You’ve Gotta Have Heart? How Obama Chooses Judges

Deal W. Hudson
August 10, 2008

Evoking the power of the human heart is the daily bread of American pop culture. It rarely raises an eyebrow. But the use of “heart” by Barack Obama to describe his criteria for picking judges is troubling.

Speaking to Planned Parenthood just over a year ago, Obama said:

We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom; the empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.

Certainly, that empathy is desirable for anyone, simply as a human being. But what makes it a desirable quality for a judge or a Supreme Court justice? The phrase “sober as a judge” is a colloquialism for a reason. The senator implies that there’s something missing in the Constitution and our law that must be supplied by the heart – in other words, the empathy or caring of the judge. For him, the judge without “heart” cannot justly rule on cases about those who are gay, African-American, disabled, or “old” (whatever that means).

It’s particularly worrisome that Obama’s insistence on empathetic judges was aimed at the Supreme Court for upholding the ban on partial-birth abortion. During this horrific procedure, a doctor inserts scissors into a baby’s skull and suctions out the brain just before he or she fully emerges from the mother.

An empathetic judge, according to Obama, would have allowed doctors to continue this gruesome procedure. A judge with “heart,” presumably, would find the Born Alive-Infant Defined bill unconstitutional, allowing babies to die in hospitals without medical attention – surely the exact opposite of what most people mean when they use the word.

UCLA law professor Stephen Bainbridge describes Obama’s comment as an example of “how far left-liberalism has strayed from the rule of law.” Bainbridge reiterates the view that impartiality – not empathetic solidarity – is what makes a judge what he should be: a neutral arbiter.

For Obama, the “first postmodern candidate” for president, there is no such thing as neutrality before the law. All values, and all judgments based upon those values are the product of a struggle between groups as defined by race, class, and gender. The decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the ban on partial-birth abortion was wrong, according to Obama, because the justices ignored the perspective of women.

It seems that Obama believes that the law is about taking sides before you decide. As Professor Bainbridge puts it, “Settling upon a preferred outcome, without resort to the law, because it favors one group or another ought to be foreign to the judicial role.”

Obama’s support of gay marriage provides a perfect example of the problem. In his letter to San Francisco’s Alice B. Toklas Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Democratic Club, Obama said he supported repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, passing the hate crimes bill, and opposed “the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution.” He described LGBT rights as a “core issue” about “who we are as Americans.”

A President Obama will be nominating at least one Supreme Court justice, probably more. With a Congress very likely to be dominated by the Democratic Party, an Obama administration will be positioned to reshape laws and policies according to this postmodern vision.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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