Ruth Bader Ginsburg Played Right Into Donald Trump's Hands. | Gradient

Ruth Bader Ginsburg played right into Donald Trump’s hands.


Insofar as a Supreme Court Justice can be a rock star in 2016, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a rock star. She’s the Notorious RBG, an eloquent, forthright vindicator who’s not afraid of an early evening, wine-soaked snooze, whether or not it’s during the State of the Union.

No one would be surprised to hear that Ginsburg has little patience for vaguely sentient bobblehead Donald Trump, but they would be surprised to hear Ginsburg say she has little patience for vaguely sentient bobblehead Donald Trump. Supreme Court Justices are supposed to remain above the fray of politics, floating over it all in their robes like cloaked wizards. But in an interview with The New York Times, Ginsburg let loose.

“I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president,” she said. “For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”

To quote the Chicago Tribune, “to say her public comments are unusual is like saying dancing cows are scarce.” Supreme Court justices just don’t speak into elections. It’s more than just surprising; it’s written in the federal code of judicial conduct: Judges are not supposed to “publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office.” Judges are supposed to be impersonal, nonpartisan and unassailably fair-minded. The idea of a judge who might allow personal politics to get in the way of rulings is unsettling — all the more so when that judge works for the highest court in the land. As the Tribune puts it:

“I am not aware of any justice ever expressing views on the merits or demerits of a presidential candidate in the midst of the campaign,” Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told The Washington Post. George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told us her comment “showed manifestly bad judgment and undermined the integrity of the Court.”

Donald Trump, as think-skinned as a green apple, never lets such slights slide, and he unloaded on Ginsburg over Twitter.

This is cheap and ugly — the only true mark of a shot mind is a Trump endorsement — but it’s hard to contest the general sentiment. Trump has acquired his legions by pitching himself as an outsider, a Robin Hood-type outlaw taking on a rigged system. When a Supreme Court justice makes the virtually unprecedented move of publicly opposing a political candidate, it bolsters his argument. “See, even the Supreme Court is against us!” he can shout at his next rally. “Awful people. Just awful. Very sad!”

This is all tough to say because, of course, Ginsburg is right. Nobody wants to contemplate a Trump victory, least of all the Supreme Court. But the fact that Trump has been so willing to fling mud from his pig pen, unctuously defying any accepted rules for how political discourse works in this country does not excuse others for descending to his level. What if Trump and Clinton were to end up in a Supreme Court contest, similar to Bush v. Gore? Would anyone assume that Ginsburg would be fair-minded in her decision making? What if, God help us, Trump were to end up as President of the United States? The integrity of the court in weighing his decisions would be called into serious question, and make no mistake; we would want a solid Supreme Court in the event of a Trump presidency.

But all that is hypothetical — here’s reality. Trump’s brand is fueled by his appearance as an anti-establishment revolutionary. Cutting that brand off at the knees is the surest way to expose him for the Kraft singles-colored glory hound that he is. But comments like Ginsburg’s play right into his hands.

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