Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s slam of Trump

02:25 - Source: CNN
Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn't back off Trump criticism

Story highlights

Jeffrey Toobin: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes clear her stance on a Trump presidency

He says justices have long avoided airing political views; Ginsburg may have to recuse herself

Editor’s Note: Jeffrey Toobin is CNN’s senior legal analyst and author of “The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

CNN —  

Supreme Court justices, like everyone else, become more like themselves as they get older. That’s the real lesson of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent series of partisan observations.

In a series of interviews over the past week, the 83-year-old Ginsburg let loose with several howitzers aimed at Donald Trump. Asked by a reporter from The Associated Press what would happen to the court if Trump could make nominations, she said, “I don’t want to think about that possibility, but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.”

In an interview with The New York Times, she said, “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.” She joked – it seemed like a joke, anyway – that she might move to New Zealand if Trump were to win.

She expanded on this in a CNN interview: “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.”

Ginsburg’s judicial politics are no secret. She became famous as the leading lawyer of the feminist movement in the 1970s; as a litigator, she won some of the biggest women’s rights cases in the Supreme Court. Since her appointment to the court by Bill Clinton, in 1993, she has been its leading liberal – a fierce defender of women’s rights, including abortion rights, and a supporter of affirmative action and the traditional civil rights agenda. Her integrity – like her intelligence and her energy – has been beyond reproach.

But traditionally, there’s been a difference between judicial politics and partisan politics, at least as far as judges are concerned. Like all the justices, Ginsburg is expected to render decisions in line with her judicial ideology, that is, her understanding of how the Constitution should be interpreted. This matter of interpretive style is as much a political judgment as a legal one.