In Defense of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Blogger’s Note: The scope of the opinion piece that follows is narrow. I have views about nearly every tangential topic imaginable, but I’m speaking here only to The New York Times‘ recent editorial board opinion about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s statements about Donald Trump.
If you’re looking for the normal fare served by A Napper’s Companion, please feel free to order another entree.
Spirits of the coffee drinkers at Brew Ha Ha are merry this noontide, but I’m negotiating with a troubled heart. Former teaching colleagues Alice and Mary and I reacquainted and dissected one of our national obsessions, November’s presidential election. Since they left an hour ago, I’ve been palpating available Internet information and opinions in hopes of easing my suspicion of a terrible prognosis. The possibilities paralyze my brain and sour my gut.
The New York Times normally steadies me, but, oh, my precious, the editorial board has just poked at my gag reflex with this opinion: “Donald Trump Is Right About Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” Whew! Pause. Breathe.
In a recent interview with Adam Liptak of the very newspaper that smacked her knuckles, Ginsburg had the impudence to say, “I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president.” A couple of other remarks added color to her opinions and probably set off editors’ subjectivity detectors.
Asked if she also thought that the Senate should act on Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Court, Ginsburg practically got hysterical: “That’s their job.” Please, somebody get this woman into a straightjacket.
The board’s assessment is terse: “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg needs to drop the political punditry and the name-calling.”
Okay, she did call Trump a faker. Bad Justice. Bad Justice. But punditry? Rising from my nausea are a litany of questions, summarized by one: “Where does punditry end and truth begin?”
Other words pose essentially the same question. “At what point does objective neutrality deny the obvious?” “When is bullshit given the full weight of fact?” And “When is denigration mistaken for discussion?”
Yes, these are dangerous questions. Whoever successfully lays claim to facts and truths has hold of power and moral high ground.
But these are perilous times. At least in politics, the historically accepted rules of engagement have been trodden under wingtips. I’m hardly the first to observe that even the pretense of civility and fair play in governmental chambers and circles is gone. And reality, fluid in the best of social climates, is now nothing but fog. Where are the brakes?
Americans who share Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s opinion about Donald Trump aren’t so much despondent about the candidate himself, but about the destination of “I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear that I will execute the Office of President of the United States.”
Trump will, indeed, execute the Office, and felled in the firing squad’s aim will be the languishing assumptions about how we Americans communicate with each other and come to agreements and define the world we live in. This is my dread, at least.
Adding insult to injury, the just, charitable identity we have struggled to embody—the “lamp [lifted] beside the golden door”—may give way to the hateful, fearful “angels of our nature.”
Our society has already taken many steps down a rancorous, violent path. Do we honestly suppose that we’ll find remedies to what ails America if we crown a man who delights in riling followers into stampede?
Am I being alarmist? Hyperbolic? Gosh, I hope so. But I don’t think so.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg knows that “the exception proves the rule.” Supreme Court Justices should keep their noses out of political controversies. Good rule. Good good rule.
But what Donald Trump says he would do as Commander in Chief—bluster though his every word may be—requires the assassination of what is most honorable in the people and the deportation of the Constitution Justice Ginsburg is sworn to interpret and uphold.
She was obliged to break a generally wise rule. She gets a pass.
I must admit I’m sympathetic with the narrow scope of your sentiment here, which goes against the grain of my “process” player pretensions. While I feel Justice Ginsburg was technically out of line, I also think her comments were right on target.
And of course the op/ed crew of the Old Grey Lady was slip showing some subjectivity. It’s how they call our square dance of a democratic republic. Easier to suggest that both sides are equal foot-stompers than to try and explain asymmetrical political trespass.
Which is a weasel way of saying I’m not sure about your “the exception proves the rule,” defense of RBG…I would simple proffer “age has its privileges” and the court ain’t in session, so go and sin no more.
Nice write. Fun to read. And thoughtful. Vote early and vote often.
Hi, Doug. Thanks for such nuanced, lighthearted engagement here. “The Old Grey Lady”: never heard that one before. I hope the board was please with Ginsburg’s apology. I’ll be sure to look you up. Peace and best, John
Well written as usual Johnâ¦ I think RBGinsburg is my hero!!! What a gutsy ladyâ¦
Why, thank you, ma’am. Yeah, I like RBG, too. She’s got some years on her, which can help people be brave and wear purple. Peace, John
Thank you for serving up a plate full of honest concern. You are not alone at the table.
Thanks for recognizing my intention–honest concern. See you at the table. Peace, John
Did you see this New Yorker cartoon?