“Ask Me No Questions If You Can’t Take The Answer”: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Abandons All Subtlety Towards Trump
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dipped her toe into the political waters last week, conceding to the Associated Press that she’d rather not “think about” the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. “If it should be,” she added, “then everything is up for grabs.”
A couple of days later, Ginsburg went just a little further while speaking to the New York Times. Reflecting again on a possible Trump administration, the justice said, “For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be – I don’t even want to contemplate that.” Echoing a sentiment from her late husband, Ginsburg said a Trump victory in November would mean “it’s time for us to move to New Zealand.”
Apparently, the more she answers these questions, the stronger Ginsburg’s feelings on the subject.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called Donald Trump “a faker” Monday night, doubling down on her critical comments about a potential Trump presidency.
“He has no consistency about him,” Ginsburg told CNN. “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.”
It’s at this point that objective observers have to start wondering whether Ginsburg is going further than she should.
I realize, of course, that justices’ ideologies are not exactly a secret. The fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg wants to see Donald J. Trump lose should surprise literally no one. It’s a safe bet that Clarence Thomas is equally eager to see Hillary Clinton lose. There’s no great mystery here.
But as much as I admire and respect Ginsburg, critics are raising a legitimate question. If I’m being honest, I probably wouldn’t be at all pleased if, say, Samuel Alito started giving a series of media interviews, playing the role of election pundit and intervening in the electoral process. If the question today is whether Ginsburg is breaking with judicial protocol, fairness dictates that the answer is yes.
Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor and a Georgetown University Law professor, wrote a piece for the New York Times defending the progressive justice for speaking her mind.
Normally Supreme Court justices should refrain from commenting on partisan politics. But these are not normal times. The question is whether a Supreme Court justice – in this case, the second woman on the court, a civil rights icon and pioneering feminist – has an obligation to remain silent when the country is at risk of being ruled by a man who has repeatedly demonstrated that he is a sexist and racist demagogue. The answer must be no. […]
When despots have ascended to power in other regimes, one wonders how judges should have responded. Should they have adhered to a code of silence while their country went to hell? Not on the watch of the Notorious R.B.G. She understands that if Trump wins, the rule of law is at risk.
I can appreciate the argument. I even want to agree with it. If Trump is a unique threat to the American political system and a genuine menace, it’s unreasonable to think people of good conscience should stay silent in the name of propriety.
But Ginsburg isn’t just another voter; she’s a sitting justice on the Supreme Court. If there were a crisis along the lines of the 2000 election, and the high court was asked to adjudicate a case related to this election’s outcome, would Americans have confidence of Ginsburg’s impartiality? Would she have to recuse herself, thus affecting the outcome?
I appreciate the broader context and the fact that Ginsburg may be understandably worried about her own role in sending the nation in a radical and regressive direction. But the fact remains, those who’ve said she’s going too far are raising a legitimate concern that is not easily dismissed.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 12, 2016
Sometimes changes that affect our politics are subtle and therefore, easily missed. Paul Kane has identified how one of those changes is affecting members of the Senate who are running for re-election.
After nearly 12 years in the Senate, North Carolina Republican Richard Burr holds a dubious distinction: a lot of people in his home state don’t know if he’s any good at his job…
Burr is not alone among potentially vulnerable incumbents with low name recognition in key states that will decide which party controls the Senate in 2017. Of the 25 least known senators, ten are running for re-election — nine of them Republican — as relative unknowns, with roughly 30 percent of their voters unable to form an opinion of them. That list includes Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).
Kane suggests that the reason these incumbents are so unknown among their constituents is that partisans tend to get their news from ideologically driven outlets while local news has all but disappeared.
Overall, there are more reporters covering Congress than ever, except they increasingly write for inside Washington publications whose readers are lawmakers, lobbyists and Wall Street investors. A Pew Research Center study released earlier this year found that at least 21 states do not have a single dedicated reporter covering Congress.
That is a story John Heltman wrote about here at the Washington Monthly in an article for the Nov/Dec 2015 edition titled: Confessions of a Paywall Journalist.
Kane goes on to talk about the two options Senators have used to overcome this lack of name recognition. First of all – money talks.
“We go six years with no coverage,” Burr said in an interview this week, lamenting the fading interest in his state’s congressional delegation. “So it’s like you weren’t here for six years. Your name ID drops into the 40s.” Run $5 million in ads, he said, “it pops right back up to the 80s.”
Secondly, “iconoclasts stand out.”
After little more than three years in elected office, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has reached near saturation level with Bay State voters, with just 12 percent having no opinion of the liberal firebrand. Meanwhile, Sen. Ed Markey (D) — an institution in Massachusetts politics after 37 years in the House and three in the Senate — does not register with 30 percent of his constituents.
It’s the same dynamic in Texas with the state’s two Republican senators. Ted Cruz — an erstwhile conservative presidential contender — has held elective office not even three-and-a-half years, yet all but 14 percent of his voters have a strong view of him. A third of Texans cannot form a view of John Cornyn, the Republican whip with nearly 14 years in the Senate who is likely to be the next GOP floor leader.
That points to two disturbing trends we’ve all been watching lately in politics – the influence of big money and the rise of show horses over work horses. Jonathan Bernstein picked up on all of this and suggests that it also fuels partisan gridlock.
I don’t know how much the changes in media coverage caused the atrophy of the committee system and Congress’s ability to do its job. But it’s easy to see how rank-and-file members have fewer incentives to be productive, and more incentives to merely vote with their party’s leadership and do little else.
All of this focuses on how the lack of a vibrant local press affects incumbents in the Senate. One can only assume that it poses an even greater challenge for members of the House. Finally, it explains a lot about why we have tended towards an “imperial presidency” and the lack of voter participation in midterm elections. For years we’ve been hearing that famous line from Tip O’Neill who said, “All Politics is local.” That might be relegated to a bygone era.
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 1, 2016
“The Irony Of Celebrity Populism”: The Demolition Of The Line Between Celebrity And Political Achievement
“When you become famous,” the famous political consultant James Carville once said, “being famous becomes your profession.”
It’s a sign of the stunning success of Donald Trump’s crossover act that we no longer even think about this campaign’s most revolutionary effect on our politics: the demolition of the line between celebrity and political achievement.
Of course, success in politics can itself breed celebrity. Carville earned his by combining his eccentric sense of humor with actual skill in helping Bill Clinton become president in 1992. The weird interaction between glitz and government reflected at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner suggests how much the borderland between the two has shrunk.
But celebrity has never before been a sufficient qualification for the nation’s highest office. Consider John McCain’s signature attack on Barack Obama in 2008 in a commercial that began with the words: “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world.” The ad’s next line captured the old war hero’s disdain for his opponent and his fame: “But is he ready to lead?”
In light of this year’s campaign, there is something touching about McCain’s protest. He reasoned that sober voters would reject the idea of electing someone merely because of his celebrity.
If the ad misunderstood the sources of Obama’s political strength, it did speak to a nation that still respected experience in government. Trump has now far surpassed Obama in converting fame directly into electoral currency, moving from celebrity to front-runner status without going through the messy, time-consuming work of being a state legislator and U.S. senator. Ronald Reagan, given his Hollywood standing, may be the closest historical analogue to Trump. But Trump did not spend eight years as governor of a large state. There is a perverse purity to Trump’s great leap.
Trump also uses celebrity allies he accumulated in the course of his career as a fame-monger to validate his quest. Facing a decisive challenge in Tuesday’s Indiana primary, Trump hauled out an endorsement from Bobby Knight, a state icon from his successful if controversial run as Indiana University’s basketball coach. Trump may dominate CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, but Knight has ESPN, generally a much bigger draw — except, of course, when Trump has been on a debate stage.
Trump represents the triumph in politics of what the scholars of postmodernism call “transgressive” art, which violates boundaries, including moral strictures, and commands attention through its shock value. Trump is now the transgressor in chief.
We need to think hard about the multiple weaknesses Trump is exposing in our politics. How has he been able to convert fame and outrage into votes without even a moment of apprenticeship in public service?
One reason is the anger in a large segment of the Republican Party that has been stoked by its leaders. You might say they have now lost control of the beast they were feeding. There is also the utter contempt toward government that their ideology encouraged. Trump has played on the fragility of our media system, which, in its search for ratings, can’t get enough of him, and on a pervasive pain among the many who have been cast aside by our economy. They had been ignored by elites of all kinds.
Trump is what passes for “populism” now, but celebrity populism is a strange creature. Consider the case of Tom Brady, the masterly quarterback of my beloved New England Patriots and another sports celebrity who has spoken kindly of Trump.
In a court ruling against him in the “Deflategate” case, Brady learned that neither wealth nor celebrity nor talent protects him in a National Football League system that, in the view of two of three Court of Appeals judges, confers almost unlimited power to management over labor.
Yes, at that moment, Brady learned he was labor. “Welcome to the working class, Tom,” wrote Boston Herald sports columnist Ron Borges.
I don’t know if this controversy will alter Brady’s politics. But it was a reminder of how structural realities that rarely get much television time — collective bargaining agreements, judicial decisions, ownership rights and the raw distribution of power — will not be swept away simply because a man who has mastered old and new media alike has succeeded so brilliantly in casting himself as the avenger for the dispossessed.
Still, a phony celebrity populism plays well on television at a time when politics and governing are regularly trashed by those who claim both as their calling. Politicians who don’t want to play their assigned roles make it easy for a role-player to look like the real thing and for a billionaire who flies around on his own plane to look like a populist.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 1, 2016
A wise friend once pointed out to me that the relationship between an individual and her to-do list is called “attitude.” Profound, right? If we think “I can’t do it all,” then we can be sure that we won’t. Whereas if we decide “I can do this,” we have a good chance.
Attitude applies to everything from work, to relationships, to weight loss. It also applies to things beyond ourselves, such as politics, leadership and governing.
So picture, for one moment, each of our leading presidential candidates. Are they smiling? Any of them? I didn’t think so.
Picture the American people, however you might conjure that. Do they look happy?
I’m sure you can see where I’m going here. The “I can do it” or “we can do it” attitude is embodied by one of the most beautiful human characteristics: the smile. “I can’t do it” or “we suck” is characterized by the most-unflattering frown or scowl.
Our country is past due for an attitude adjustment. We yearn for a leader to bring us that gift – to renew our optimism, our healthy attitude. We remember great leaders like Reagan and Kennedy as men who were smiling.
But if we aren’t going to get that type of leader any time soon, it might be up to us to enact a national attitude adjustment. So let us take a break from criticizing our politicians and our government. Let us focus on the good things about the U.S. of A.
We live in a country where a young, brilliant and stunningly wealthy entrepreneur – Napster founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker – just announced he is contributing his innovative leadership and personal wealth to cutting-edge efforts to cure cancer. That kind of thing happens here. It doesn’t happen everywhere in the world.
We have contributed – and continue to contribute – the most incredible technology, medicine and art to the world. To illustrate, I’ll point out just a few in each category: the light bulb, the telephone, television, airplanes, the personal computer, transistors and the integrated circuit, social media and, thanks to Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, the swivel chair. General anesthesia, immunotherapy for cancer, 3-d printed prosthetics and organ transplants. Hemingway and Faulkner, American television (OK, bear with me, I’m talking about “Seinfeld,” “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad,” not “The Bachelor”), American movies, and American music. (How sad the world would be without the blues and jazz.)
Seriously, when you look at that very-short list, why are we – and our leaders – so busy beating ourselves up? I mean, I didn’t even mention how many medals we win at the Olympics. I didn’t even mention Oprah. Or Oreos. Or Yellowstone National Park. Or small business. Or Uber.
We all like to complain about our own political parties a lot, too, and maybe we ought to ease up a bit. After all, both the Republican and Democrat parties have produced some excellent leaders and public policies. When the parties have worked together, they’ve achieved many incredible successes, such as defeating the evils of fascism and imperialism in World War II, and then helping to rebuild post-war Europe and Japan, standing up to Soviet expansionism, and enacting civil rights laws to protect all Americans. Oh, and yes, it was America that put the first man on the moon.
A reminder to both citizens and leaders: If beating ourselves up was an effective way to make things better, we’d all be amazing. (For example, I, personally, would be very, very thin if my own hurtful self-critiques somehow magically produced weight loss.)
But that kind of attitude doesn’t work. Not for individuals, not for our country, not for our leaders. And if those leaders haven’t figured that out yet, we – the people – are just going to have to be the example. This power, like the power of our country, does still rest in our own hands.
By: Jean Card, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog; U. S. News and World Report, April 14, 2016
With a presidential election year coming, it’s tempting to call 2015 the Year of the Crybaby. Everybody’s a victim. Judging by TV and social media, roughly half the nation believes it’s being oppressed by the other half. Everybody’s throwing themselves a pity party.
There’s an awful lot of self-dramatization going on.
Everywhere you look, somebody’s getting fitted for a hairshirt.
I was first moved to this thought by an extraordinary “Voices” letter to my local newspaper the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A fellow in Siloam Springs was offended by columnist John Brummett’s criticism of “extreme evangelical professed Christians in Iowa.”
Brummett thinks the Iowa GOP primary gives undue attention to people who think “that God forgives everything but liberalism.” This infuriated the reader, who proclaimed his constitutionally-guaranteed right to oppose “abortion, divorce, gay marriage, etc.” regardless of Supreme Court rulings. Should he lose it “these United States will cease being America.”
Sorry, friend, the First Amendment definitely guarantees you the right to obsess about other people’s intimate lives. But not to regulate them. Here in America, you can interpret God’s will any way you like. You just can’t make anybody obey.
That doesn’t make you a victim. It makes you a crybaby.
Ditto Donald Trump’s whining about “political correctness” while directing coarse insults toward his rivals. A woman using the bathroom is “disgusting,” but poor Donald’s the victim.
For most Republicans, it’s an imaginary threat. “In the telling of people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly,” notes Paul Waldman, “conservatives live their lives in fear of the vicious mobs of liberals wielding political correctness like a nail-studded club.”
Poor little things.
Also on the subject of faking, check out Paul Farhi’s Washington Post article “Six Ways Donald Trump’s wrestling career previewed his campaign,” particularly the embedded video showing the pompadoured billionaire in action.
If that doesn’t open your eyes, they must be sewn shut.
Elsewhere, upwards of half the people in America tell pollsters they’re afraid they’ll be killed by terrorists. This time last year it was Ebola.
Yo, America, quit lying to yourselves.
Alternatively, you could try emulating Grandpa, who went off to fight World War II with no good expectation he’d be coming back. And you’re scared witless by a ragtag band of religious fanatics in pickup trucks?
No you’re not. You’re just titillated by the melodrama. Which is why CNN and the rest keep feeding it to you.
Of course where I live, cows are a bigger threat than terrorists.
No joke. A friend almost got himself killed recently after thoughtlessly entering a stall with a newborn calf and its normally placid mama. He escaped with a broken and dislocated shoulder.
Storms blow trees across fences, black Angus cattle wander into dark highways, and bad things happen. Just not on CNN.
Of course the cultural and political left has its own share of melodramatists, whiners and scolds, many on college campuses. Rather like the fellow in Siloam Springs, student “activists” see themselves as morally incorruptible, and their opinions as graven in stone.
Have you seen anything about the great Oberlin College food fight? Students on the Ohio campus decided their cafeteria served “racist” food. Because the sushi was no good, protesters called it “culturally appropriative,” an insult to Japanese-Americans. Things got very heated. If Oberlin kids got their way, you’d have to hire a Neapolitan chef to order a pizza.
All we ever worried about was saltpeter in the mashed potatoes.
An insult to my Irish ancestors, come to think of it, for whom a boiled potato and a six pack constituted a seven course meal.
But there I go, making light of something grave. Normally, I take my cues from the critical race theorists at Salon.com, where they celebrated Christmas with an article entitled “The thought of a white man in my chimney does not delight me”: Let’s stop lying to our kids about Santa.
And no, I couldn’t possibly make that up. Along with meditations upon the orgasm, tirades against white folks are pretty much the formerly-serious website’s entire stock-in-trade.
But the real holiday bell-ringer was a Christmas Eve essay in the New York Times entitled “Dear White America” by Emory University philosopher George Yancy. The professor offers his own struggles to transcend sexism as a model for white men in their efforts to comprehend black lives.
“As a sexist, I have failed women,” he confesses. “…I have failed to engage critically and extensively their pain and suffering in my writing. I have failed to transcend the rigidity of gender roles in my own life.”
Yeah, well me too.
In theory, I’m totally against “objectifying women,” but Jennifer Lawrence still makes my ears buzz. Then too, my wife kind of likes me that way.
As for renouncing my putative “white innocence,” a modest demurral:
Give it a rest professor, I didn’t make this world any more than you.
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, December 30, 2015