Charles Grassley is an Asshat, and other things you already knew

From last night’s All Things Considered, wherein Robert Siegel tried to kill me by interviewing Chuck Grassley on Sotomayor:

Grassley:…[U]nder our system of checks and balances system of government it’s very important that judges judge, in other words interpret law, and that legislators make law.

Siegel:But this is what Justice Samuel Alito said at his confirmation hearing, before the very committee–he said, and I quote, ‘When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender, and I do take that into account.’By your standard, that would be disqualifying.He should have said instead, ‘My background, my family counts for nothing.’

Grassley:Uh, that’s absolutely right, because I expect, a person who’s a judge to look at the four corners of the law, and make decisions based upon what that law says.Now, if it isn’t clear, then of course they got a right to go beyond just the words of the law, to court debate and to other courts and to the history behind the bill.But here’s, I think we’re–

Siegel:But you didn’t vote against Justice Alito’s confirmation.

Grassley:No, I didn’t.And uh, let’s put it this way–she was very positive, in saying today that fidelity for the law is going to be her benchmark.The extent to which she doesn’t distract from that over the next three days is going to help her standing with members of the committee, particularly Republican members of the committee.

Later, in an exchange about Stevens:

Siegel:Let me tell you something about Stevens.I want to ask you a question about that justice in particular and about this notion of empathy.His father, as you may know, was wrongly convicted of embezzlement when Stevens was a young man, and then he was vindicated.Wouldn’t an experience like that make a person who sits on the bench think differently about the fallibility of the criminal justice system than another judge might?Don’t our individual experiences in some way color the way we would answer a supposedly objective question?

Grassley:If I were Justice Stevens, I wouldn’t even have to use the example of my own father.All I’d have to do is use an example of when justice has not been given to an individual that deserves justice.And that happens in our society.And when there’s an injustice, that ought to be corrected. [snip] Justice Stevens could render that sort of justice regardless of whether his dad had a bad experience or not.

Okay, so Robert Siegel gets a cookie for at least posing a difficult pair of questions to Grassley. Too bad he let him off the hook. (I nearly drove off the road when I heard the “No, I didn’t vote against Alito, and let me quickly change the subject” bit. Grrrr.)

But what really prompted me to write this post is that the whole empathy/objectivity thing is making me crazy. I do a introductory thing in all my classes about historians and how we study history. The objectivity debate has been a contentious one in history circles for years. I tell my students that I’m from the wussy middle in the debate. While I believe that objectivity should be a goal, we need to recognize that it is, because of human nature, a completely unattainable goal. You can’t take the historian out of the equation when dealing with the interpretation of history–that’s why we have 8 million books about Napoleon and Caesar and the Civil War and everything else. If there were such a thing as truly objective history, there’s just be one book about each subject.

The same is true in the judicial system, at least to a certain extent. While I’d like to think judges would do their best to be objective, I know they can’t–they’re human (except for Scalia. And Thomas.). They’re going to each bring their own personal interpretation of the letter and spirit of any given law to their bench. So I find the whole empathy debate really stupid. We are all, as Siegel pointed out, and Grassley missed, shaped by our experiences. We can’t avoid it.

Frankly, I find Sotomayor’s comments about her background informing her decisionmaking on the bench refreshingly honest. I’d much rather have a person on the Supreme Court who recognizes where her biases may come in to play (sometimes appropriately) and is up front about that than somebody who is either in denial or lying.

12 thoughts on “Charles Grassley is an Asshat, and other things you already knew

  1. pansypoo says:

    grassley has become a partisan hack. i used to think he was ok. i guess he has been fuxed.

  2. MapleStreet says:

    Like Pansy says. I live next to the Iowa state line (which means I get BOTH the political ads for my state and the political ads from Iowa – YEUCH!)
    I’ve seen him go from somewhat reasonable to being extremely rigid and close-minded.

  3. virgotex says:

    My impression of Grassley is that he *seems* to be one of the few in congress who actually is guided by his own internal belief system, not just power grabbing. In other words, a real idealogue. Hence the rigidity and closemindedness.
    FYI, I think he’s first up after the lunch break today.

  4. Sandman says:

    I turned that crap off as soon as I heard who they were interviewing. Why on earth do they keep interviewing representatives of the conservretard right as if their relevant in any way? They’re less than 30% of the electorate–who cares what they think? No matter what the issue, they always interview a neocon–drives me crazy. They never interviewed a liberal when Bush was setting the nation on fire.

  5. darrelplant says:

    What these dopes don’t seem to understand is that empathy isn’t just something people have for the poor and oppressed. It’s just as possible to have empathy for the rich and business-like. It’s even possible for one person to have empathy for both sides, which is what I think Sotomayor’s real point is, not that she only sides with the former group.
    Of course, any empathy for the oppressed is anathema for the GOP.

  6. abo gato says:

    Well, isn’t Roberts really an affirmative action choice for his slot as Chief? I mean, the only reason he got that job is because he is white, male, completely a whore for big business and completely against the little person in every decision he makes. If he were not all those things he never would have been put into the position he is.
    The dick yesterday who said that empathy for one party was always discrimination against the other party really has pissed me off too. The only empathy Roberts, Scalia and Thomas have is for their overlord masters.

  7. Sandman says:

    This isn’t about Grassley, but I just heard something on NPR–Alabama Sen. Jeff Session. I’ve never seen him, but I just heard his voice, and he sounds like someone who would enjoy playing banjo on the front porch shortly after fucking Ned Beatty in the ass. Go figure.

  8. BuggyQ says:

    Actually, Sandman, I’d peg him more in the role of poor substitute when the Ned Beattys don’t come around.
    It’s really depressing to me that this is the best the GOP has to offer. And I don’t mean that snarkily. It used to be that you could look for at least some sort of substance in these kinds of hearings, but all it has been on the Republican side is a bunch of Estrada fellating and endless repackagings of the same tired protests about the “wise Latina” comment.
    I mean, has anybody asked a decent question about corporate law or eminent domain or the originalist vs. modernist debate? (Granted, I’ve only been dipping in and out, but what I’ve seen has been thin gruel.)

  9. Aitch says:

    If Sen Grassley really thinks that individual differences are so unimportant, perhaps we don’t need any senators like him from Iowa (or Nebraska, or Montana, or Utah…) Let’s just go with a national vote for 100 legislating senators. I’m sure the good farmers of the great state of Iowa will love to have nice folks from New York and California responsible for representing them in D.C. They sure don’t need anyone with parochial biases speaking for them.
    Of course, Iowa already elected Chuckie G so perhaps they are not the best examples…

  10. pansypoo says:

    the gnew must show they ain’t liberal. tho they ain’t anyways.

  11. MarcD says:

    As far as Sessions is concerned, consider this: he grew up in Selma, Alabama. He was a member of the College Republicans in 1969 (which means hard core conservative) and his full name is “Jefferson Beauregard Session III.”
    Gee, I am sure his background doesn’t play into his asshatery at all.
    Two articles I would recommend (I don’t have links right now, sorry) is the Truthdig piece by Eugene Robinson on why the White Male is considered neutral and all other demographics are “biased”, and the Andrew Pincus live blog over at TPM, particularly the part where he discusses the difference between “experience” and “bias”.
    Many Federal judges are prosecutors, and their experience as prosecutors affects how they proceed with criminal cases. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are biased against the accused or convicted, but having experienced the criminal justice system, they probably have a more informed opinion on proceedings than someone who does not. He also illustrates this with a contrast between Scalia and Stevens in a recent case and how they wrote their opinions.

  12. The Other Sarah says:

    Far as I’m concerned, Kyl, Grassley, Sessions & their ilk can’t become extinct fast enough.
    Damn straight we need a different metric on the United States Supreme Court. Pisses me the *fuck* off that we’re going to have six Catholics on that bench, ’cause I figure it means Roe V. Wade and anything else regarding a woman’s right to do anything except be a cross between a breeding sow and a house slave is done.
    “Settled law,” “stare decisis,” “deference to precedent” and all.
    The RATS court will screw the country over for the next thirty years.
    I blame Obama.

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