciary Committee would ensure that she applies “the law, not personal politics, feelings or preferences.” “In short,” Stolberg writes, “it is acceptable for Obama’s candidate to be an empathetic person, but not an empathetic judge.” (Read more President Obama stories.)