Most Americans have strong opinions on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Likewise, when Colin Kaepernick initially chose to take a knee as the National Anthem was sung at football games, individuals from every type of background weighed in via social media and television. But when Ginsburg stated that a Trump presidency was inconceivable and spewed out some choice adjectives to describe Kaepernick, her judgment comes into question.
A Supreme Court Justice isn’t an ordinary citizen. First of all, members of the court have lifetime job guarantees after appointment. Additionally, the Court makes decisions that affect the lives of every American citizen. It is well-known which justices have liberal or conservative leanings, and Ginsburg falls on the liberal side. This is one of the reasons that her comments on Trump were inappropriate, and when she initially stated them, House Speaker Paul Ryan said they were out of bounds, according to CNN.
“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.”
One only needs a basic understanding of the executive and judicial branches of government to comprehend the reasons that Ginsburg’s statement on what certainly were her private thoughts on Trump should never have been uttered, but Ryan expounded on the justice’s major faux pas.
“For someone on the Supreme Court who is going to be calling balls and strikes in the future based upon whatever the next president and Congress does, that strikes me as inherently biased and out of the realm.”
Fact check: Ginsburg didn’t say anything about Trump’s supporters. https://t.co/IjSrvGDGch
— Irin Carmon (@irin) October 20, 2016
Legal commentators said it was unprecedented for a sitting member of the Supreme Court to make negative comments on a presidential candidate during an election year. Ginsburg apologized and Trump’s assessment was that the apology wasn’t voluntary. The apology statement was issued by the Court, per a Los Angeles Times report.
“Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect.”
What is to be made of Ginsburg’s remarks, and why would she make them? First thoughts are that she is adamantly opposed to the prospect of having Trump in the White House and has strong feelings about it. If she didn’t hold her current position, but she does. Ginsburg is entitled to her opinions as she is a free American citizen, but she doesn’t have the right to bias others or to intervene in the political process. An apology was in order and a question about judgment is also. The question: Can Ginsburg contain her strong feelings and do her job impartially?
Fast forward to her more recent comments on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his continued silent protests during the national anthem. Ruth Bader Ginsburg made it clear that it is Kaepernick’s constitutional right to protest, per the New York Times, but criticized him harshly for doing so.
“I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”
The Notorious RBG admits she didn’t know what Kaepernick’s protest was about when she called it “dumb.” https://t.co/wH2AndWbcQ
— Vox (@voxdotcom) October 15, 2016
Less than a week after making the comment on Kaepernick during an interview, Ginsburg admitted in a note to reporters that she wasn’t fully informed and should have declined to answer when asked how she felt about it, the New York Times added.
“Some of you have inquired about a book interview in which I was asked how I felt about Colin Kaepernick and other N.F.L. players who refused to stand for the national anthem. Barely aware of the incident or its purpose, my comments were inappropriately dismissive and harsh. I should have declined to respond.”
Seemingly, a Court justice should know that detailed, negative comments on a presidential candidate are not in her or the nation’s best interest. If Trump were to become president, she might have to recuse herself from cases involving potential executive orders or other business involving the president.
In the Kaepernick situation, it is unclear why Ruth Bader Ginsburg chose to speak on the issue, when by her own admission, she was uninformed. If cases on similar issues make it to the high court, her recusal would be in order. In the past, Ginsburg has said she would remain on the Court as long as she could perform her duties effectively. It’s questionable whether she can in light of her recent actions.
[Featured Image by Allison Shelley/Getty Images]