Thomas Sowell
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It is one of the signs of our times that so many in the media are focusing on the life story of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States.

You might think that this was some kind of popularity contest, instead of a weighty decision about someone whose impact on the fundamental law of the nation will extend for decades after Barack Obama has come and gone.

Much is being made of the fact that Sonia Sotomayor had to struggle to rise in the world. But stop and think.

If you were going to have open heart surgery, would you want to be operated on by a surgeon who was chosen because he had to struggle to get where he is or by the best surgeon you could find-- even if he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and had every advantage that money and social position could offer?

If it were you who was going to be lying on that operating table with his heart cut open, you wouldn't give a tinker's damn about somebody's struggle or somebody else's privileges.

The Supreme Court of the United States is in effect operating on the heart of our nation-- the Constitution and the statutes and government policies that all of us must live under.

Barack Obama's repeated claim that a Supreme Court justice should have "empathy" with various groups has raised red flags that we ignore at our peril-- and at the peril of our children and grandchildren.

"Empathy" for particular groups can be reconciled with "equal justice under law"-- the motto over the entrance to the Supreme Court-- only with smooth words. But not in reality. President Obama used those smooth words in introducing Judge Sotomayor but words do not change realities.

Nothing demonstrates the fatal dangers from judicial "empathy" more than Judge Sotomayor's decision in a 2008 case involving firemen who took an exam for promotion. After the racial mix of those who passed that test turned out to be predominantly white, with only a few blacks and Hispanics, the results were thrown out.

When this action by the local civil service authorities was taken to court and eventually reached the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Sotomayor did not give the case even the courtesy of a spelling out of the issues. She backed those who threw out the test results. Apparently she didn't have "empathy" with those predominantly white males who had been cheated out of promotions they had earned.

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Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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