‘He cares about people’: Sotomayor praises Justice Clarence Thomas, sparks divisive Twitter storm

In today’s world where political tribalism reigns supreme, the one institution that must, as a foundational imperative, remain neutral is the Supreme Court of the United States.

Regardless of which president appoints a justice or who the justice voted for, justice itself must be doled out by people who are able to put their political differences aside and interpret the Constitution without bias or the influence of someone else’s agenda, or it isn’t justice at all.

Intuitively, we as Americans know this, but we have become such an “us versus them” society, we don’t quite know what to do when we see someone we don’t like praise someone we do like — or worse, someone we champion praise someone we’ve been repeatedly told is literally Hitler.

It short-circuits our ability to think straight. We don’t know who we’re supposed to be mad at, and that confuses us.

Take the case of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was asked at Chicago’s Roosevelt University about her relationship with her fellow SCOTUS justices.

(Video: CBN/YouTube)

An Obama appointee, the clearly progressive Sotomayor could have used the opportunity to bash her conservative colleagues. She could have bolstered the Biden administration’s primary campaign talking points and taken some jabs at Clarence Thomas for his role in overturning Roe v. Wade. No one would have been surprised by this or called her out for taking a cheap shot — certainly not the media and definitely not any of the pro-abortion activists on whom the Democrats are pinning their midterm hopes.

But Sotomayor didn’t do that at all.

Instead, despite their differing ideologies, she praised Thomas’s character — and that has caused heads on both sides of the political spectrum to explode.

“I try to find the good in everybody,” Sotomayor said. “Because if I can treat them as people with good things inside of me, they can feel it. They can feel that there are things inside them that I value. And they’re more willing to talk to me … and do it in a respectful way, where we can value each other.”

With respect to Thomas, she said, “I have disagreed more with him than with any other justice. Which means we don’t come together on many cases. And yet I can tell you that I spend time with him, understanding that he is one of the few justices who knows practically everybody in our building.”

“He knows their name, he knows the things about their life, what their family is suffering,” she continued. “He’ll tell me, you know that that person’s wife is sick right now, or that person’s child is having difficulty. There’s no other justice who does that. I try, but he does it better. He cares about people.”

Sotomayor acknowledged their differences, but she provided some context for Thomas’s controversial views.

“Now, he cares on legal issues differently. And he sees those legal issues much differently than I do,” she said. “I tell people, you know, Clarence believes, just like him, because he grew up very, very poor, that everyone is capable of picking themselves up by their bootstraps.”

“I understand that some people can’t reach their bootstraps,” she explained. “That’s a fundamental difference in how we view what the law can or should or does do for people.”

“But,” she said, “I can appreciate him.”

To be clear, there is likely not a single court decision Justice Sotomayor has made that conservatives would agree with, just as the mere mention of Thomas’s name triggers liberals and sends them running for a safe place.

But, in a civilized nation run by adults, there should be nothing controversial about Sotomayor’s comments. Indeed, she has shown an ability to rise above the noise of political pandering, and whether or not you support the rulings she makes, at this moment, she was leading by an example of a lesson all too many have forgotten: It actually is possible to disagree with someone and still “appreciate” them as a human being.

But the reactions to Sotomayor’s remarks show there is a long way to go to get back to what most of us learned in kindergarten: The Golden Rule.

It appears we are simply too cynical and too divided to see the wisdom in Sotomayor’s remarks. It’s almost as though we prefer fighting.

“[I]t’s probably a shield for him [Thomas],” wrote one user on Twitter. “By being kind he can prove to himself that the duty to help others should be left to the individual rather than the state. It probably absolves him of any potential guilt he might feel from his decades long agenda to destroy the social safety net.”

“I, frankly, don’t care that he knows everybody in his building,” wrote another. “He’s quite content to take away the rights of at least half of them. His wife tried to overthrow a duly elected govt! No way he wasn’t aware of this! But, yeah, tell me to like him for knowing people’s names!”

“I genuinely believe that it takes all kinds. But not the way you think I mean it,” said a third. “I’m glad there are people like Justice Sotomayer who will be nice to these people, because I also exist, and I’m gonna make sure they know that they f**king suck.”

Below, find more of Twitter’s thoughts, but first, a word from one sane tweeter.

“Sweet civility,” the user wrote. “Can we somehow spread it to the rest of the political world?”


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Melissa Fine


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