Two weeks ago, something happened that she had seen before. During a TV interview, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked how she felt about scheduling a public appeal to lawmakers.
“It means I’m having a hard time,” she said. And how could that be, considering she’s already two weeks into a term of 60 rulings (52 affirmed, one unsigned) that is dealing with first impressions and second impressions, with consequences, with bad judgment and decisions. And with two votes this week (Averaging a 6-4 decision per week, she’s on pace to take apart every justice on the court’s usually sprawling docket).
Just for the record, Ginsburg is 91, the oldest justice on the court since Sandra Day O’Connor, who was 87 when she retired in 2006. (You also have to remember, too, that Ginsburg and Justice Anthony Kennedy, 80, worked together at Harvard Law School.) One possibility, we now know, is Ginsburg may have continued to hold out until after the 2020 presidential election. She’d have the chance to rally in the Democratic primary, according to Richard Fallon, communications director at the liberal Media Action Network for Women.
Oh, yes. There was another possible explanation, yet another possible explanation. It was those two court stories. The one a week ago was almost certainly accurate, and the one last week was, essentially, false, though — quite possibly thanks to Ginsburg’s own being passed around the news — but we didn’t know it at the time.
But as soon as the pair came on the air on Sept. 9, they both seemed as flabbergasted as we were to hear what she was saying. And, as mentioned earlier, we had no idea what to make of their ostensible address to members of Congress.
We figured it would be a pleasant opening to the week. But everyone thought the appearance was a publicity stunt (including Ginsburg herself). Mostly, we hoped it would be a pretense, whatever else it was. How could Ginsburg convince the press that everything had really settled down, for all we knew.
“I will take off my shoes as soon as I walk in the courtroom,” she said. “I will start immediately before the voice vote.” She also told a staffer to make up the vote cards so it would be easier to get on the court — especially when she repeated the word “tough.”
The question was whether she could handle the heat at full court? During an intense conversation with her physician about her fever, she said she could. (She has been taking antibiotics during this stretch, as well as just starting antiretroviral therapy, as she fights two bouts of pancreatitis and rectal bleeding.) And she remained positive, refusing to compromise.
“I’ll fight on,” she said.
Then, in an apparent surprise to the press corps (which had gathered in Room 900 of the Supreme Court while she was making her remarks), she announced she was going to miss her scheduled appearance that day.
“I wanted to say a few words to this House,” she said. “I don’t get to see you very often. It’s going to be a good four weeks.”
You know what? She’s worth it.