July 16, 2009

UW a haven for wild, empathetic liberals

Obama comes from the law academia environment that I'm very familiar with [she's a law professor at the University of Wisconsin] where that talk about "empathy" is what you hear all the time. It's very normal, it's "sophisticated," and I can understand how Obama has just been soaking in that. And then when he, as a former constitutional law professor, comes to us and starts to tell us about law, I can really understand how he thought he was saying something profound and meaningful.
Huh. I think I took just about every available constitutional law class and seminar at Marquette University (a Roman Catholic school) and never once did I hear anyone say anything about empathy for litigants, or for anything else, come to think of it.

(Although I do recall a crucifix hanging in a stairwell, which I've heard is an archetypal symbol of empathy, if not a command to practice it.)

Good thing I was never indoctrinated by law professors like Barack Obama was. It must take place during their secret kulturkampfs kaffeeklatsches, and then imparted subconsciously in code.

By the way, has anybody yet explained why anyone takes the famed blogger Ann Althouse at all seriously?

11 comments:

Seth said...

I can't even imagine anyone looking at President Obama's biography and honestly declaring he 'comes from the law academia environment,' considering he didn't publish any legal scholarship and repeatedly turned down tenure-track offers, let alone offering that as the most likely origin of
his comment
about the need for his nominee to connect in an empathetic manner with the less fortunate.

Then, again, I suppose a community organizer doesn't have any actual responsibilities, so it's understandable why someone would miss it.

John Foust said...

I believe I have mentioned Altmouse here before. And there's a video interview too.

Seth, if you have experience with the community organizer field, maybe you can explain if it's sometimes contractual and not as easy to quit as, say, a state governorship.

Terrence Berres said...

As always, thanks for linking.

In my post I noted a number of legal academics who posted on judicial empathy at ACSblog.

Marquette's Edward A. Fallone claimed to have countered the empathy issue in the op-ed you praised in your post titled Reading Helps.

illusory tenant said...

Thank you, and thanks for the reminder. I haven't had a chance to check out the ACS symposium yet.

Seth said...

Seth, if you have experience with the community organizer field,

No, just being sarcastic.

Terrence Berres said...

"if you have experience with the community organizer field"

Jerry Kellman recounts discussions of that experience with a fellow community organizer in Creation Myth.

"He [Obama] told Kellman that he feared community organizing would never allow him 'to make major changes in poverty or discrimination.' To do that, he said, 'you either had to be an elected official or be influential with elected officials.' ...

"And so, Obama told Kellman, he had decided to leave community organizing and go to law school. ..."

Seth said...

"He [Obama] told Kellman that he feared community organizing would never allow him 'to make major changes in poverty or discrimination.' To do that, he said, 'you either had to be an elected official or be influential with elected officials.' ...

"And so, Obama told Kellman, he had decided to leave community organizing and go to law school. ..."


Yes, President Obama's comment about the need for his nominee to connect in an empathetic manner with the less fortunate was rooted in convictions he held long before he ever attended law school, let alone worked as a constitutional law lecturer -- convictions that drove him into community organizing. Simply b/c Obama didn't find that organizing to be the most effective means for addressing those convictions isn't really the point. The point is that Althouse's shot from the hip that the conviction came from Obama's time in 'the law academia environment' wasn't even in the ballpark.

Terrence Berres said...

If, as he seems to, President Obama had the idea that his view of the role of empathy in judicial decision-making was widely accepted, Ms. Althouse points to the most likely place he would have gotten that impression.

Seth said...

Actually, Ms. Althouse is the one saying that the role of empathy in judicial decision-making is widely accepted. Of course, she's also trying to say that wide acceptance shouldn't count or is somehow less than authentic because it comes from 'academia' (as does she, ironically).

My point is that Obama's entire adult biography is littered with evidence -- including evidence you pointed out -- that demonstrates the convictions backing his statement were ones that he maintained and developed in life experiences spanning well beyond the legal academy -- community organizing, voter registration, non-profit work -- and in areas that could hardly be considered unauthentic or lacking in real-life value.

Terrence Berres said...

It's one thing to say that people with a background like the President's tend to share many policy views. It's another thing to say such people tend to think their views are the prevailing views in the public generally. I assume their experience would tell them the opposite.

The hearings indicated that empathy or heart deciding close cases is not widely accepted by the general public. You seem to be saying that the idea can be characterized as widely accepted if one focuses narrowly upon legal academia. That, though, would reinforce Ms. Althouse's point about the likely source of the President's mistaken impression that this would be a plus for a Supreme Court nominee.

Seth said...

"It's another thing to say such people tend to think their views are the prevailing views in the public generally."

I didn't say they were; I haven't seen polling data one way or the other, and I'm not sure how valuable an agree/disagree response would be, anyway, on such a complex and abstract issue. I certainly don't think the hearings are going to give you a good sense of public perception on that question.

But none of that is even the issue. The issue is the origin of Obama's statement, not whether he perceives it to be a popular position, either in the legal academy or the general public.