ATG Inbox: Acting Is For Actors

Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts reacts during closing remarks by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) on the third day of confirmation hearings September 14, 2005 in Washington, D.C. Brownback aked Robers about his view on Article II, Sectoion 2 of the Constitutions which some conservatives argue allows Congress to limit issues that are subject to review. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images GETTY IMAGES/Win McNamee

Like to read other people's mail? Well, have at it. The Against the Grain inbox is open for your perusal. And by the way, this is not a blog.

Phony Baloney Political Empathy

Many readers agreed with my tirade against phony-baloney, I-feel-your-pain political theater. Others, however, said it wasn't phony and that the ability to empathize is an important part of politics.

Ah, Mr. Myers! To be able to look into people's hearts and judge them in the name of wishy-washy politics!

I am a Californian. Specifically, I am a 49-year-old now homeless Californian and I must say that I often find my Senator Dianne Feinstein not voting the way I'd like, or wondering if she really empathizes with me on issues, which she often seems to wait an agonizingly long time on before coming to a decision. But I am convinced that not only was her vote on Roberts correct, but her critique was to the point, and genuinely heartfelt; especially towards all of us who are poor, or lettuce pickers, or women raped by their relatives; and who are not highly paid lawyers, Senators — or media commentators.

I look forward to more heartfelt votes like this one from her.

My only wish is that all Senators with a conscience will now vote like she has on this disingenuous Roberts: a man who has the honesty to slam us with his convictions in memos and decisions, but not the heart, nor courage, to defend them when asked in person. What kind of phoniness is this!
David Busch, Santa Monica, CA

I agree with your article. In my understanding, the Supreme Court's job is to interpret the law as it applies to a specific case. This should have nothing to do with a judge's life experiences. In fact, we would hope one's life experience never is used in this type of decision making, for that would be biased and not arbitrary as it should be. Ms. Feinstein, in her position as a senator, is in a completely different situation. She and her associates should, and must have, a keen awareness of what is happening to the people of her state and their life experiences. The real concern here is that she doesn't seem to realize the difference between the functionalities of the branches of government. I don't know who Cohen is, but he has the same problem. Actually it seems like the entire country is suffering from a lack of understanding of how the government was designed to work.
Stephanie Risvold, Lake Forest, CA

Well said Dick. You would think that the politicians would know by now that the electorate know their tricks and don't like to be played the fool. As you pointed out, it doesn't matter which political party you belong to, the game book is virtually the same. But with pathetic news media cameras and microphones in their faces begging them for this type of behavior, we keep getting this drivel dealt to us. We want honest and legitimate thoughts and opinions about the issues as well as real work from them, not tap dances and photo-ops.
Ray Thatcher

I normally don't like your articles but I liked your article on the phony sensitivity our leaders are supposed to display. I get sick of all of this sensitivity, especially on the news. I would prefer a robot reading the news to me than these broadcasters. I just want the facts, not their opinions, not their sentiment. That is one of the reasons I prefer the web for news. I vote Republican but I find it difficult to stomach Fox News (except for Britt Hume and Krauthammer).
Steve Koch

Dick Meyer's Phony Baloney Political Empathy article was excellent. His use of the word narcissism to characterize Feinstein's questioning of J. Roberts is highly accurate. It also applies to much more. Our postmodern consumption and comfort-based society is drenched with narcissism. Imagery, it seems, has become more important in presidential and political elections rather than real, bona fide qualifications and intelligence that can be applied to solve actual problems.

In a perfect world the United States will embark on creating rigorous and continuous tests of Competence for Office before any person can enter political campaigns or remain an elected official.
Andrew Yost, Albany, OR

Once again, you astound me. How about this scenario? Public acknowledgement on the part of Roberts, Bush and perhaps even Feinstein herself that they do not have the life experience of lettuce farmers or poor urban dwellers. Not "I feel your pain," but perhaps "Let me hear and see your pain," and set aside time to explore the issues that face the entirety of the population. I consider this an essential ability of a Supreme Court Justice-to make educated judicial decisions that most certainly do affect all of us and not just the affluent.
Virginia Kingsley

Dick Meyer was spot on in his 'Jumping Through The Hoops' piece in today's on-line edition of CBSNews.com. How refreshing that the phony empathy emitted by Diane Feinstein and Richard Cohen regarding Judge Roberts and then President Bush in the aftermath of the hurricanes was called for what it is. Baloney.

The political culture in this country is quickly becoming a theater of the absurd regardless of which party you support. Displaying and emoting, especially empathy, should be left to the truly capable ass kissers of our society. Actors.
Scott Peters
  • Dick Meyer

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