It’s painful, during the Sotomayor hearings, to watch the Republicans put her down, primarily for what they call being an “activist” judge. As far as I can tell, activism for a judge means allowing one’s feelings, opinions, and personal biases to influence one’s judicial opinions.
As a journalist I’ve heard this crap all my life—that we should never ever allow our opinions to creep like a fungus into purely objective reportage. This line of thinking has abated somewhat, starting in the 60s with what they called The New Journalism; by now it’s mostly taken for granted that everyone’s got an agenda, and that it would be almost inhuman to entirely erase personal bias, i.e., it can’t be done.
I don’t mean to trivialize judicial work by comparing it to writing that includes, in my case, content such as pornography and satire. But we all know it’s human nature to insert one’s own experiences and beliefs into whatever one happens to be doing, whether it’s writing about sex or deciding if someone’s been denied their constitutional rights. The Republican senators—Charles Grassly, Jeff Sessions, Orin Hatch, and half a dozen others—who claim to be worried about activist judges are either lying through their teeth or in denial of reality.
Democrats are countering by pointing out that the current Chief Justice, John Roberts, consistently votes according to his personal/political agenda. IMHO, they ought to bring in a panel of psychologists to testify to the impossibility of objective judicial behavior.
Everyone knows Sonia Sotomayor is going to be approved—but this trial by fire is a Congressional ritual. On Twitter, several people tweeted that they could never go through this process without a meltdown. Ditto over here. I feel terrible for the woman; I keep waiting for her to burst into tears, even though I know she’s been thoroughly prepped for this.
A visitor from another planet would look at this ritual and conclude that Earthlings are sadomasochists. Hell, I live on this planet, and that’s my conclusion.