Yesterday morning the New York Times published a precedent-shattering interview with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Unless they have a book to sell, Supreme Court justices rarely give interviews. Even then, they diligently avoid political topics. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes a different approach.
These days, she is making no secret of what she thinks of a certain presidential candidate.
“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.”
It reminded her of something her husband, Martin D. Ginsburg, a prominent tax lawyer who died in 2010, would have said.
“‘Now it’s time for us to move to New Zealand,’” Justice Ginsburg said, smiling ruefully.
At the risk of belaboring the obvious, these are remarks beyond imagining in anything other than frightening times. They simultaneously communicate who she wants to lose the election, her feelings about the depth of the impact on the country were Trump were to win, the fact that it would have a huge significance for the court, the fact that this impact would last for a very long time, and the sense that at least for her family, watching it up close would be unbearable.
That is heady stuff.
Yet, almost a day later, no rebuke from a fellow justice, no statement of limitation from the Court press office, no statements of outrage from Republican senators, no demands for impeachment from the right.
Some of these will surely come, and perhaps part of the apparent quiet can be explained by the heavy focus on the shootings last week, and by Trump’s managers trying to keep him under wraps, which may also have inspired them to try to keep the surrogates quiet too. Moreover, that Scalia and Alito have been somewhat loose in their comments too — but not nearly as much as Ginsburg was here — may have inhibited reaction somewhat.
But it is hard not to imagine how the media (and many of us) would have reacted if, for example, Justice Alito had implicitly threatened to leave the country if Clinton became president, or if Justice Thomas had said he did not want to think about the decades long impact on the Court of a Clinton presidency.
I think the explanation for the silence may be that it reflects the quiet conspiracy of the elites that a Trump presidency just can not be allowed to happen. Who knows, maybe Ginsburg even cleared her remarks with Chief Justice Roberts, or more likely gave him the opportunity to dissuade her. Can you imagine the Chambers or Conference discussions among the Justices about the election?
In any event, this has to be a hint of what more might be to come, from everyone from the Chamber of Commerce to retired senior military officers, to our former presidents, if in late October a Trump victory seems a real possibility.