“I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president,” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told The New York Times last week. “For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”
“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.”
To which Trump responded via Twitter:
If making very dumb political statements is indeed a sign of reduced mental capacity, that would explain a thing or two about this political season. But I digress: On Trump’s larger point — the point that a better man could have made without resorting to age-related insults — he’s correct. No matter how heartfelt her statements might have been, as a Supreme Court justice Ginsburg had no business uttering them in public. By doing so, she has diminished herself and the court as well.
Yes, the image of the court as an unbiased institution that holds itself above and beyond partisan politics is already severely tarnished. The confirmation process is blatantly partisan, as the Senate’s stubborn refusal to even consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the Scalia vacancy demonstrates, and the ideological divide among the justices, particularly on politically sensitive topics, has become too obvious to be denied. The court’s tortured 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore, with the majority basing its decision on legal theories that they had rejected in every previous case to come before them, remains a serious blight on its reputation as a nonpartisan adjudicator.
However, none of that excuses Ginsburg’s blatant and open engagement in partisan politics. She has broken an important constitutional taboo, and to ensure that it doesn’t become a precedent for future justices she ought to retract her statements and apologize for them. She also ought to recuse herself if — and pray to heaven it doesn’t happen — the high court is forced to rule on any aspect of the current presidential campaign.
It’s just not acceptable.