Empathy for the Devil

05/25/2011 01:20 pm ET

Last week, President Obama said he wanted to replace Justice Souter with another judge who feels empathy, and since then our friends in the crankosphere have been arguing that empathy is bad.

This is justice we're talking about. And it's a slippery slope from empathy to mercy.

I can't imagine how it feels to be against empathy. I try to imagine feeling the way a person without feelings feels, but that itself is an empathetic act, so I'm right back where I started.

Here's their point, though: The Constitution must be interpreted impartially and without emotion, and Laura Ingraham is so purple with rage that you can't get that through your thick skull.

Of course, there are all sorts of good reasons why law is best administered by sociopaths, but my favorite came out today, from talk radio's Michael Medved:

Because the Bible Says So.

Or, as Medved entitles his exegesis:

Obama Should Listen to Leviticus: Don't Confuse Justice and Charity

Now, Michael Medved interprets the Pentateuch like dogs sew. He's, well, he's an idiot. But here's the gist of it:

The core mistake of liberalism involves the confusion of charity and justice ... Leviticus 19:15 declares: "You shall not commit a perversion of justice; you shall not favor the poor and you shall not honor the great; with righteousness shall you judge your fellow." ... The truth is that the Bible - both Old and New Testament--views compassion as a personal obligation rather than a public priority for governmental or judicial policy ... [Obama] specifically indicated he wanted a judge with a "heart" for the poor and downtrodden, and who would concentrate on their specific interests and needs--in other words, precisely the sort of jurist prohibited by Leviticus.

Medved goes on to cite some definitions of Hebrew words he agrees with and dismiss some definitions he doesn't. A few he just makes up himself. Then he randomly elides between what Yahweh wants from a person and what he expects from a state, and pretty soon you're off the deep end, where what really made Moses mad was quotas and the abomination of desolation is the inheritance tax.

If Michael Medved was lecturing on your cruise ship you'd throw yourself into the prop wash.

Two things, though:

Leviticus is beautiful:

Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God. Lv 19:10

(Which certainly sounds like charity.)

And Leviticus is insane:

And whoever lies carnally with a woman, that is a female slave, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free. - Lv 19:20

And we have to live with that. I mean, if we're going to get sucked into this kind of argument, "Obama should listen to Leviticus."

Because Leviticus says be impartial and be kind.

And it has a lot of really useful rules about how hard a righteous man whips a sex slave.

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