Letters to the Editor

Readers write about why Supreme Court justices should be empathetic, Obama's approach to the job of US president, and the importance of correctly attributing war crimes.

Obama is right – Supreme Court justices should have empathy

Regarding the May 1 editorial, "Obama's test of impartiality for Souter's successor": The subtitle of this editorial reads, "Justice must be blind, not partisan. The Supreme Court can't be another political battleground."

This is absurdly ironic in a time when politically vetted conservative justices are systematically dismantling longstanding constitutional rulings. The authors fail even to mention the very public and open campaign by Republican conservatives to pack the court with like-minded ideologues on questions like abortion, voting rights, and immigration.

The editorial goes on to claim, "Obama says he wants judges who have 'the heart, the empathy ... to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old.' Such goals are noble – for a politician. But that requirement butts up against the federal judicial oath. Judges must swear to 'administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.' "

Surely, one can see the absurd reasoning in this assertion. Our judges and Supreme Court justices are overwhelmingly from upper-class, privileged backgrounds. They understand the rich, but often not the poor.

Few judges or justices have experienced poverty, and I doubt any have been teenage unwed mothers. All can speak English fluently. None have been illegal aliens. None have felony convictions for smoking marijuana or stealing a candy bar. None have been institutionalized for psychosis. None, probably, have ever been homeless.

President Obama did not say he wanted to appoint judges from such broken backgrounds. He said he will appoint judges with empathy for those millions of us whose lives are unprivileged. Without that empathy, they cannot fulfill their federal oath to "do equal right to the poor."

John Henson
Austin, Texas

Obama will be a president in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt

In regard to the May 6 editorial, "The Obama doctrine: Charm enemies, arm-twist friends": President Barack Obama does indeed have the "fresh approach" mentioned in this editorial. It is too early to know what his accomplishments in foreign policy will actually be, but while considering that matter, it might be worthwhile for us to reflect on the record of the president whose second term ended 100 years ago.

By taking a look at Teddy Roosevelt, we can easily see a pattern emerging with the current president. Just as Mr. Roosevelt was fond of quoting the West African proverb, "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far," Obama has quickly moved to make that admonition part of his current game plan. His tactics are executing a strategy that is sure to equal Roosevelt's.

Obama's initiatives for global energy may someday rival the Panama Canal in importance. His reassertion of the Monroe Doctrine may accomplish the same good that Roosevelt did with his Corollary in 1904. Roosevelt's Nobel Peace Prize reflected his accomplishments as a negotiator between nations at war. There are countless opportunities for Obama to achieve comparable peace agreements around the globe.

Roosevelt had not quite as much to juggle on the domestic and economic fronts as Obama has today, but it is clearly evident that this president knows how to grasp and grapple with the needs of this more complex era.

David K. McClurkin
Beachwood, Ohio

Poland didn't kill Jews in death camps

Regarding the April 14 article, "In Demjanjuk's Ukrainian hometown, memories linger of an infamous son": In this article, author Graham Stack's inaccurate statement, "He zealously participated in mass killings of Jews in Ukraine as well as in Poland's Treblinka and Sobibor death camps," gives the distinct impression that Poland was responsible for these death camps.

In fact, Nazi Germany was wholly responsible for all of the death and concentration camps located in Poland. To misname these acres of death teeters on libel. The correct term is, "Nazi concentration camps located in Treblinka and Sobibor, Poland."

By not giving the Nazis ownership of their horrendous deeds Mr. Stack ignores the fate of millions of people, Poles included. Please have Stack apologize, in writing, to Polonia and to the memories of those millions of Poles who died in the Nazi concentration camps located in Poland. It is imperative that the media label these Nazi concentration camps correctly. To not do so spreads lies to the public.

Deborah Greenlee
Arlington, Texas

(Editor's note: The sentence in the story has been reworded to avoid the kind of misunderstanding that Ms. Greenlee warns against.)

The Monitor welcomes your letters. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must include your full name; your city, state, and country; and your telephone number. Any letter accepted may appear on our website, www.CSMonitor.com. E-mail letters to oped@csps.com. Or mail letters to Readers Write, 210 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.

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