Ginsburg’s Fury Shows Just How Much Trump Has Changed Politics
Policy + Politics

Ginsburg’s Fury Shows Just How Much Trump Has Changed Politics

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

There was a time when military officers would rather be water-boarded than talk publicly about politics.

And there was a time when sitting justices of the United States Supreme Court would no more inject themselves into a presidential election than they would appear on the bench in tie-dyed robes.

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But add those two broken barriers to the long list of ways that Donald Trump has changed the political landscape.

In an interview with The New York Times on Friday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83, 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. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don't even want to contemplate that."

She said her late husband’s reaction would have been: “Now it’s time for us to move to New Zealand.”

On Monday, Ginsburg told CNN: "[Trump] 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."

Trump fired back on Tuesday, tweeting, “Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot - resign!”

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Today The Times ran an editorial with the headline “Donald Trump is right about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” The Times said that while there is no legal requirement that members of the high court keep their political views to themselves, it is “vital” that they remain above the fray of presidential politics.

“Just imagine if this were 2000 and the resolution of the election depended on a Supreme Court decision,” the editorial says. “Could anyone now argue with a straight face that Justice Ginsburg’s only guide would be the law?”

But the court isn’t the only institution of government where an unspoken code of conduct has broken down in this volatile election cycle.

In an interview with Foreign Policy on Monday, retired Marine General John Kelly, former chief of the U.S. Southern Command and former commanding officer of coalition forces in Iraq, bemoaned the fact that former and current military officers are wading into the “cesspool of domestic politics.”

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Kelly didn’t name names, but one comment seemed like a reference to former Lt. General Michael Flynn, who has spoken out against the Obama administration since he was removed as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014.

Flynn, who was said to be on Trump’s list of possible running mates, got into trouble with the right on Sunday when he described himself as a “pro-choice “– only to distance himself from that position the next day.

Among other things, Flynn has said that President Obama ignored the rise of ISIS in 2011 and 2012 because it didn’t fit in with his re-election narrative.

In the Foreign Policy interview, Kelly said that when an officer retires and criticizes the White House “for doing all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons,” that contributes to mistrust between the military and the president and could undermine what must be a bedrock of the relationship – that the commander-in-chief is getting the best apolitical advice available.