“I can’t imagine what this place would be -- I can’t imagine what the country would be -- with Donald Trump as our president,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in The New York Times this week.
Trump responded in his usual unpresidential way, tweeting: “Justice Ginsburg has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot -- resign!”
That is what our country would be like: vulgar and vicious, like Donald Trump himself. Justice Ginsburg has every right to be concerned, as does anyone who cares about this country. You do not lose your First Amendment rights when you join the Supreme Court, as the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the darling of conservatives, proved.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg happens to be one of my heroes. No one -- and I mean no one -- has done more to promote equality between men and women in our nation. For years, as a teacher and a lawyer, she was tireless in the fight for equality. And before you jump down my throat, she fought not only for the rights of women but also for equality -- which means she fought for the widower who was denied survivors benefits so that he could raise his children, benefits that were automatically given to women. She fought for equality in the judicial system. I will never forget watching her argue in front of the Supreme Court on behalf of a man who had been convicted of first-degree murder by a jury from which women had been excluded. There was my hero, fighting for a murderer? Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mind isn’t shot; she understood, long before I did, that equality is a two-way street.
But what if the Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump election makes it to the Supreme Court? Having made these comments, is she no longer qualified to serve on the panel in the one-in-a-million chance that the November election ends up in the Supreme Court? It’s not a slow news week and yet, believe it or not, the media is full of opinions from supposed experts as to whether Justice Ginsburg would have to recuse herself. The simple answer is no. The longer answer is that it is up to the justice herself to decide whether to recuse herself. She decides: no appeal, no review, no luck on that one, Donald. Why would someone who believes that a President Trump would do great harm to this country and to the world recuse herself because she has those beliefs? Justices vote. They have views. And if you don’t believe me, then you try to make sense of Bush v. Gore. I’ve taught the case for years and the only way I can explain it -- given that all of the “pro-states rights” justices voted against states rights -- is politics, pure and simple.
What Justice Ginsburg was addressing was not any legal issues that might arise in this election, but the specter of electing Donald Trump as president. He shouldn’t win: As even conservative columnist George Will has recognized, the man is unfit in every way -- experience, knowledge, temperament and restraint -- to be president. But he could, no question. Brexit wasn’t supposed to pass, and it did. The politics of fear and anger can bring about utterly unacceptable results, as the British are learning painfully, as the pound falls in value.
But the Donald (why show respect for him when he respects no one but himself) was right. Somebody whose mind is shot should quit: him.