By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
A week ago Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg waded into Presidential politics. She should not have. Sure she had a constitutional right to do so. After all, the First Amendment does not restrict judges from speaking their minds on matters of importance that are not subject to litigation before them.
However, her comments about the Republican Presidential candidate were ill advised and she was right to issue an apology. Whether her assessment of Donald Trump as a “faker” and impulsive was correct, or condemning his refusal to release his tax returns as all candidates for President have done now for 40 years was justified or not, as a jurist on the nation’s highest court she should have kept her opinions to herself.
Donald Trump’s response to her criticism was predictable. He said that “her mind is shot” and as such should resign from the court!
What I find fascinating about this latest tempest is that Ginsburg ultimately understood that her spontaneous remarks were inappropriate for a person in her position. She reflected on that and said that she regretted having made such comments. Contrast that with Mr. Trump. Do you recall him apologizing for anything that he has said along the campaign trail? Has he ever demonstrated any remorse for the nasty and intemperate things that he has said about opponents or just people he does not like? Is he capable of admitting to any mistakes or being introspective or reflective? Do we care if a President is devoid of these qualities? These are all important questions.
To wit: Trump started his presidential journey by calling Senator John McCain a false war hero for only having been captured, imprisoned and tortured by the enemy during the Vietnam war. He went on to call celebrity Rosie O’Donnell a pig. He insulted his adversaries by disparaging their appearance and mocking them with childish names while referring to his own sexual endowment. He has issued reams of political statements that have proven to be false. He denigrates whole races of people as criminals and rapists. He bellowed at demonstrators saying that he’d like to “punch them in the face.” He once said that 82 percent of whites are murdered by blacks… totally false, but no retraction, no apology. I could go on and on.
The point is that Mr. Trump when confronted by the foolishness, inappropriateness or ignorance of his statements just doubles down. Never conceding a mistake and never giving an inch. No retreat, compounding ignorance with more ignorance. Do we really want such a person as our national leader and exemplar?
Beyond the political optics it is dangerous to be without the capacity of reflection or intellectual curiosity. In 1961 newly elected President Kennedy okayed the invasion of Cuba by indigenous freedom fighters at the Bay of Pigs. That action turned into a fiasco. Kennedy relied on faulty information from the CIA and others. He accepted personal responsibility for that blunder and learned from it. Arguably his understanding of his mistake allowed him to navigate through the Cuban missile crisis a year later, finding a way to have the Russian missiles removed without resorting to war… possibly avoiding a nuclear holocaust. George W. Bush was not as astute in his decision to invade Iraq on false pretenses. In part this was based on his unwavering misunderstanding of the politics of the Middle East and his lack of curiosity for information contrary to his point of view. The consequences of that decision have destabilized that region and opened the door for radical terror groups to gain footholds.
It is no secret that I cannot vote for Donald Trump. But it is not because he is a Republican. It is because he does not display the temperament or intellectual reflection necessary to make judgements that are sound. We have had rogues in the Oval office and ego-inflated individuals, and less than stellar thinkers. But what is most dangerous is having somebody who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and does not particularly care to learn.