Even with the country waist-deep in the mud of this presidential campaign (filth level rising daily), one incident stands out. A sitting justice on the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg decided to risk her legacy to criticize the presumptive Republican nominee. Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern recaps:
Ginsburg’s campaign began with a light jab at Trump … in which the justice admitted she didn’t ‘want to think about’ the possibility of a Trump presidency. Then … Ginsburg told The New York Times’ Adam Liptak, "I can’t imagine what this place would be – I can’t imagine what the country would be – with Donald Trump as our president." Days after her Times interview, Ginsburg told CNN’s Joan Biskupic that Trump is a "faker" with "no consistency" and she criticized his refusal to release his tax returns.
Mr. Stern’s take: There is really very little to debate about the ethics of Ginsburg’s comments. They were plainly a violation, the kind of partisan partiality that judicial ethics codes strive to prevent. But Ginsburg, who is a quietly canny judicial and political strategist, surely knows that her comments were an ethical error. That leads to a fascinating question: Why would the justice risk her reputation and good standing – and even her power to hear cases involving Trump – for a few quick jabs at the candidate. The answer, I suspect, is that Ginsburg has decided to sacrifice some of her prestige in order to send as clear a warning signal about Trump as she possibly can.
This orange cat’s take: She clearly hates Trump and thinks she is old enough (83) and ugly enough (off the charts) to say what she pleases. The problem is that a Trump-related election case might make it to the Supreme Court. Would she recuse herself? (The Trump-bashing mainstream media might see no problem; her seven colleagues might feel differently.) Could this bubble up into a constitutional crisis?
Trump rejoinder to The New York Times seemed less unhinged: “I think it’s highly inappropriate that a United States Supreme Court judge gets involved in a political campaign, frankly. I think it’s a disgrace to the court and I think she should apologize to the court. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. … It’s so beneath the court for her to be making statements like that. It only energizes my base even more. And I would hope that she would get off the court as soon as possible.”
Mr. Stern, who covers law and LGBT issues for Slate, sees the same problem I do: Ginsburg’s comments also set a dark precedent for other justices with equally strong political inclinations – in other words, every justice ever to sit on the bench except David Souter. I can’t imagine, for instance, that Notorious RBG-loving liberals would be as pleased to hear Justice Samuel Alito bash Hillary Clinton as they are to hear Ginsburg diss Trump.
Of course, Justice Alito would never DO that. Conservatives are rule-followers. Liberals believe their hearts are always in the right place, so no rules apply to them.