From NBC's Abby Livingston and Mark Murray
Much is being made of Obama's line on the campaign trail that he'd want his Supreme Court nominees to have "empathy." Here is the full context of those remarks to Planned Parenthood on July 17, 2007:
I also think it's important to understand that there is nothing wrong in voting against [judicial] nominees who don't appear to share a broader vision of what the constitution is about. I think the Constitution can be interpreted in so many ways. And one way is a cramped and narrow way in which the Constitution and the courts essentially become the rubber stamps of the powerful in society.
And then there's another vision of the court that says that the courts are the refuge of the powerless, because oftentimes they may lose in the democratic back-and-forth. They may be locked out and prevented from fully participating in the democratic process.
That's one of the reasons that I opposed Alito as well as Justice Roberts. When Roberts came up, and everybody was saying, 'You know, he's very smart and he seems like a very decent man, and he loves his wife and [laughter] you know he's good to his dogs. He's so well qualified.' I said, 'Look, that's absolutely true, and in most Supreme Court dec -- in the overwhelming number of Supreme Court decisions, that's enough. Good intellect. You read the statute. You look at the case law, and most of the time the law is pretty clear -- 95% of the time.
Justice Ginsburg, Justice Thomas, Justice Scalia -- they're all gonna agree on the outcome. But it's those 5% of the cases that really count. And in those 5% of the cases what you got to look at it is: What is in the justice's heart? What's their broader vision of what America should be?
You know, Justice Roberts said he saw himself just as an umpire. But the issues that come before the court are not sport. They're life and death. And we need somebody who's got the heart to recogni-- the empathy to recognize what it's like to be a young, teenaged 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.