CLARENCE THOMAS IS A MEMBER OF THE CLUB, TOO…. Samuel Alito believes empathy is an important quality in a Supreme Court justice. So does George H.W. Bush. Sandra Day O’Connor had the audacity to concede that jurists can and should consider gender and race when weighing the merits of a case.

As it turns out, even Clarence Thomas, hardly a high court liberal, sees the value of empathy. From his 1991 confirmation hearing:

“…I believe, Senator, that I can make a contribution, that I can bring something different to the Court, that I can walk in the shoes of the people who are affected by what the Court does. You know, on my current court I have occasion to look out the window that faces C Street, and there are converted buses that bring in the criminal defendants to our criminal justice system, bus load after bus load. And you look out and you say to yourself, and I say to myself almost every day, ‘But for the grace of God there go I.’”

I suspect many on the right have come to believe, “Empathy is fine, so long as it’s coming from the right,” but that’s hardly a persuasive talking point.

Remember, as far as the loudest conservatives are concerned, the notion that a judge would look outside the confines of the law and consider what it’s like to “walk in the shoes of the people who are affected by what the court does,” is not only wrong, it’s literally dangerous.

As the popular metaphor argues, judges are like umpires, responsible for calling balls and strikes, not what it’s like to be the batter or pitcher “affected” by what the umpire calls.

I’m not sure which genius thought it was a good idea to launch a war on empathy, but it was clearly a dumb mistake.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.