Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg assailed the court's congressional critics in a recent speech overseas, saying their efforts "fuel" an "irrational fringe" that threatened her life and that of a colleague, former justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Addressing an audience at the Constitutional Court of South Africa on Feb. 7, the 73-year-old justice, known as one of the court's more liberal members, criticized various Republican-proposed House and Senate measures that either decry or would bar the citation of foreign law in the Supreme Court's constitutional rulings. Conservatives often see the citing of foreign laws in court rulings as an affront to American sovereignty, adding to a list of grievances they have against judges that include rulings supporting abortion rights or gay rights.
She then quoted from what she said was a "personal example" of this: a Feb. 28, 2005, posting in an Internet chat room that called on unnamed "commandoes" to ensure that she and O'Connor "will not live another week."
It seems that Justice Ginsburg has forgotten the absurdity with which the Great Prevaricator's effort to blame Conservative talk radio for the Oklahoma City bombing was appropriately greeted.
One could ask what it is about Liberals and criticizing America from overseas, but it's hardly surprising that Ginsburg would do so in light of her affinity for foreign laws as the basis for American constitutional decisionmaking. But I think the most appropos response is of hoary vintage, from one of Justice Ginsburg's predecessors, noting that, if her decisions provoke some to call for violence, it is not the peaceful, if passionate critics of those decisions who should be blamed:
It is said that this manifesto was more than a theory, that it was an incitement. Every idea is an incitement. It offers itself for belief and if believed it is acted on unless some other belief outweighs it or some failure of energy stifles the movement at its birth. The only difference between the expression of an opinion and an incitement in the narrower sense is the speaker's enthusiasm for the result. Eloquence may set fire to reason. But whatever may be thought of the redundant discourse before us it had no chance of starting a present conflagration. If in the long run the beliefs expressed in proletarian dictatorship are destined to be accepted by the dominant forces of the community, the only meaning of free speech is that they should be given their chance and have their way.Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652, 673, 45 S.Ct. 625, 69 L.Ed. 1138 (1925) (Holmes, J., dissenting). In short, as the Bard of Avon once wrote, "The fault lies not within the stars, but within ourselves."
Of course, then there's the other, more flippant comment by the Great Dissenter: "We're not finally because we're right; we're right because we're final."