Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Wednesday, July 13th, 2016.


Notorious RBG Gets Snarky

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Obama Administration

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been speaking her mind about Donald Trump.

Here’s a look at what Ginsburg, the 83-year-old justice appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1993, said about Trump in three interviews.

One note: The media that did the interviews did not publish transcripts of Ginsburg’s complete remarks. What follows are all of the quotes that were published.

Interview July 7, 2016 with Associated Press

Asked what if Trump won the presidency, Ginsburg said: “I don’t want to think about that possibility, but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.”

Interview July 8, 2016 with New York Times

“I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.

Referring to something she thought her late husband, tax lawyer Martin Ginsburg, would have said, she said: “Now it’s time for us to move to New Zealand.”

Interview July 11, 2016 with CNN

“He is a faker. He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that ….

“At first I thought it was funny,” she said of Trump’s early candidacy. “To think that there’s a possibility that he could be president ….

“I think he has gotten so much free publicity ….

“Every other presidential candidate has turned over tax returns.”

Now, all manner of people, including the New York Times editorial board, has the vapors because Supreme Court justices aren’t supposed to say political stuff like that. Trump himself tweeted that “her mind is shot,” which is hilarious coming from him.

Dahlia Lithwick:

There can be no disputing that this conduct was improper under the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, which prohibits judges from endorsing or opposing a candidate for office, and under basic conventions that prohibit judges from overt politicking during election season. We can debate how improper it actually was, but it’s clear she upset the norms that we generally ask judges to respect. And with all due respect, it’s not a legitimate counterargument to claim that it’s OK because Ginsburg is on a lot of tote bags and T-shirts sporting a crown.

The serious arguments in favor of Ginsburg’s conduct are that (1) the nation faces an unparalleled existential threat, at the nomination of a man who imperils the very rule of law and (2) nobody really believes judges are impartial anyhow, so why shouldn’t we celebrate her for ripping off the umpire mask and telling it like it is.

Under the first theory, Ginsburg is correct to expend whatever moral capital she has accrued to say out loud what most politicians are afraid to say, because we are in an extraordinary moment in history, a terrifying period of racism, xenophobia, and violence, and it’s incumbent on even traditionally temperate citizens to speak out. According to this view, the failure to condemn Trump would be its own form of cowardice, and Ginsburg only did what a sane person facing a fascist leader should do. Under the second theory, nobody over age 7 really thinks judges have no political preferences, and it’s better to have them laid bare than hidden under flimsy claims of oracular impartiality.

Like Lithwick, I applaud that first argument. The Trump candidacy shouldn’t be given the dignity of, well, dignity. It’s a joke. He’s a joke.

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