If there is one thing the punditry class loves to speak at length about, it is the subject of OPTICS. And with the recent kerfuffle between the Notorious RBG and the Orange One, they were able to bloviate to their hearts’ content on their favorite topic.
After Supreme Count Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg doubled down on her criticisms of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, political commentators, observers and editorial boards came out of the woodwork to scold the 83-year-old liberal judge for daring to publicly share her opinions. See, in their minds, anyone who sits on the bench must keep their mouths shut when it comes to the current political environment.
Both the Washington Post’s and New York Times’ editorial boards noted that her comments were out of line and represented poorly on her position. While noting that it would be silly to think judges don’t have political leanings and opinions, to publicly announce them was bad cuz OPTICS. See, we can’t have it known where someone stands ideologically, even though Supreme Court justices are selected primarily because of their goddamned political affiliations and ideals.
But, yeah, OK guys, I get what you’re saying here. And, y’know, this is kinda the job of editorial boards, to try to strike a middle chord and talk sense to all of us emotionally crazed news consumers who have ingested too much catfighting on the TV.
At the same time, did we really need EVERYONE to pile on and let it be known how just GOTDAMN awful RBG’s saunter into normal humankind really was? And, are we really going to pretend that SCOTUS isn’t a political beast, especially since the memory of them handing over the presidency to Dubya is still fresh in our brains? Really?
Here’s the Boston Herald’s Bob McGovern getting the vapors over Ginsburg pulling the veil off the court:
The Supreme Court is a living, breathing partisan entity — no different than Congress in its clear-cut political divides — but it has always had a knack for publicly hiding the biases that we all know are there.
That is, until Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently stepped over the line by repeatedly attacking Donald Trump and telling the world that she has political leanings that she will happily wear on her sleeve.
That’s a problem for anyone who still looks at the Supreme Court with a degree of respect.
Fuck, RBG! You just made McGovern lose respect for SCOTUS. And he was going to take y’all to meet his mother soon.
Liberal commentator Jonathan Adler called her remarks to the NYT out of bounds:
For the record, I share many of her concerns about Trump, and will not support him for President under any circumstances, but these comments seem quite inappropriate for a sitting member of the federal judiciary.
Megyn Kelly hosted law professor Jonathan Turley (a frequent Fox News guest) on her show Tuesday night, with both of them excoriating Justice Ginsburg. Turley said this was a prime example of “celebrity justice” and Kelly agreed with Trump that RBG was “out of line.”
The Post’s Daniel Drezner weighed in with his thoughts, and of course they were very, very heavy. Ginsburg gave him the serious sads because now people will think the Supreme Court is just as politically divided as other American institutions.
A fun “Notorious RBG” meme has burbled its way into political discourse about Ginsburg, and the promoters of that meme seem perfectly delighted with her Trump comments. And, goodness knows, the hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts agrees very strongly with the substance of what Ginsburg said.
But because Ginsburg believes in speaking plainly, then let us return the favor: This was a remarkably stupid and egregious comment for a sitting Supreme Court justice to make on the record. Say what you will about Justices Antonin Scalia, who died in February, or Clarence Thomas, but they never weighed in on presidential politics quite like this. The closest example I can find is that in January 2004, during an election year, Scalia went on a hunting trip with Vice President Dick Cheney. That action alone got legal ethicists into a lather.
What Ginsburg did was way worse, though.
She should repair the damage and apologize for her remarks as soon as possible. Otherwise, she bears almost as much responsibility as Trump for the slow-motion crisis in American democracy.
Once again, any notion that the Supreme Court was this altruistic, benevolent, And Justice For All model of fairness was blown the fuck out of the water in late 2000 when five conservative justices decided to stop a recount on Florida and hand over the White House to George W. Bush. All while saying that their decision would only ever apply to that one particular case.
So, in the end, who cares if a judge speaks her mind off the bench? We’ve had sitting judges write goddamn political manifestos claiming liberals are destroying society, and state Chief Justices break federal law over marriage equality and separation of church and state, yet we’re going to piss our pants because one judge rightfully pointed out that a guy who might be president someday is an asshole?