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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rare interview: ‘It’s not the best of times’ – BBC Newsnight

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rare interview: ‘It’s not the best of times’ – BBC Newsnight


I am optimistic in the long run. A great man
once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle. It is the pendulum.
And when the pendulum swings too far in one direction it will go back. Some terrible things
have happened in the United States but one can only hope that we learn from those bad
things. I think of when I grew up at the time of World War 2. The irony was we were fighting
a war against racism and yet by an executive order of President Roosevelt, people who had
done nothing wrong except they were of Japanese ancestry were interned. That was a dreadful
mistake. It took a long time for the United States to realize how dreadful it was. But
ultimately the president acknowledged that there was no reason to intern people of Japanese
ancestry and Congress passed a bill providing compensation for the people who were interned
or their survivors. Q. But do you see echoes in that kind of history
in the present day? Well I would say that we are not experiencing
the best of times. But there is hope in seeing how the public is reacting to it. The Women’s
March – I’ve never seen such a demonstration – both the numbers and the rapport of the
people in that crowd. There was no violence, it was orderly. So yes we are not experiencing
the best times but there is there is reason to hope that that we will see a better day. Q. What is it about the current climate that
most concerns you? Our legislature – which is the first branch
of government – is right now not functioning. But I can think back to 1993 the year that
President Clinton nominated me for a vacancy on the Supreme Court. I had spent 10 years
of my life litigating gender discrimination cases. I was one of four general counsel to
the American Civil Liberties Union and yet the vote to confirm me was 96 to 3. No one
raised the question about my affiliation with the American Civil Liberties Union. That kind of rapport doesn’t exist now. But
my dream is that we will get back to it, one day. I think it will take strong people from
both parties to say let’s get together and work for the good of the country. Q. I mean you mentioned the legislature but
I’m thinking of you specifically as a judge at this point. There’s been a lot of quite
outspoken criticism of individual judges and the judiciary as a whole – one being called
“a so-called judge”. As someone who has served a lifetime in the courts, how do you
feel about the new administration’s quite public criticism? I don’t want to comment on that. Q. You are 83, the oldest serving member on
the Supreme Court, how long do you think you can do this? At my age you have to take it year by year.
I know I’m OK. What will be next year? I’m hopeful however because my most senior colleague
– the one who most recently retired, Justice John Paul Stevens – stepped down at age 90.
So I have a way to go. Q. Since you were made a Supreme Court Judge,
how do you feel women’s equality and women’s rights of women have changed? If you just look at the numbers. When I became
a Supreme Court justice were six women in the Senate. Now there are 20. I was the second
woman on the Supreme Court and when Justice O’Connor left, I was all alone. Now I have
two colleagues: Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan. People ask me “Well when do you think there
will be enough.” I say “When there are nine” and people are aghast. We’ve had nine
men for most of the country’s history and no one thought that there was anything wrong
with that. Q. I want to return to something that we talked
about at the beginning that’s to do with the erosion of facts and truth – it just
feels that’s there is less and less that one can be sure of. I wonder – not just
in the news, but in all sorts of ways – I wonder if that’s something that strikes
you, as you look around? What is important is that we have a free
press which many countries don’t have. Think of what the press has done in the United States.
I live in the famous Watergate. That story might never have come out if we didn’t
have the free press that we do. Q. Why do you mention that? Do you think it
s something that is forgotten? I read the Washington Post and The New York
Times every day and I think that the reporters are trying to tell the public the way things
are.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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