Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court, Bringing You Politics Since 2000

In a New York Times profile published Sunday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg commented "I can't imagine what this place would be -- I can't imagine what the country would be -- with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”

Then on Tuesday in a previously scheduled interview with Supreme Court biographer Joan Biskupic

"At first I thought it was funny," she said of Trump's early candidacy. "To think that there's a possibility that he could be president ... " Her voice trailed off gloomily.

"I think he has gotten so much free publicity," she added, drawing a contrast between what she believes is tougher media treatment of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and returning to an overriding complaint: "Every other presidential candidate has turned over tax returns."

Responding to the Times' report, an uncharacteristically self-righteous Donald Trump, who responded "I think it's highly inappropriate that a United States Supreme Court judge gets involved in a political campaign, frankly."

Some Democrats fretted, as Democrats are wont to do. "We all know that the justices on the Supreme Court have political views. I’m not sure we’re well-served by them airing them out in the open," Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut stated.  Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin added “She may have got out over her skis a little bit and (been) more forthright and political than she should have been. It’s very unusual."  Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii conceded "If it's not over the line, it's very close to the line.”

There is no need to play defense. The answer to any question about the propriety of Justice Ginsburg's remarks is "Bush v. Gore." Five Justices on the Supreme Court shed most doubt they were engaged in the political process when by per curiam decision the concept of equal protection was turned on its head and they stopped the recount in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. Then they eliminated all doubt when they added "Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities."

Trump was shocked, shocked! a Supreme Court Justice would't maintain neutrality about a presidential race. He exclaimed "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."

But it is only for the members of a particular family, group, or court to determine whether one of their own should apologize to them. Donald Trump doesn't get to make that determination. Or he wouldn't, except that he so many of his statements are beyond the pale that when he says something normal, the media and political insiders are relieved and impressed. The bar has been set very, very low for this man. "Believe me."

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