A question of judgment

CNN correspondents and commentators experienced the 2016 presidential election in unique and interesting ways. This recollection and others were produced in conjunction with CNN's election project, "A Race Like No Other: The Unprecedented Election of 2016."

(CNN)When I arrived for an interview with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her Supreme Court chambers on July 11, I knew she already had expressed general exasperation with presidential candidate Donald Trump and was seeing some backlash in the media.

I wondered if she might have second thoughts about being so candid or, alternatively, if she might elaborate to me about her concerns.
She seized the second option.
"He's a faker," she said when I asked about her opposition. "He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego."
    Justice Ginsburg typically speaks slowly, with long pauses between sentences. But there was no pausing on the subject of Trump as we sat in her oak-paneled chambers, filled with family photos, mementos of her legal milestones and contemporary artwork.
    "How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns?" she continued. "The press seems to be very gentle with him on that ... Every other presidential candidate has turned over tax returns."
    A 1993 appointee of President Bill Clinton and now the senior liberal on the bench, Ginsburg also asserted that Trump was getting "so much free publicity" while Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was eliciting a different kind of treatment: "They are going after Hillary for Benghazi, for emails."
    Ginsburg, 83, simply could not believe that Trump was at that moment -- a week before the Republican National Convention -- poised to become the party's nominee.
    "At first, I thought it was funny," she said of Trump's early political moves. "To think that there's a possibility that he could be president ..." Her voice trailed off.
    Her tone had turned completely serious; gone was the bit of levity she had expressed at the outset when she quipped that if her husband were still alive he might say it was time to move to New Zealand.
    Ginsburg's heightened criticism of Trump, published on CNN.com July 12, ratcheted up public criticism that she had broken judicial decorum by revealing her views about the presidential race.
    Trump called on her to resign. "Her mind is shot," he declared on Twitter.
    Also among her critics were liberals who typically praised her opinions. The New York Times editorial page wrote on July 13 that Ginsburg "needs to drop the political punditry" and declared "Washington is more than partisan enough without the spectacle of a Supreme Court justice flinging herself into the mosh pit."
    By the morning of July 14, Ginsburg was ready to express regret. "On reflection," she said in a statement issued through the court's public information office, "my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them. Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect."
    Justice Ginsburg did not apologize to Trump. She decided that she had made a mistake by disclosing her views, not that her views were a mistake.