Media figures and outlets have focused on President Obama's statement that empathy is one of the qualifications he would seek in a Supreme Court nominee, but they have not noted that then-President George H.W. Bush cited “great empathy” in his remarks announcing his selection of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.
In reporting on President Obama's search for a Supreme Court nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, media figures and outlets have often focused on the purported controversy over Obama's May 1 statement that he considered the “quality of empathy” one of the qualifications he would seek in a nominee. But those media have not noted that then-President George H.W. Bush cited Clarence Thomas' “great empathy” in his remarks announcing his selection of Thomas to serve on the Supreme Court.
From Bush's July 1, 1991, remarks (accessed from the Nexis database):
After graduation from Yale Law School, he worked for then Missouri attorney general John Danforth, and spent 2 1/2 years litigating cases of all descriptions. In 1977, Judge Thomas practiced law in the private sector, and in 1979, he rejoined Senator Danforth as a legislative assistant in the U.S. Senate. In 1981, President Reagan appointed him Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education. From 1982 to 1990, he served as President Reagan's Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And I appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1990.
I have followed this man's career for some time, and he has excelled in everything that he has attempted. He is a delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor. He's also a fiercely independent thinker with an excellent legal mind, who believes passionately in equal opportunity for all Americans. He will approach the cases that come before the Court with a commitment to deciding them fairly, as the facts and the law require.
Judge Thomas' life is a model for all Americans, and he's earned the right to sit on this nation's highest Court. And I am very proud, indeed, to nominate him for this position, and I trust that the Senate will confirm this able man promptly.